The prior lessons dealt with abiding by the laws of the land in matters dealing with real estate. We now see how the principle applies in other areas.
We begin with currencies
There was a loan that was made and then the government devalued the currency. The question arose whether the borrower must pay the amount stipulated in the loan document or the new currency, which was a much larger amount. When the government devalued the currency the new law stated that all debts were to be paid in the new currency at a certain proportion of the old money to new money. R. Weiss held that since the government provided the currency legislation it must be followed under Dina D’Malchuta Dina. Similar results were reached by Rabbi Yaakov Reisler (Prague Germany; 1670-1733; Shevut Yaakov, part 2, response 175; and R. Eliyahu ben Chaim, (Turkey; 1530-1610; Ranach Mayim Amukim, response 104).
The government had passed a law that certain negotiable instruments could be transferred the same as cash. R. David Friedman (Poland 1828-1917; Sheilot David, Yoreh De’ah response 7) was asked if the halacha had to recognize the law under the doctrine of Dina. He held that since this was a governmental function regarding money it is binding.
A similar result obtained from R. Moses Alshech (Turkey, Israel; 1507-1594; Maharam Alshech, response 79) in dealing with a payment that had to be made under a promissory note and the currency had been changed; under the Dina doctrine the laws of the government as to the amount of the new currency to be paid is controlling.
Reuven borrowed money from a Gentile and wrote a promissory note. The Gentile sold the promissory note to Shimon, a Jew. Shimon brings a lawsuit in Beth Din against Reuven and asks the Beth Din to administer Moroccan law that favored the Gentile as provided for under the note. R. Saul Abital (Morocco; 1740-1809; Avnai Shayish, part 1, response 41) held that under Dina D’Malchuta Dina, the Beth Din should apply the Moroccan law.
In a case that came before R. Moshe Feinstein (who in my humble opinion, was the greatest respondist of the 20th century) he determined that the amount of money a father should use to redeem his son from the kohen as determined by the government’s actions in establishing the value of its own currency. Similarly the government could determine the value of its own currency under Dina D’Malchuta Dina so that a person would be bound in paying off a loan. (R. Moshe Feinstein, Russia, United States; 1895-1986; Igress Moshe Yoreh De’ah, volume 2, response 189.)
The question goes still further as to whether a person can redeem his son or marry a woman with paper money. As shown by R. Chalfan haKohen, there are holding both ways. R. Chalfan Moses haKohen; 1874-1950; Shoel v'Nishal volume 5, Yoreh De’ah; volume 5, response 127.)
A kethuba is an obligatory undertaking by a husband to provide for his wife during their marriage and to pay her a sum stipulated in the kethuba in case he divorces her, or in case of his death, the amount of money that his estate will pay to the widow, in addition to other rights that she has in the estate of the husband. Sometimes the question arises when the kethuba is being paid off. In this case, when the kethuba was written the money stipulated therein had a value that was in this case changed over the years by currency devaluations. The heirs of the decedent wanted to pay the amount in the kethuba which was a small amount before the devaluations and the widow wanted to receive the larger amount as devalued. It was held by R. Yosef b. Moses Trani (Israel, Turkey; 1568-1639; Maharit, part 2, Eben haEzer, response 2), following an earlier decision by R. Yom Tov Ishbili (Spain; 125-1330; Ritva, response 53.), that under Dina D’Malchuta Dina she should get the larger amount as provided by the government.
There was a decision by R. Isaac b. Sheshet (Spain, Algiers; 1326-1408; Ribash, response 197) that Dina did not apply when the person who owed money on a loan had inside information regarding a devaluation that would favor him and quickly paid the money into Beth Din.
Criminal Law violations
The following question was asked of R. Moshe Feinstein: The U.S. government sponsored programs for schools, yeshivot were included in the programs. The question was asked whether a yeshiva can inflate the reported number of students who were actually in school. R. Feinstein first discuses how merciful and good America is to the Jews, and that so many holocaust survivors have been given permission to live there and how well they have succeeded and how well they are treated, and so many yeshivot have opened and are flourishing in America. He concludes that no head of a yeshiva will ever permit himself to be guilty of robbery by submitting false registration figures and thus violate Dina D’Malchuta Dina. (Igress Moshe, Eben haEzer, vol. 4, response 29.)
Other topics to which Dina
D’Malchuta applies in future lessons.