You Know You Want To…..Two
A couple weeks ago, I discussed the Jewish value of respecting authority in my post You Know You Want To (did any of you click the button?). But after a reader asked me "Isn't knowing how to stand up to the abusive use of authority at the right moment and in the right way just as important as knowing how to heed authority?" I was reminded that Judaism actually requires us to oppose authority in certain cases.
For example, although honoring one's parents (which includes doing what they ask) is one of the Ten Commandments, when the Torah says, "You shall respect your mother and father and keep my Shabbos," we understand this to mean that although we're normally supposed to do what our parents tell us, if they instruct us to do something that is against Jewish law (e.g. breaking the Sabbath) we are commanded to disobey their request.
Another instance where this occurs within Jewish law is with something called dina d'malchusa dina. Dina d'malchusa dina means that the law of the land is law (in order to make Jews into law abiding citizens). However, if there is an aspect of the law of the land that clashes with Jewish law (or in specific cases is considered unjust, from a Jewish perspective) we are no longer bound by that particular law.
Now it makes sense that a parent's or government's authority would be revoked if its injunctions conflicted with those of a Higher Authority, but that's not all we learn from Judaism about dealing with authority. We see several examples from the Torah where some of the greatest leaders in Jewish history actually argue with that Higher Authority Himself! Both Abraham and Moses, on more than one occasion go "head to head" with God when God wants to destroy different groups of people due to sins that they've committed. Abraham and Moses both have the chutzpah to not only question, but to debate the Almighty because they believe that what's about to happen is unjust. In fact, the Hebrew word for Israel, Yisrael, literally means to struggle with God!
Practically speaking, we're still supposed to follow the commandments and trust that they have an ultimate purpose, even if we can't always understand it. But the fact that Abraham and Moses argue with God when God tells them what He's going to do (and they disagree), teaches us a very deep lessen. While we have to do what God asks of us, we see that there is also an inherent value within Judaism to think for yourself, to use your seichel (sense) and to never just blindly follow.
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