Dina de’malkhuta dina: “The law of the kingdom is the law.” This Aramaic phrase is one of the most famous quotations from the Talmud, and one of the most consequential. It seems to refute, in just three words, the accusation that has been brought against the Jews again and again in the history of the Exile—the idea that Jews are loyal only to themselves, not to the governments they live under. This was the charge that Haman used to convince Ahasuerus to massacre the Jews of Persia, and it was the charge hurled against Alfred Dreyfus when he was framed for spying. In the form of complaints about “dual loyalty” to Israel, it continues to echo even in America today. After all, didn’t the Jews bring with them into Diaspora a set of books—the Talmud itself—which prescribes laws for every area of human life, from money to ritual and from sex to agriculture? How can they be bound simultaneously by those laws and by the laws of non-Jewish governments and societies, especially ones that were often hostile and predatory?
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.