Rabbi Mordechai Becher at Aish.com says that we are a nation united by our common heritage. So two Jews could see themselves as members of a nation.

A more limited definition of the relationship between two Jews would be to say that they practise the same religion.

Are there halachos that follow only from being members of a nation and would not be in force just because we have the same religion?

For example, does the concept of כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה – every Jew bears the responsibility of the mitzvah observance of every other Jew - flow from nationhood or common religion?

EDIT Following the useful responses, another way of expressing the question is "are there any halachos that are better categorised as national in origin rather than Bein Adam le-Chavero?"

  • It is not so clear what you confront - nation vs religion? Judaism uses both - some Mitzvos say רעך or עמיתך meaning "observant like you" (aka religion), some only base on national origin (בני ישראל) like marrying or Trumah or else.
    – Al Berko
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 11:55
  • @AlBerko Answer?
    – DonielF
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 12:49
  • If you define religion as a formal relationship between Man and the Divine, then the Mitzvot she-Bein Adam la-Maqom (and their Halakhot) would be the religious aspect of Judaism, and the Mitzvot she-Bein Adam le-Chavero would the national aspect: Just like secular nations have laws regarding property, endangerment of human life, and marriage, so does Judaism through the Mitzvot she-Bein Adam le-Chavero.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 14:51
  • The title says "flow" and the Q "follow" - which one is right?
    – Al Berko
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 16:06
  • The Korban Tamid is an obligation on the Tzibbur. Is that what you mean?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 16:52

3 Answers 3


Aside from pointing you to specific halakhot in a piece like Shulhan `Arukh, I think the underlying philosophical difference (which significantly impacts one’s approach to Halakhah) is: if Judaism is strictly a religion than those who are lax about their Judaism are less Jewish perforce. But, if we are foremost a family, we continue loving one another despite our differences and do as much as we can to keep people in the fold.

For a specific Halakhic outcome, R’ Uri Sherqi is of the opinion that the wine of a Jew who doesn’t keep Shabbat is permitted assuming he served in the IDF loyally.

Note: R’ Sherqi is a talmid of R’ Zvi Yehuda Kook (among others).


Possible answers:

  1. Judaism is not a religion by itself. Your differentiation stems from the commonly wrong translation of the Hebrew word "דת" as "religion". In Biblical Hebrew דת means "a Law". G-d didn't give us a religion, He gave multiple laws for the Jewish nation, and G-d didn't divide it into "religious laws' or "national laws". While we do distinguish between Mitzvos between Man and G-d and Mand and his fellow, but they all came from the same source.

  2. Maybe you mean "Mitzvos that apply to someone because he's religious or because he's a Jew": Yes, many Mitzvos Between Man and his fellow in the Torah use languages of "רעך, עמיתך, אחיך etc" implying that they should be applied not to any Jew but those who follow the Torah like you / are observant and Kosher Jews. Other Mitzvos do not make this distinction and must be applied to all national Jews.

  3. "Improving the religion vs improving the Nation": Many Rabbinical decrees focus on improving specifically the Jewish nation, not the religion, like many Halochos of partnership in the Gemmorah - how Jews should coexist in peace. Those decrees can be called "purely national", if you like.

  • Thank you for answering. The question was difficult to formulate. Following your answer and the comments, I think that the deep idea I have is whether there are any halachos that are better categorised as national in origin rather than Bein Adam le-Chavero. I shall try to edit that into the question. Commented May 15, 2019 at 16:46

This article at tora.co.il asks related questions. The second question provides examples of mitzvos which come from being members of a nation and would not be in force just because we have the same religion.

Why did G-d create Am Yisrael as a nation and not just a religion?

Why, in addition to the mitzvot between individual Jews, and between man and G-d, does the Torah call for a framework of a national land,[1] language,[2] army,[3] political system, and even coin?[4]


[1] See the article "The Centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Judaism" regarding the mitzvot of aliya, living in and building Eretz Yisrael, et al.

[2] Ibid; Sifre and Rashi on Dvarim 11,19; Y. Shab.1,3; Gra on Y.D. 245,10; Mishna Brura 307,63; Igrot Moshe Ev.H. III 35; Chatam Sofer (resp. Ev.H.11); See extensively in Kuntres Safah LaNe’emanim, by R. Baruch HaLevy Epstein (author of the Torah Tmima), Warsaw, 5653, and my article, “Hadibur Bilshon Hakodesh”, Talilei Orot 2 (5750) pp. 87-101.

[3] Rambam, M’lachim Umilchamotehem 5,1; Shulchan Aruch  Ch.M.426,1  and Or.Ch. 330,6; Resp. Nodah B’Y’huda II Y.D. 161.

[4] See Rambam, Hil. M'lachim at length.

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