Taking the Law into one’s own Hands

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Taking the Law into One’s Own Hands

By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

Today, unfortunately, we live in golus under a government that has its own laws which many a time may differ from those of our holy Torah. Fortunately, however, the US government allows for the separation of Church and state which allows us to keep the Torah and its mitzvos and can make no laws that go against a person’s religion. And so while there are many different religious beliefs, we all can do as we please.

Even amongst Judaism there are many differences of opinion. Some are Orthodox, others Conservative and still others Reform. While Orthodox Jews all agree that both Conservative and Reform are totally illegitimate forms of Judaism and we can express this opinion freely and even organize protests in front of their places of worship, we must at the same time always make sure that everything we do follows the law of the land. This means that we have no right whatsoever to break their windows or their religious symbols, or cause any harm to them. Neither do they have the right to harm us or our property no matter what our differences may be.

Recently there has arisen a great controversy in regards to the building of an eruv in both Flatbush and Kensigton. While all the rabbonim in Kensigton have clearly expressed their strong objection to the validity of the erev, there has also been some very eminent, respectable and learned rabbis that has even given their approval that the erev be pulled down and destroyed since it may cause people to desecrate the holy Shabbos. While rabbonim are free to express their opinion, they certainly cannot advocate the breaking of the law of the land. The law of the land can only be broken in certain instances as clearly defined within the Shulchan Aruch. Since the building of the eruv does not force anyone to carry on the Shabbos or desecrate any of his religious beliefs, it certainly does not fall within the category of laws defined by Shulchan Aruch that a Jew does not have to adhere to.

We have the full right to express our opinion by organizing rallies, pickets, and demonstrations, and hand out leaflets explaining our position, but under no circumstances can we take the law into our own hands. A shul, or yeshivah being a private enterprise, can even ban anyone carrying within the erev just as they can ban a mechalel Shabbos from being a member of the shul. Yet, we cannot cause any physical harm to a person or his property because he does not agree with our religious views no matter how wrong we believe that they are. Beside being against halacha, breaking the eruv will accomplish nothing but cause sympathy for those who may still be undecided and will only cause a chillul Hashem of major proportions. This is the consensus of opinion of the overwhelming rabbonim to whom I have spoken. Under no circumstances should such behavior be advocated or tolerated. Such behavior must be strongly condemned by all the rabbonim of the neighborhood so that there be no room for misunderstanding!

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