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The Judaism of Tomorrow
My Rav Kook
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#25 Distinguishing between Divine Law and Human Law
8Collections 2:267; Patches of Clarity 93

Societal punishments,

especially those for money damages,

have two [possible] sources in the human mind: a good one and an evil one.

One flows from awareness that it is forbidden to act unjustly,

and the perpetrator of injustice needs to be punished

in order that this good awareness become stronger [in the sinner and in society].

The second emerges from a narrow way of seeing,

that no other person may benefit from what is mine, or touch what is mine,

because the feeling of mine

my possessions, my ego –

is unimaginably powerful and concretized.1

All laws devoid of a divine source, suckle on the evil source;

and all divine laws contain nothing evil at all, quite the opposite:

everything wells up solely from the source of the goodness of truth and honesty.

Now branches inherit characteristics of their root,

sometimes visibly, sometimes only in a hidden state.

And most of the laws of the Nations derive from that crude egotism [described above];

humanity’s political society has been built on it,

with the result that [humanity] has not yet attained the sublime prophesied capacity

of beating its swords into ploughshares.2

There is only one war assigned to Israel by God,

whose only principle is increasing divine light [in the world],

which requires that law originate at its good source.

And wherever you find courts of the Nations,

even when their laws are identical to Israelite laws3,

it is forbidden to bring suit before them;

as it is written, ‘These are the cases you shall bring before them,’4

[meaning] before [the judges of Israel] and not before gentiles.5

For the source of human society,

which is divided into nations who fight each other mercilessly,

still suckles from the font of cruelty;6

and its pattern of law does not arise from a war against injustice in general,

but from inequality7,

and a miserly eye turned against any other person who doesn't possess the same wealth.8

And the temporary coincidence that the laws9 may look alike in their external form,

cannot purify the pollution at the source: that is, the mindset nourishing the principle of law.

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Footnotes

  1. Megushemet, literally, ‘coarse, crude, clumsy, embodied.’ The meaning here is ‘spiritually unprocessed.’ Back to text
  2. Is. 2:4; Mic. 4:3 Back to text
  3. Dinam may also mean ‘judgments, verdicts.’ Back to text
  4. Ex. 21:1 Back to text
  5. Gittin 88b Back to text
  6. MehaRish‘a. Rish‘a means ‘iniquity (from the Latin iniquitas, ‘uneven, inequitable, unfair’), wickedness, evil.’ The opposite of justice and fairness. Back to text
  7. MehaRish‘a. See footnote 7. Back to text
  8. Or, ‘who is not the owner of the particular property [he used or benefited from].’ Back to text
  9. Dinim. See footnote 4. Back to text
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