My question has several parts, and I'd love to hear your thoughts for all parts:

  1. What are the responsibilities of a Jew regarding the following of laws in general?

  2. Is it permissable to follow the letter of the law, or is one also obliged to follow the spirit of the law?

  3. Is it acceptable to find a clever valid argument to circumvent a legal-but-inconvenient restriction, if is somewhat distorts the original intention of the law?

  4. Does the answer change in these categories?

    • Laws given by hashem
    • Traditions enshrined in common practice by ancient rabbis
    • The current modern laws of your country
  • 1
    You've applied the choshen-mishpat-civil-law tag: do you mean to ask only about civil law and torts and not about criminal law or isur v'heter?
    – msh210
    Commented May 15, 2011 at 13:18
  • Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the very important question!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 15, 2011 at 16:01
  • I'd like to add: 2b. Is it permissible to follow the spirit of the law, or is one also obliged to follow the letter of the law?
    – Shmuel
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


1) There is a principle called dina demachuta dina (law of the land is Jewish law also, and must be followed.

2) According the to Ramban (19:1 Leviticus) anything that is technically allowed, but is disgusting/wrong (naval in hebrew) is forbidden by that pasuk. This is also the opinion held by others, but as a rule, this is not a punished offense, just something that one should not do.

3) yes, there are many examples, like selling chametz, and selling land on shmita.

4) All three of those must be in harmony, or there is a problem. the first two hold precedence over the third, but the difference between the first and second (assuming that you are talking about things that were established by a sanhedrin here) are very close, and in some cases, they override what would seem to have been required from the torah beforehand (declaring of the new month in the afternoon was now forbidden, and others).

  • Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for providing this answer!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 15, 2011 at 16:02
  • 1
    Dina demalchusa dina, as per my rabbi, applies to monetary contracts and the like, not to general laws. I think that general laws would be a matter of chilul hashem, desecrating hashems name.
    – user3114
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 2:58

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