Research and publications

On the halachic obligation to vote

Summary: Every Jew has a duty to vote in the democratic elections in one’s nation of citizenship.  Jewish law mandates the creation of civil government (Avot 3:2, Avodah Zara 4a), and obliges all who benefit from public services to help provide them (Bava Batra 7b, Bava Metzia 108a).  Voting follows from this Jewish communitarian value against free-riding, and from a “social compact” – which Jews recognized 700 years before Enlightenment democratic thought arose in Europe – by which Jews opting to live in a society thereby agree to support its government and laws (Rashbam, Bava Batra 54b).  Most of all, Judaism views voting to be a holy act of divine partnership.  Before God selected Betzalel as the Mishkan’s master builder, God told Moses to consult the people in Judaism’s first election (B.T. Berakhot 55a): the modern elective franchise continues this legacy “for the sake of heaven” (Shulchan Aruch, C.M. 163:1).  It follows that all government policies – from public order and foreign policy to education and the environment – are issues on which Jews are called to help renew and repair the world in holy partnership at the ballot box.

Full teshuvah: On the halachic obligation to vote [pdf]

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