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Is it permissible for a jew to perform work for a gentile government? I've heard that the Lubavitcher Rebbe z'tl helped the US Navy with his knowledge of electrical engineering during WW2, but perhaps due to the holocaust that was pikuach nefesh?

I think I remember seeing a quote somewhere in the Gemara along the lines of "don't let the government know you."

There is also Pirkei Avos 2:3 "Be careful about the government..."

  • There doesn't appear to be any prohibition, outright, against working for a Gentile government, other than when job requirements directly conflict with halacha. E.g., if part of the job requirement is to be alone with a woman in a closed room, this could be a problem. If they require you to work on Shabbat, may be a problem (I say may, b/c it depends on the type of work. An army sargeant works for the gov. and, if there's a war, he can work on Shabbat.) You should narrow down the scope of this question regarding what type of work. – DanF Oct 29 '17 at 1:08
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It is hard to prove the negative, but there does not appear to be any blanket prohibition. Indeed, Hasdai ibn Shaprut was physician and unofficial vizier to Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III. R. Shmuel HaNaggid was similarly the vizier of Badis ibn Habus. Rambam was similarly the court physician of the Grand Vizier Al Qadi al Fadil, then to Sultan Saladin, after whose death he remained a physician to the royal family. Similarly, his son R. Avraham inherited this role of court physician. Similarly, R. Isaac Abravanel was the treasurer of of King Afonso V of Portugal. Similarly, R. Samson Wertheimer was the court Jew of Emperor Leopold I.

Significantly, in his commentary to the Mishna, R. Ovadia of Bertinoro explains that this means that those who have contact with the government should be careful. That is, the intent isn't to not work for the government, necessarily, but to be careful.

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