Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What is the role of the King in the Torah?

The Ran in his derashos (derasha 11) addresses this point directly. The Ran writes that the King's role is תיקון מדיני, we would translate this as civil law. The Ran writes about the Torah laws אין ענינם תיקון מדיני כלל. The purpose of Torah laws has no relation to תיקון מדיני (although it may accomplish that as well). Rather, the purpose of Torah laws is לחול השפע האלוקי, to bring down the heavenly influence.

The Ran's postion can be summed up by this quote:
ומפני זה אפשר שימצא בקצת משפטי ודיני האומות מה שהוא יותר קרוב לתקון מדיני ממה שימצא בקצת משפטי התורה ואין אנו תסרים בזה דבר כי כל מה שיחסר מהתיקון היה משלימו המלך
Because of this we might find that some of the gentiles laws are closer to perfection in civil law then what we find i sone of teh Torah's laws, however we are not missing anything because of that because what ever is missing from the Torah the King completes.

This Ran clearly conflicts with the current Charedi hashkafa about Torah. The Ran clearly and unequivocally states that Torah is not complete (the purpose of the King is to complete things) and that the laws of the gentiles may be better/more complete then the Torah laws.


Chaim B. said...

Tikun mdini seems to have as its telos some political end. If anything, this would seem to support the chareidi position that Torah is not a blueprint for a political state and a political state is not a means to achieving hightened spirituality - the two domains are seperate.
The Ramban in v'asita hayashar v'hatov already indicates that the torah is incomplete - you don't need the ran's chiluk for that.

pop said...

Since the charedim include rav eliashiv, rav shlomo zalman doe you mean to imply that either:

1. They dont know the Ran

2. they dont understand the Ran

3. they would rather ignore the Ran

bluke said...


The same way that they can claim that Chazal never made mistakes.

For wahtever reason the Charedi world has buried certain shitos, as R' Feldman wrote, they could say it we can't.

bluke said...

Chaim B.,

I understand Tikun Medini as civil law. In any case, the bottom line is that the Ran is saying that Torah is not complete.

bluke said...


That is a copout answer. Let me ask you this. How can acharonim ask a question on rishonim from an explicit gemara, after alll didn't the rishon know the gemara? The answer is that כך היא דרכה של תורה. We need to tru to understand the words of the Rishonim as best as we can.

pop said...


I guess that your tone is what I was wondering about.
Bye saying 'This Ran clearly conflicts with the current Charedi hashkafa about Torah' you dont really ask it as a question. More as a challenge and as a statement that the gedolim are wrong.

If you said 'I dont understand how R eliashiv can hold x because its soser a Ran' then I would have seen it in the same way the acharonim ask on the rishonim.

Secondly from what I can see you hold of Rabbi Zev leff who is a charedi isnt he? What does he hold about this? I thought he holds of charedi hashkofos.

Tal Benschar said...

Have you ever heard of the phrase "beating up on a straw man?"

pop said...

I don’t mean it as a straw man at all. There was once a time when all those whom I knew who had more pro Zionist hashkofos were normally am haratsim and not truly committed to halachah. However given the fact that more and more people attend yeshiva and people take the torah more seriously this has changed (both in Erets yisroel and chut l'ararets). There was a time when those who were Zionist when opposing the charedi gedolim, openly disparaged them. This is becoming less common. So I am genuinely interested in seeing a torah approach to how people construct a different perspective on this issue and on the issues relating to it.

Eli said...

The Charedi gedolim don't seem to have much interest in the needs of the greater Jewish community (both religious and not religious)outside of the charedim. Sorry to break it to you, but it's just a fact. Their agenda is so narrow that it doesn't even apply mostly to the people outside of their circle.

They also seem to be some what out of touch with reality especially lately and take obvious facts from their trusted cohorts who twist the data for them to the point that it's not exactly clearly what's going on.

