Discriminatory דינא דמלכותא, Invidious and Otherwise

From yesterday’s parshah:

וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלָיו שָׂרֵי מִסִּים, לְמַעַן עַנֹּתוֹ בְּסִבְלֹתָם; וַיִּבֶן עָרֵי מִסְכְּנוֹת, לְפַרְעֹה–אֶת-פִּתֹם, וְאֶת-רַעַמְסֵס. … וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּפָרֶךְ. וַיְמָרְרוּ אֶת-חַיֵּיהֶם בַּעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה, בְּחֹמֶר וּבִלְבֵנִים, וּבְכָל-עֲבֹדָה, בַּשָּׂדֶה–אֵת, כָּל-עֲבֹדָתָם, אֲשֶׁר-עָבְדוּ בָהֶם, בְּפָרֶךְ.1

Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. … And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.

וַיְצַו פַּרְעֹה, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, אֶת-הַנֹּגְשִׂים בָּעָם, וְאֶת-שֹׁטְרָיו לֵאמֹר. לֹא תֹאסִפוּן לָתֵת תֶּבֶן לָעָם, לִלְבֹּן הַלְּבֵנִים–כִּתְמוֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם: הֵם, יֵלְכוּ, וְקֹשְׁשׁוּ לָהֶם, תֶּבֶן. וְאֶת-מַתְכֹּנֶת הַלְּבֵנִים אֲשֶׁר הֵם עֹשִׂים תְּמוֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם, תָּשִׂימוּ עֲלֵיהֶם–לֹא תִגְרְעוּ, מִמֶּנּוּ: כִּי-נִרְפִּים הֵם–עַל-כֵּן הֵם צֹעֲקִים לֵאמֹר, נֵלְכָה נִזְבְּחָה לֵאלֹהֵינוּ. תִּכְבַּד הָעֲבֹדָה עַל-הָאֲנָשִׁים, וְיַעֲשׂוּ-בָהּ; וְאַל-יִשְׁעוּ, בְּדִבְרֵי-שָׁקֶר.2

And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

I recently published an article and lecture, available at the Internet Archive, considering whether the Egyptian oppression of the Children of Israel was a technically valid exercise of the sovereign power of taxation and conscription, under the rubric of דינא דמלכותא דינא. The main point made there is that although arbitrarily discriminatory governmental impositions, such as bills of attainder, are automatically illegitimate, there is a strong consensus – surprising, at least to our modern, Western sensibilities – among the poskim that discrimination against a particular religious or ethnic group, such as the Jews, is perfectly acceptable!

Some of the most fascinating halachic literature on this point addressed a dispute that grew out of the terrible tragedy that befell Ancona Jewry in the mid-sixteenth century:

The Jewish Encyclopedia

In 1539 many Jews exiled from Naples, where they had three synagogues, settled in Ancona, and when Pope Paul III. (1534-49) offered them the freedom of the port, many others, particularly a number exiled from Spain, and designated as “Portuguese,” came to live there. These immigrants, who had their own synagogue, entered into certain agreements with the magistrate of the city, which were approved by Pope Julius III. (1550-55); but, nevertheless, they were subjected to oppressive taxation and all sorts of impositions.

Under Paul IV. (1555-59) the Jews were subjected to further oppression. By his direction they were deprived of valuable franchises, enclosed within the ghetto, subjected to further taxation, limited in their commerce to old clothing, prohibited from practising any art other than medicine, and this not among the Christians, and forbidden the use of their calendar. As a means of satisfying his feeling of hatred against the Spaniards, Paul IV. practised cruelty toward the Portuguese Jews; he sent an inhuman commissioner, a certain Cesare Galuaba, to Ancona with orders to incarcerate all who did not accept baptism and to condemn them to the stake. Thus terrorized, sixty-three renounced their faith. Twenty-three men and one woman, whose names have been handed down in chronicles, preferred death to apostasy, and these were all hanged together and afterward burnt on the Piazza della Mostra (“Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah” of Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, and local records). (Compare D. Kaufmann, “Les Vingt-quatres Martyrs d’Ancona,” in “Rev. Ét. Juives,” xxxi. 222-230.) Thoroughly alarmed, many of the Jews fled. Prayers for the dead are still said, and the elegy composed by Jacob de Zano is still recited annually in the synagogues for these martyrs.

