To the outside observer, the copious amount of detailed laws that Jews use to govern all aspects of their lives may seem strange if not absurd. This essay will explain the traditional rationale for the existence and implementation of Jewish law.
According to Jewish tradition, the source of all Jewish law is the God as perceived and defined by Jewish tradition and faith. Jews view God as the King of Kings, the ruler of the universe. In the ancient world, the King was the lawgiver. Thus according to the Jews, God is the ultimate lawgiver; His laws supersede those of earthly kings. Much like the Chinese “Mandate of Heaven”, a Jewish King must obey God’s laws and enforce them or he will lose the right to rule.
According to Jewish faith, the laws given to the Jews by God are comprised of rituals and rules of conduct between human beings and between people and their environment. An example of this is the Ten Commandments given to Moses in Chapter 20 of the Biblical Book of Exodus. The Ten Commandments are comprised of laws that govern both the Jews’ relationship with God and their relationship with each other. For instance, one of the Commandments forbids saying God’s name in vain while another one forbids adultery.
The laws apply to all Jews – kings, priests and common folk and bind them together. Whereas historically in most societies the leaders are considered above the law, in Jewish tradition, the privileged classes such as kings and priests are obligated to observe more laws and restrictions that the common citizens. The laws and to whom they apply arewritten in the Jewish corpus of law known as the Torah.