lawcourt

Same Law, Different Court

וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים לִפְנֵיהֶם (שמות כא, א)
And these are the ordinancces that you shall place before them (Shemos 21:1)

The Talmud (Gittin 88b) learns from this verse that we must bring our civil disputes only “before them—the Jewish courts, and not have them adjudicated in a non-Jewish court system. This is so even if the ruling of the secular court would be the same as if a Jewish court judged the case based on Torah law. For when you seek and abide by the rulings of a court of Torah law, you are submitting yourself to the will of G-d. In contrast, to abide by the rulings of a secular court, even if their conclusions are identical to that of the Torah, is merely to acknowledge the justness of human conventions and logic.

This principle is similarly found in the Talmud’s description of the work of theyetzer hara, the voice inside us that draws us to sin. The yetzer hara does not initially suggest that we transgress the most grievous of sins, says the Talmud. Rather, “Today he tells him, ‘Do this’; tomorrow he tells him, ‘Do that;’ until he bids him, ‘Go and serve idols,’ and he goes and serves”(Shabbos 105b).

Chassidus explains this to mean that the yetzer hara’s initial “suggestion” is not even to transgress on a minor prohibition. Rather, he begins by lending credence to mitzvah observance from a rational perspective. He says, “Do this!” meaning, “this mitzvah is justified even by my standards.” In this way, he slowly infiltrates a person’s attitude toward Torah observance. Instead of being centered on obedience to G-d’s will, one’s observance of the mitzvos now becomes defined by the degree to which he finds a particular mitzvah sensible, useful, and personally beneficial. And after successfully diverting a person’s focus from obeying G-d’s will and G-d’s will alone, the yetzer haracan eventually lure him to transgress even the harshest of sins.

For the same reason, the Torah tells us not to bring our civil disputes before a secular court even if their judgment will concur with Torah law. In order not to fall prey to the yetzer hara’s vices, our observance of the Torah may not be contingent on human rationalization alone. We must approach allthemitzvos with an attitude of kabbolas ol, obeying the mitzvos primarily because they are G-d’s will and we are His subjects.

—Likkutei Sichos vol. 3, p. 900