The Jews of the Levant planned a novel mode of vengeance against Ancona for its iniquitous treatment of the Jews, and well-nigh executed it. Many of the Maranos, during the reign of Pope Paul IV., had fled to Pesaro, and from there, probably upon the advice and promises of protection of Guido Ubaldo, duke of Urbino, had sent an envoy, Juda Faragi, with letters addressed to the Jews of the Levant, entreating the latter, in whose hands lay nearly all commerce with the Italian ports, to send all their merchandise to Pesaro, instead of directing it, as they had previously done, to Ancona. The welfare of this city would undoubtedly have been greatly impaired, if the Levantine Jews had kept the promise they at first gave in answer to the messages of the Maranos of Pesaro; but the Jews of Ancona themselves implored that no such action be taken. They shrewdly pointed out that the pope would wreak vengeance on all Jews in his state, as well as on the Maranos, therefore the ban pronounced on Paul IV. by most of the rabbis of Turkey was not stringently enforced. Guido Ubaldo, disappointed in his hopes of seeing Pesaro supersede Ancona in commercial importance, very soon after this expelled the Maranos from Pesaro (March, 1558). It is noteworthy that among those who had fled from Ancona during the activity of the Inquisition was Amato Lusitano, the famous physician. When Paul IV. had caused the arrest of all the Maranos of Ancona, Sultan Sulaiman II., upon the repeated entreaties of Doña Gracia Nasi and Don Joseph Nasi, sent a letter to him, March 9, 1556, requesting him to release such as were Turkish subjects, and intimating that a failure to comply with the request would bring reprisals of all sorts upon the Christians living in Turkey. Pius IV. saw himself accordingly obliged to release the Turkish Jews. Those Maranos of Ancona who could claim no protector other than the pope himself—about 100 in number—languished in dungeons. See “Rev. Ét. Juives,” xvi. 66-71, xxxi. 231-239.

Pope Pius IV., who succeeded Paul in 1559, punished the perpetrators of this infamy, abolished the provisions of his predecessor, and in general ameliorated the condition of the Jews. But his successor reinstituted a period of severe oppression. In a bull issued by Pius V., however, and dated Feb. 26, 1659, the Jews of Ancona and of Rome are especially excepted from the general banishment from the Papal States (“Rev. Ét. Juives,” x. 199). In order to defray the expense of the public games, he imposed heavy taxes upon the Jews, to be paid both to the city and to the state; and, as a result of his action, about 1,000 families abandoned Ancona. The succeeding popes reduced the taxes, and soon afterward some of the Jews began to return. In order to improve the commercial condition of the Papal States, Clement VIII. showed extreme benevolence toward its Jewish inhabitants, but this attitude was not imitated by Alexander VIII. and Pius VI.

Encyclopedia Judaica

The arrival of refugees from the Iberian Peninsula opened a new chapter in the history of the Ancona Jewish community. The first to arrive, in 1492, were refugees from Sicily. They were joined in 1497 by refugees from Portugal, and after 1510 by others from the Kingdom of Naples. An order to wear the badge was again issued in 1524, but was revoked four years later. Solomon Molcho visited the community in 1529 and stimulated messianic enthusiasm there. The assumption by the papal legate of authority in Ancona in 1532 had mixed results for the community. As Ancona was declared a free port, many Jewish merchants took advantage of its excellent harbor facilities to trade with the Levant. At first mercantile interests prevailed in papal policy and Pope Paul III invited merchants from the Levant to settle there regardless of their religion. In 1541 he encouraged the settlement of Jews expelled from Naples and in 1547 extended the invitation to Marranos, whom he promised to protect against the Inquisition. Julius III renewed these guarantees, and about 100 Portuguese Marrano families apparently settled in Ancona. Jews from Germany also arrived in this period. Thus, around 1550 the Jewish community numbered around 2,700 persons.

