INCOME TAX & “FIDDLING THE BOOKS”
Question. Is there any halachic reason why I can’t “fiddle the books” when it comes to paying my income tax?
Answer. Being a part of society comes at a cost. A halachic rule stated in the name of the sage Sh’muel, “dina d’malchuta dina”, “The law of the land is the law”, comes in every code of Jewish law. There can be discussion about the parameters of this rule, but nobody disputes that it applies to the payment of taxes.
There can be debate as to how much tax should be levied, but taxation as a principle is not a form of stealing, whilst failure to pay taxes is (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 369:6). Failure to meet tax obligations is a moral as well as a legal wrong, a “Chillul HaShem”, a desecration of God’s Name (Maimonides, Hilchot G’zelah 5:11, Kesef Mishnah). This not only applies to non-payment but to “fiddling the books”, including fiddling a tax return. Both are a grave infraction of the law against stealing and a desecration of the Divine Name.
One must be scrupulously honest in this as well as every other aspect of life. Ordinary people often complain that whilst they try to be honest, they see “the big boys” rorting the system. Jewish law is adamant that “the big boys” will not escape Divine punishment even if for a time they escape the force of the law of the country.
There is no reason why a person should not benefit from any validly allowed deduction, but concealing or distorting the facts cannot be halachically justified. If you claim a deduction for a charitable donation, you have to be able to prove that you really did give the charity. This is regardless of the religious obligation to give a percentage of one’s income to tz’dakah.
Honesty and transparency should apply in all one’s dealings. In 19th century Goulburn in Australia, there was a saying, “As honest as a Goulburn Jew”. We should all so live as to earn the epithet, “As honest as a Jew”.
WAVING HANDS BEFORE SHABBAT CANDLES
Question. Why does a woman wave her hands in front of her when lighting Shabbat candles?
Answer. Blessings should be said before performing the action. However once you have said the blessing over the candles you have already made it Shabbat and it would be a transgression if you then kindled a light. The compromise is to light the candles, cover your eyes during the b’rachah and then remove your hands so that you enjoy the lights after the blessing has been said.
Question. Why are so many Jewish institutions – schools, synagogues, even hotels – called Moriah?
Answer. Because Mount Moriah was where Abraham showed his faith with the binding of Isaac.
The sages derive the name from “mor”, a spice; or from “mora”, reverence for God; or “moreh”, a teacher, since Moriah was a place of spiritual beauty, awe and instruction. It is linked with Jerusalem in II Chron. 3:7 and other passages.
The commentator Rashbam recorded a theory that the name was originally “Land of the Amorite”. Another view links it with the “verbra’ah”, to see; the Akedah story says, “on the mount of the Lord shall it be seen” (Gen. 22:14).
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. Now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Blog: http://www.oztorah.com