משה לרמן said...

pop, do not mislead yourself. Consider that many feel that there is nothing left to disparage. The disillusion is complete. What can one still say? Some gave up because of Science. Some gave up because of the bans (Slifkin, Kamenetsky). Others gave up because of moneygrabbing politics. Others gave up because of the singeminded obsessions. Some gave up because of the Shidduch scene, or other social problems. Some gave up because of peace politics, the support for Sharon's disengagement government. Others have given up because of the lack of Midot. Others gave up because of the superstition, the dominance of Chabad messianism, or Shasism, or what have you. Others gave up because of zenut in the rabbinical circles. Do not mislead yourself.

Tal Benschar said...

I was addressing my comment to bluke, not to Pop.

Bluke, you have quoted a Ran out of context, and used it to attack an oversimplified version of Charedi hashkafa. Do you think this accomplishes anything?

Tikun ha Medina in this context means the social needs of a country or society. That is of course one of the purposes of law, both the 613 mitzvos and the 7 mitzvos for Bnei Noach. But it is not the ONLY purpose -- the Ran's point is that many Torah laws have another purpose, indeed the primary purpose -- to increase Divine influence in the world.

That does not make the Torah "incomplete," it means that in specific instances, the Torah puts one purpose over another in formulating its law.

The Torah itself has a mechanism for dealing with this if the social order gets out of whach -- that is the parsha of Melech. It is the purpose of the King to maintain social order and cohesion, sometimes even through force of arms.

Chazal also say that now that we lack a king who rules? The rabbis, that's who.

And indeed the rabbanan are empowered and have used their power to enact "takkanah's" for various social purposes. There are thousands of examples in both the gemara and post-Talmudic times.

A good (and oft-cited) example is the takkanah of pruzbul. Now the Torah itself clearly warns, in very stark and harsh language, that one should beware not to do something supremely wicked by avoiding loaning the poor money in anticipation of hashmatas kesafim. So clearly the Torah-preferred system is to have hashmatas kesafim, and rely on the yiras shomayim of lenders to keep the system going.

But by Hillel's generation, this was not the case, and the poor were suffering, and so relying on the Torah principle of hefker beis din hefker, we have the enactment of pruzbul.

Does that mean our Torah is "incomplete?" No, it means that the Torah is dictating what should be a Divine ideal -- and also contains a mechanism in the hands of the rabbanan to maintain social order if societal reality is less than ideal.

Same thing for the Ran. Capital punishment should be a rare event, subject to great stringencies. But if a country is becoming lawless, then the king is empowered to execute people outside the strictures of halakha to maintain social order. (The rabbanan have the same power, BTW. There is a gemara that states that one amora saw that thievery was becoming rampant, so to restore fear he ordered the hands of thieves chopped off.)

bluke said...

I didn't take the Ran out of context at all.

The point I was trying to make was that the Torah left things open for the King to complete. This is the Ran's terminology not mine. In other words, the Torah does not have the answer for everything. Sometimes, we need to add to or look outside of the Torah for answers. The Ran writes explicitly that we can find examples where non-Jewish law serves society better then halacha.

Current Charedi hashkafa denies this categorically.

Tal Benschar said...


Whether you realize it or not, you are adding to what the Ran says. Nowhere does he say that we have to look to outside sources to "complete" the Torah. He merely says that secular law, because of its sole focus on tikkun ha medina, may be better in that respect than Torah law, which has an additional, even primary purpose.

The King rules and accomplishes tikkun ha medina according to what he observes and what he believes society needs at the moment -- just as Chazal acted when they made takkanos.

bluke said...

He says that the King makes laws to complete the Torah. Those laws come from somewhere and the Ran suggests that they could come from secular law systems. The bottom line is that the King needs to make laws which are not based on the Torah.

משה לרמן said...

It is obvious that Torah is not complete. We have to work out the principles. I challenge everybody to describe a true Torah economy in the modern world. How exactly will you implement Shmita, Yovel? Will you have jails? Will you have Arei Miklat? Will you have capital punishment for homosexual practice? Is Nuclear energy the way to go? Do we strive for economic growth, or are we going for a sustainable, "natural" economy? And so forth.

bluke said...