In 1555, however, Paul IV began to institute anti-Jewish measures in the Papal States. The Papal Bull of July 12, 1555, was implemented in full in Ancona. The Jews were segregated in a ghetto, built the following year, prohibited from owning real property, and restricted to trade in second-hand clothing. Papal opposition to the Marranos proved particularly implacable, and a legate was sent to Ancona to take proceedings against them. Some managed to escape to Pesaro, Ferrara, and other places, but 51 were arrested and tried. Twenty-five were burned at the stake between April and June 1555. The horrors of the tragedy, mourned throughout the Jewish world, inspired touching elegies, still recited locally on the Ninth of Av. The event moved Dona Gracia Nasi to organize a boycott of Ancona. The boycott, however, caused dissension within Jewry, some rabbis supporting the action while others opposed it, fearing that the pope might retaliate against Jews living under his jurisdiction.

Beit Hatfutsot

In 1492 refugees from Sicily began to arrive in Ancona, to be joined after 1510 by others from the Kingdom of Naples. An order to wear the badge was again issued in 1524, but was revoked four years later. Solomon Molcho visited the community in 1529 and stimulated messianic enthusiasm there.

The assumption by the papal legate of authority in Ancona in 1532 had mixed results for the community. As Ancona was about to be declared a free port, many Jewish merchants took advantage of its excellent harbor facilities to trade with the Levant. At first mercantile interests prevailed in papal policy and Pope Paul III invited merchants from the Levant to settle there regardless of their religion. In 1541 he encouraged the settlement of Jews expelled from Naples and in 1547 extended the invitation to crypto-Jews, whom he promised to protect against the Inquisition. Pope Julius III renewed these guarantees, and about one hundred Portuguese crypto-Jewish families apparently settled in Ancona. In 1555, however, Pope Paul IV began to institute anti-Jewish measures in the Papal States. The papal bull of July 12,1555, was implemented in full in Ancona. The Jews were segregated in a ghetto, built the following year, prohibited from owning real property, and restricted to trade in second-hand clothing. Papal opposition to the crypto-Jews proved particularly implacable, and a legate was sent to Ancona to take proceedings against them. Some managed to escape to Pesaro, Ferrara, and other places, but 51 were arrested and tried. Twenty-five were burned at the stake between April and June 1555.

The horrors of the tragedy, mourned throughout the Jewish world, inspired touching elegies, still recited locally on the Ninth of Av. The event moved Dona Gracia Nasi to organize a boycott of Ancona. The boycott, however, caused dissension within Jewry, some rabbis supporting the action while others opposed it, fearing that the Pope might retaliate against Jews living under his jurisdiction. The Ancona tragedy thus occasioned the first attempt by Jewry to utilize economic power as a weapon against persecutors, as well as provoking a debate on the desirability and danger of attempting international Jewish action of this nature. The position of Ancona Jewry, although temporarily improved under Pope Pius IV, again deteriorated under Pius V.

While the best known halachic discussion associated with the Ancona tragedy concerned the authority of the proponents of the boycott to impose their will upon the general public, a lesser known controversy revolved around the question of the Church’s right (!) to seize the assets of recidivist Jews. As described in my article:

During the persecutions, the Pope had decreed that all assets of Shimon in anyone’s possession must be turned over to “the judges of the land”, under penalty of death and forfeiture of property. Reuven, who owed a debt to Shimon, had followed the edict and turned over the amount of the debt to the authorities. Reuven and Shimon subsequently both fortunately escaped with their lives. Shimon sued Reuven for the repayment of his debt, and the latter responded that he had had no choice in turning over the funds to the authorities, as evasion was impractical, “and nothing stands in the way of piku’ach nefesh”.

