web analytics
August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Privacy and Government Snooping in Jewish Law

There is standing prohibition in Jewish law against sharing anything revealed in private conversation.
Snooping

I don’t think it matters much what Jewish law would say about the government snooping on its citizens. The government is not subject to Jewish law and its citizens don’t expect the government to conform its policies to Jewish law. Yet, there seems to be value in such analysis as I have been asked this question by several people.

As is often the case, we have two competing interests at stake. Privacy on one hand and safety on the other. Both of these interests are recognized in Jewish law. But they are completely different planes.

Life is primary in Jewish law. All else comes after life. One is not permitted to kill. One is not permitted to commit suicide. One is not permitted to harm one self. One is not permitted to place one’s life in danger. One is obligated to violate Jewish law in order to save one’s own life (with three exceptions – murder, idolatry, and adultery). The sanctity of life is of the utmost importance in Jewish law. These particular laws are derived from primary sources in the Torah and Mishna.

There is also a prohibition against snooping on one’s neighbor in Jewish law. One is not permitted to place a window overlooking one’s neighbor’s private property. This sort of loss of privacy gives rise to a civil action in Jewish court. Some authorities extend right of privacy to include eavesdropping or even accidentally hearing others in private conversation.

Additionally, there is standing prohibition in Jewish law against sharing anything revealed in private conversation. Without specifically stating that a conversation is allowed to be shared, it is required to be kept in confidence.

Finally, much later on in Jewish legal history a ban was placed on reading the private communications of others. This decree originally applied to mail but many authorities now extend it to all forms of communication.

These considerations all apply today and would apply to governments as well.

However, none of these considerations overrides the sanctity of life. If just one life could be saved it seems that all these rules could be ignored. Certainly, it would be expected that the minimal intrusion to save the life would be made. Saving a life is not a license to do as one pleases. Further, use of the information gathered would be limited to the purpose of saving lives and nothing else.The interesting thing here is that one life is enough for all our privacy to be suspended. One life is all it takes.

It would seem that as long as lives are being saved, the government is not bound by the strict privacy laws or decrees. The question then becomes whether lives are actually being saved. I don’t know the answer to that question. But that is the issue. It is the only issue.If there is a threat of loss of life, the government or any private citizen would have the right and according to some authorities the obligation to spy on its citizens to protect others.

I think it is laudable that the government takes the lives of its citizens so seriously. Obviously there are concerns that the government will use the information obtained improperly. However, there can be no prohibition against the gathering of the information so long as lives are at stake.

Visit Fink or Swim.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Privacy and Government Snooping in Jewish Law”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
An IDF patrol along the Gaza border.
Ground Op on Horizon with Emergency Orders to 10,000 IDF Reservists
Latest Blogs Stories
Jihad Supporting T-Shirts

Hamas’s online Jihadi supporters and groupies are desperately trying to differentiate between their support for Hamas and supporting ISIS.

Touro-012414-Goals

We all got degrees. We got married. We had families. We worked. We and were Koveih Itim

UNHRC war crimes panel head William Schabas - Not a good Schabas

But the real culprit is William Schabas, who by comparison makes Richard Goldstone look like a saint

South Africa of Flag

“The Jewish board of deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the People of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye.”

Discussion on recent changes to Social Security benefits and how it will effect you.

I do not understand why Bibi or anyone else (Obama) would ever contemplate accepting any terms by an organization that states loud and clear their goal of Israel’s destruction.

It’s the 4th time in 5 years Maccabi Haifa has traveled to America to play against NBA competition.

The media dumped on the “Lehava” people as extremist – racist and should mind their own business.

What is the point of having our own state when it cooperates with those who are against us?

It was the “first family event I missed due to aliyah.”

Antisemitism, stupidity, fear, or exaggeration?

During Operation Protective Edge, IDF soldiers were faced with deadly risks in the Gaza Strip. Sixty four soldiers were killed and many more were wounded in combat. This is the story of one IDF commander who put his life in danger to rescue a soldier kidnapped by Hamas. Lt. Eitan, 23, joined the elite unit […]

I am a right wing religious Jewish settler and I HATE seeing pictures of kids in Gaza who are dying or suffering because of this war.

Doug speaks with World Chess Cahmpion Magnus Carlsen.

If they weren’t true they would be funny!

Professor Aumann: Instead of hitting the opponent… step back and allow the opponent to hit himself

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?

Are donations from immoral people acceptable?

Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism.

There is no song that tells the story of freedom like Shir HaShirim.

It is unfair to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world.

Adegbile was not making a moral statement by representing a man convicted of killing a cop.

Women learning Torah is becoming increasingly permissive, but women wearing tefillin is becoming increasingly stringent.

When the “offensive” statements in our Talmud were stated, no one thought they were offensive.

Both communities value using books to study their texts, and digital devices are a less preferable way for younger people to study.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/privacy-and-government-snooping-in-jewish-law/2013/06/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: