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    Law of the land – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Since there is a rule in the Talmud, “The law of the land is the law”, how come that rabbis sometimes criticise the government?

    jewish lawA. The rule, Dina D’Malchuta Dina – “the Law of the Kingdom is the Law” is probably limited to matters such as taxes in which the government has a direct interest. If, therefore, I evade paying my tax, I have transgressed my Jewish and not merely my civil duty.

    On the other hand, I am not obliged to go along with government policies on, say, class sizes or climate change, but in opposing such policies I must not act like a gangster but morally and rationally.

    The Vilna Gaon makes a further distinction, between the law of the king and the law of the kingdom (on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 369:31). If the king takes a dislike to and discriminates against a particular person or group, I am not obliged to follow his dictates because they are not “the law of the kingdom” but “the law of the king”.

    The implication is that the law of the kingdom is based on sound principles and can be trusted, though modern experience might question this assumption.

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