What you say is obvious is against current Charedi thinking. See my post Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars?

Someone told me that his son came from home school and said that his Rebbe had told him the following. We shouldn't think that we are better nowadays because we have modern technology. In fact, the Rebbe said, Shlomo Hamelech was the wisest man who ever lived and he knew everything the scientists know and he could have created cars, phones, etc., anything that we have from modern technology. Why didn't he do it? He felt that a simple non-technological lifestyle was better.
Rabbi Sander Goldberg in his defense of R' Slifkin (THE SLIFKIN AFFAIR – ISSUES AND PERSPECTIVES) wrote essentially the same thing:

...most certainly if Chazal wanted to invest the time into scientific research, after a generation or two, they could have invented an atomic bomb.

משה לרמן said...

The truth is that Chazal were very curious about Nature. We see them guessing about all kinds of natural phenomena. Thunder, lighting, the Sun, Moon ans stars, the nature of sound, biological reproduction, et cetera. The same is true for many Chachamim throughout the ages. They were simply not given the knowledge. This was reserved for our generation. A reason to be very greteful. Indeed not a reason to think we are higher than previous generatons. The knowledge is a Matana.

In Tenach we see Elisha save life through what we would now call resuscitation. Even if Elisha used supernatural powers in the process, what he did works in a physical sense and in modern times it has saved many lives. Did Chazal know this technique? Would they conceal a harmless thing that saves lives?

The answer is that resuscitation was invented only very recently. There is no record that our Sages knew it, and it is not part of the Mesora in any way. So, even though it was right there in Tenach, and even though only rudimentary knowledge of biology would have sufficed to invent it, the Sages did not know this. Pikuach Nefesh would surely have prevented them from concealing it. There is a strong Kal v'Chomer here.

Now, the Sages were not to blame for a thing. They were simply not given this knowledge. The gates of Heaven for this were closed to them. By very sharp contrast, the rabbinical ignorance of our time is by choice.

משה לרמן said...

What bothers me most is about this thing is that it shows that part of the world of Torah is living in an Avira of Sheker, of political correctness. As in formal logic, once you start believing that false is true you can derive anything. And so we find "gedolim" choosing the side of sexual perverts, supporting horrendous Israeli governments, and banning those who search for the truth and report on their findings.

Bari said...

He says that the King makes laws to complete the Torah. Those laws come from somewhere and the Ran suggests that they could come from secular law systems. The bottom line is that the King needs to make laws which are not based on the Torah.

Sure,like if murderers run amok, the king can kill them extrajudicially, w/o Edim and Hasraah. Big whoop. That has nothing to do with the 'completeness' of the Torah. The Torah itself is saying that its laws are not going to bring about guaranteed societal utopia, rather following it guarantees Chalot Shefa Eloki, and that you appoint a king for temporary intervention for the purpose of societal protection.

What you're saying is akin to saying that the Torah is incomplete because it says that Sanhedrin Makin V'Onshin Shelo Min HaDin. That's part of Torah too!

bluke said...

If you read the whole derasha you see that the Ran goes much further then that. The Ran is talking about a whole system of civil law.

Bari said...

The Ran himself in that Derasha compares the two (Melech and Sanhedrin Makin V'Onshin.) It is no more than a temporary intervention when circumstances call for it.

If you read the very next line in the Derashos HaRan, he says openly:

ואין אנו חסרים בזה דבר, כי כל מה שיחסר מהתקון הנזכר היה משלימו המלך

Meaning, the Torah is NOT incomplete, because the Torah ITSELF mandates that the king impose extrajudicial law when societal malaises justify it.

bluke said...

We are arguing semantics. Yes, the Torah gives the role to the King, but the details are left up to the King and are not specified in the Torah.