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There are a few Halachas that apply to a Jew's relationship with his country. For example, Dina Dmalchusa, another is not to rebel (although its Halachic strength is disputed, all agree that under normal conditions, one should keep those three oaths.)

What defines a country vis-a-vis these laws?

For example, if there were religious Jews in the United States before the revolution, at what point would the Jews be permitted (or more accurately, obligated) to support the United States? Would Jews be allowed to support the Confederacy? On the other hand, were Jews permitted to join the Union if they came from the south?

On one hand, maybe the Confederacy is considered an independent country invaded by the Union (as they viewed themselves). On the other, maybe the South were rebels, so it would be forbidden to help them.

At which point would Jews be obligated to obey their laws? At which point did "United States law" trump "British law" vis-a-vis Dina Dmalchusa?


A further question (similar to this one):

At which point does a group of people become a country. For example, if one lived in a neighborhood which was run by a Mafia, would he be obligated to obey the laws of that Mafia (for example, if he got away with not paying "protection money", would he still be violating "Dina Dmalchusa")?

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My brother told me that he heard live from Rav Dawid Yosef Shelit"a that if the government is corrupt then it would disqualify them. – Hacham Gabriel Jan 6 '12 at 2:18
@Hacham Gabriel, in some cases that is such a subjective criterion as to be almost meaningless. – Seth J Jan 6 '12 at 2:46
@SethJ True...It doesn't really tell us much. – Hacham Gabriel Jan 6 '12 at 2:51
Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/2277. – msh210 Jan 6 '12 at 8:01
up vote 4 down vote accepted

A consensus developed among the Gaonim, and it appears in the Rambam, that "show me the money" is one criterion in determining legitimacy. If you're not sure if this uprising is a real government, have it issue currency and see if people use it. They do? It's a real government. (As for the American Revolution: someone remind me please about the phrase "not worth a Continental...")

While others differed, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein felt that even Communist Russia in its early years was treated as a legitimate government, albeit a seriously flawed one.

I'd asked a posek about Iraq under Saddam Hussein, he said no halacha wouldn't call that legitimate, a government that is as far from honesty as can be. I asked exactly where the line was drawn, the posek said he couldn't say, but Saddam was definitely on the other side!

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I am confused, is it about currency or is it not? The first half says yes, the second half says not at all. – avi Jan 8 '12 at 7:03

I can't see it applying any way other than with the "Facts on the ground". Who runs the police force, and who enforces the laws? If there is a conflict, you have to follow both of them.


It does not matter if you live in an Empire, country, a state, a city-state, a kingdom, or a fiefdom. What matters is that you follow the laws of the Judges and officers of the land you live in. If the judges and officers of the place in which you live, are rebelling against some larger empire, that will not matter to you. (unless you feel strongly about the empire)

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Interesting. I seem to recall a story or two about Jews refusing to support the Polish nobility in their revolt against the Czar. I'll try to chase it down. – HodofHod Jan 6 '12 at 14:07
@HodofHod I think it's in The Storyteller. – Shmuel Brin Jan 6 '12 at 18:40
@ShmuelBrill. heh heh, :) talks and tales, you mean. I think there's more than one story though. – HodofHod Jan 6 '12 at 19:00
@HodofHod many of Talks and Tales stories found their way to The Storyteller. – Shmuel Brin Jan 6 '12 at 19:06
@ShmuelBrill. I know, that's why I put a smiley. :) – HodofHod Jan 7 '12 at 22:42

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