«Brit Shalom» – a guide to practical Noahide daily life, brief version

Chapter Ten. Law of the Land

1. The state is obligated to introduce laws and regulations for the betterment of society at large.331 The establishment of fair laws is included in the Noahide law which mandates a court system.332

2. It is an obligation to obey laws of the state that do not contradict the seven Noahide laws.333

3. The government has the authority to impose punishments on those who violate the law.334

4. Any law that discriminates between one citizen and another has no legal standing,335 and it is prohibited to punish anyone who violates such a law.

5. In this context, the state is any government, accepted by the people, that has control over currency (money) and military force. However, if the government is not accepted by all and does not issue legitimate currency, its laws are illegitimate and it is like a band of robbers that seize control by force whereupon the public is not obligated to obey its laws.336

6. Defensive war is permissible.337 War to save another nation under attack is also permissible.338 Offensive war requires the approval of a prominent moral figure.339

7. States are obligated to uphold international agreements that govern the rules of war.340

8. The state has the authority to endanger the lives of its citizens by means of a military action that promotes national security or by a war.341

Wartime Behavioral Guidelines

9. Before resorting to war, there must first be a call for peace.342

10. In a military camp, modesty and guarded speech (without gossip or insult) are to be practiced.343

11. The enemy is to be allowed avenues of escape for those who do not wish to fight.344

12. Anyone in the first year of marriage is exempt from military service.345

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328 Deuteronomy 13:15.

329 Deuteronomy 19:15; See Rav Nachman Adler, Netina LaGer on Onkelos, Genesis 9:6.

330 Mishnah Avot 1:1; Rashi, Genesis 11:5.

331 Mishneh Torah, Rotzei’ach 2:4; Gezeilah Ve’Aveidah 5:11-18; Ramban, Genesis 34:13; Rashba, Responsa Part 2, Siman 356.

332 Bavli Baba Kamma 113b; Ramban, Genesis 34:13; Meiri (end), Baba Kamma 37b; Igrot Rav Kook, Part 1, p.99; see Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Part 6, Siman 14.

333 Bavli Baba Kamma, 113b: ‘dina demalchuta dina’ (the law of the land is the law); see Meiri, Beit HaBechirah loc. cit. ד”ה כל מה שאמרנו.

334 See Mishnah Avot 3:1.

335 Meiri, Beit HaBechirah, Baba Kamma 113a ד”ה כבר בארנו ; see Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 369, ibid. Beit Yosef (end), ibid. Rama, Paragraph 8; see HaChidah, Responsa, Tov Ayin, Siman 17 (end).

336 Mishneh Torah. Gezeilah Ve’aveidah 5:18.

337 Genesis 14:14; see Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, Le’Or HaHalacha, pp.16-17.

338 Ovadiah 1:11-13.

339 See Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Yoreh De’ah, Siman 19; Avraham Dov- Ber Kahana Shapiro, Responsa, Davar Avraham, Part 1, Siman 11; Avraham Luftbir, Sefer Zera Avraham, Siman 24 (cited in Le’Or HaHalacha ibid.) From these sources can be derived the prohibition on waging war indiscriminately. Although the principle behind the law of going to war is stated by Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin in Ha’Amek Davar, Genesis 9:5, we find that just as Israel goes to war with permission of an eminent personage or authority (such as the Sanhedrin or Urim VeTumim – Berachot 3b, Sanhedrin 16a), wars between other nations should be initiated according to ethical considerations.

340 See Rav Shaul Yisraeli, Amud HaYemini, p.202.

341 See Ramban, Vayikra 27:29.

342 Deuteronomy 20:10.