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Ask the Rabbi: Are We Commanded to Vote?

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”—recognized by Jews 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 selecting Bezalel as the Mishkan’s master builder, God told Moses to consult the people (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.

Rabbi David Evan Markus
Temple Beth-El
City Island, NY

Originally published in Moment.

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