This case was analyzed by three of the greatest contemporary Salonikan poskim, and the central issue is whether the confiscation of the assets of recidivist, relapsing conversos by the church is a valid exercise of governmental power. Remarkably (at least to our modern, Western sensibilities) all three agree that at least in principle, such confiscation could be valid under the principle of dina de’malchusa dina; Rav Shmuel di Medina (the Maharashdam) actually rules that it is, and while Rav Yosef (Mahari) ibn Lev and Rav Yitzchak (Mahari) Adarbi argue that it is not, this is not because they view such a policy as intrinsically unfair, but for a variety of other reasons, including the historical novelty of the policy (“we have not heard .. of such an edict … neither in the time of his honor the current Pope, nor in the times of the others”) and its uniqueness to Ancona as opposed to the rest of the Papal dominions, and the perfidy of the Pope in reneging on the previously signed, sealed and delivered permission for the conversos’ return to Judaism:

And according to what we have heard, these righteous ones that were burned al kedushas Hashem in Ancona had had permission from the previous Pope, who had written in a book and signed with his seal that they may Judaize there in Ancona, for the apostasy that had been decreed upon them in Portugal had been compelled upon them. And since this is so, it is obvious that we do not say here dina de’malchusa dina.

Here are excerpts of the three responsa:

מהרשד”ם

שאלה מעשה שהיה באנקונא … גזר האפיפיור על כל מי שיש בידו ממון כסף או שוה כסף משמעון ילך ויכתיב’ וימסרהו ביד שריו ועבדיו שופטי הארץ ההיא וכל זה בקנס מיתה ואיבוד נכסיו כרוז’ קרי בחיל כו’
ולהיות כן הלך ראובן וכתב ומסר ונתן החוב שהיה חייב לשמעון ביד שופט הארץ
אחר כך גם כן פשטה נגע הצרעת ונלכדו כל הישראלים אשר היו מקודם אנוסים3 ורובם הפסידו נכסיהם וראובן גם כן עמהם מלבד כמה נפשות שנהרגו4 שם על קדושת השם יתברך השם ינקום נקמתם וראובן ושמעון הנזכרים נצולו
ועתה שמעון תובע מראובן … וראובן טוען שכבר אנסוהו ולא היה בא מידו להעלים אותו וחמירא סכנתא כי אין לך דבר שעומד בפני פקוח נפש ואם כן הוא פטור יורנו רבנו הדין עם מי:5

תשובה … [מה] שלקח האפיפיור מראובן בשביל שמעון לקח בדין כפי נימוסיהם כי מדינם ומדתם כי מי שהיה גוי ואחר כך נתיהד בארצם מפסיד כל נכסי ודינא דמלכותא דינא בכה”ג
ועוד שאפילו זכה באלו המעות ראובן היה פטור אם זכה בהם מזה הכח דדינא דמלכותא … כיון שעונותי’ שרבו גרמו שיד האפיפיור תקפה ויש לו כח במלכותו לעשות חוקים לא טובים על היושבים בארצו הפקרו הפקר כל שכן בהיותו חק קדום להם בדת’
וכ”כ בתשובה להראב”ד סימן תרי”ב וז”ל

אם השלטון הזה יש בו כח לעשות חוקים בעירו דינו דין דקיימא לן דינא דמלכותא דינא:

ומה שמענישין המקלקלים כגון הגזלנים והגנבים והרצחנים וכיוצא בזה ממשפטי המלכות והאדנות הוא זה ודינם בכל אלו וכיוצא באלו דין ולפיכך בין שנטל האדון בעצמו עונש הנענש ממנו ונתנו להפקיד בין שצוה לענוש ליתן לפקידו מותר לו לפקיד
ובמרדכי פרק אלו מציאות כתב בפירוש דאפילו במה שזכה הישראל בדין תורה והשי’ כך ר”ן …6

