In light of yesterday’s attempted takeover of the US Capitol to prevent the certification of the presidential election results, I thought it appropriate to republish a piece about Jewish views on civil disobedience originally published back in November when it became obvious that civil disturbances were brewing around the US vote.
To try and summarize how the Jewish sages understood civil disobedience, I would say it is “The refusal of citizens to obey certain immoral laws in order to influence government policy through non-violent resistance.” To understand their approach, we must note that through the centuries Jews often lived under foreign, oppressive regimes, and their discussions reflect a situation where they need workable options to protect themselves and limit antisemitic violence. Nevertheless, their wisdom is just as relevant today for those who contemplate civil disobedience because they believe their lives are in danger or the moral foundations of society are crumbling under an increasingly secular, anti-God government.
For starters, the rabbis looked at examples of civil disobedience in the Bible. Pharaoh...
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