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  • Family and Society
  • Attitude Towards Secular and Reform Jews

Israeli Police, Taxes, and Shabbat

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Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Iyyar 11, 5781
Question
Recently I read up on a case where secular police officers in Israel went to help a woman get past a bunch of protesting Charedim on Shabbat in her car (a clear violation of לפני עיוור). This got me thinking - Israel mandates police officers to help whenever they are called on, against the threat that they will be punished/sued; this includes this incident, a clear example of the police force not being “kosher” in Israel in terms of their jobs halachically speaking. How can I pay taxes to the Israeli government, a democracy, meaning that all the money they have of mine is still technically mine, which go directly to these programs that are completely non-kosher in the way they operate when you see their legal obligations?
Answer
Shalom U'vracha, One has an obligation to pay taxes even though part of the money may go to causes or activities that may be forbidden according to halacha. This is not considered 'lifnei iver' (placing a stumbling block before a blind person). 'Lifnei iver' occurs when you make available to someone a forbidden item. In our case, paying taxes to the Israeli government is not forbidden, and I will provide three different reasons: 1. The majority of the money goes to worthy causes such as the defense of the nation, health, social security, education, and even Torah education. 2. One of the reasons that taxes are mandatory in halacha, is because of the principle of 'dina d'malchuta dina' ('the law of the Government or the Land is the law"). This rule applies even to reshaim (wicked people) who use it for nefarious causes (Yechavai daat 5:64, Pitchei Choshen Genaiva 1:4, page 14). 3. It is not considered that you gave the State the 'isur', ie, money which will go to forbidden causes and projects. In fact, you didn't give the government anything voluntarily. You are actually forced to give it over by the threat of incarceration. Additionally, you transferred tax money that belongs to the State, halachically and legally. (see Chazon Ish Shevi'it, 4:15, Minchat Asher 2, 30:6, Pitchei Choshen Genaiva 1:4, page 14) Interestingly, one of Rav Moshe Halevi's students (he lived from 1961 to 2001 and was the author of Menuchat Ahava) quotes him as saying that because the State uses the money for negative purposes one doesn't have to pay taxes, according to halacha. However, even if Rav Moshe Halevi did actually say that, 'halacha l'maaseh' (the practical application of Jewish law is that), one is obligated to pay taxes (Yechave Daat 5:64). All the best
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