מהר”י אדרבי

ומה שכתב עוד [כנראה שהכונה למהרשד”ם] שראובן פטור מטעם דינא דמלכותא דינא האמת הוא שלא נתברר מתוך דברי השאלה על מה ועל מה גזרו על נכסי שמעון שימסרום ביד שופטי הארץ אבל מתוך דברי התשובה נראה שגזרו עליו כך להיות שהיה מקדמת דנא כותי ונתיהד ובזה יש להסתפק אם מקרי דינא דמלכותא דהא איכא כמה מיני חלוקים בזה
שהרי כתב (הרמב”ם) [צ”ל הרמב”ן, וכנ”ל] … וגם צריך שיהיה הדין בדבר כללי ונוהג כן בכל מלכותו כמו שכתבו כל הפוסקים וכיון שכן בנדון דידן מעולם לא שמענו בעיר אנקונה גזרה כזאת זה כמה ימים ושנים שעמדו שם יהודים לא בזמן כבוד האפיפיור הזה ולא בזמן האחרים וגם לא שמענו שבעיר אחרת גזר כך
ועוד מצינו שכתב המרדכי בפרק הגוזל בתרא בשם ראבי”ה דוקא בקרקע שייך לומר דינא דמלכותא דינא וכן כתב ה”ר אליעזר ממיץ וז”ל

לא אמרינן דינא דמלכותא דינא אלא בקרקעות ובמשפטים שהם תלויין בקרקעות כגון מכס וכו’ שהארץ שלו אבל אם קוצב מלכות על דבר שאינו שלו כי ההיא דסיקיריקון בגיטין או אדם שאינו חפץ לישאר בארצו לאו כל כמיניה למגזליה

ולכן צריך להתיישב בדבר אי הוי דינא דמלכותא אי לא כי לא ניסיתי בעניניהם לידע ולברר אי הוי דינא דמלכותא ומי שבטוב ענינים אלו מבין יבין וידע דין זה לאשורו7

מהר”י ן’ לב

לכאורה היה נראה דראובן אינו חייב לשמעון כלום … ולכאורה היו נראין הדברים ברורים ולית בהו ספיקא כלל וכד מעיינן שפיר אשכחינן דלאו מילתא היא האי דאמרינן משום דבמאי דאמרינן דינא דמלכותא דינא רבו הסברות ומהר”י קולון כתבם בקיצור סימן ס”ו וכתב דקצת המפרשים סבירא להו דלא שייך דינא דמלכותא דינא אלא בקרק’ ובדבר השייך לקרקע (והרמב”ם) [לכאורה צ”ל והרמב”ן, וכנ”ל] והר”ן סבירא להו דדינא דמלכותא דינא הוי בדיני’ הקבועים במלכותא שהוא והמלכים אשר לפניו הנהיגו הדברים כך ומשום הכי קאמר דינא דמלכותא ולא דינא דמלכא והרב בעל התרומה כתב דלא שייך דינא דמלכותא אלא בדברים שהם עסקי המלך ולא בדברים שהם עסקי ישראל עם ישראל חברו וכתבו התוספות פרק הכונס על אותם היהודים הבורחים והשר מחזיק בקרקעותיהם שאם בא ישראל וקנה מהשר מחזירו ונוטל מה שההנהו שאין זה דינא דמלכותא אלא גזלה דמלכותא שהרי אין זה דין הגון כלל עד כאן
וכפי הנשמע אלו הצדיקים אשר נשרפו על קדושת השם באנ”קונה היה רשות להם מהאפיפיור שקדם וכתב בספר וחתם בחותמו שיתיהדו שמה באנקונה כי הגוים אשר נגזר עליהם בפורטוגאל היה באונס וכיון דכן הוא מילתא דפשיטא היא דלא אמרינן בנדון דידן דינא דמלכותא דינא8

Update: Here is a list of other lectures and articles of mine on the general topic of דינא דמלכותא דינא; most of the sources for the lecture and article featured in this post are included in the notes available here.

  1. שמות א:יא;יג-יד []
  2. שם ה:ו-ט []
  3. בדברי ריבות: “ממדינת פורטוגאל”, וכן בן’ לב []
  4. בדברי ריבות: “שנשרפו”, וכן בן’ לב []
  5. שו”ת מהרשד”ם חו”מ סימן נ”ה – קשר. []
  6. שם – קשר []
  7. שו”ת דברי ריבות סימן פ”ג – קשר []
  8. שו”ת מהר”י ן’ לב חלק ב’ סימן נ”ד – קשר []
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