- Question: [Monday 24th Tishreiy, 5781]
Is one halachically obligated to vote in a presidential election, mayoral election, etc?
In this specific case, the American elections, are there any instructions of how to vote and for whom?
*Please note: The below is the Rav’s personal opinion, and does not reflect a Pesak Halacha on the issue. In case of doubt, each individual should speak with their Rav.
Should one vote: It is obviously important for one to take part in the voting process and so has been done by our Rebbe’s who have likewise encouraged their followers to do so. While there are a number of reasons for why one should take part in a vote, from a Torah perspective it should be done in order to effect policies that are more in line with Torah values.
Who to vote for: Obviously one should vote for whichever candidate they feel will most benefit their lives and religious values. Regarding the American election, traditionally Orthodox Jews tend more to vote Republican although this matter is not set in stone and therefore one is allowed to vote according to his conscience in accordance to who he feels will better lead the country for the things that are important to him and who he things will help greater promote Torah values and seven Noahite based laws. We should never vote simply based on identity politics.
To put it simply, regarding the coming up presidential election one can choose either the Republican or Democratic candidate for president in accordance to what he feels would be personally better for him or for his country and there is no Halacha that can dictate one way or the other and this is left for each person’s discretion. I think election choices are very personal and are affected by various factors and everyone has a right to choose whom they want.
Many people are turned off by the personality of the current president and would desire to choose the other candidate to return normalcy to our presidential system. Others view our current president as a threat to Public health due to his mismanaging of the Corona crisis, and therefore want another candidate to be chosen. Others view our current president’s track record on Israel as the most mitigating and deciding factor and push that one should vote for him due to that. Others like the toughness and sternness of our president, Applaud his economic success, and want it to continue. There are also other pros and cons that people may and should consider, although whatever the case, it will always remain your choice and Halacha does not dictate whom you should vote for.
On that note let me mention a few points that I believe should be kept to:
- One should minimize discussion about politics as much as possible especially if it is going to come in the expense of Torah learning. One should do his research and make his decision on whom to vote for and leave it at that. there’s no need to turn it into the main mitzvah of the generation which must take up all of one’s time and mind. if we invested as much energy into our other decisions in life in which we are in sole control of as much as we invest in politics, perhaps we would make much wiser decisions.
- Many people take sides in politics and besmirch the candidate that’s not theirs. In my philosophy, with exception to extraordinary cases, we should respect both candidates and choose the one who is more aligned with our beliefs. There is no need to turn it into a religion with your candidate being the side of holiness and the opposite one the side of evil. Thus, regarding the current election, I think both candidates are viable options and should be respected regardless of whether one agrees with him or not.
- After the election takes place, all citizens should accept the results and pray for the safety and success of the elected official regardless of whether they chose him or not. Jewish Americans should be patriots to our country and according to Torah we all need to pray for its success and that of our leaders. Believe it or not this was the philosophy of the Rebbe’s of Chabad. The attitude of hating on the candidate that we did not choose, calling him an anti semite etc without real basis, I think is both inaccurate, foreign from Jewish philosophy, and sews more division within our country and fellows. We must respect the seat of the presidency and those who hold that position. This holds true whether Trump wins or Biden wins, and it held true likewise in the Obama era in which while I certainly did not agree with many of his policies, I felt that there was much unjustified hate and rhetoric said regarding him, of which contradicts the above philosophies and patriotism that I believe a Jew should have for his country and its chosen leaders, as was always traditionally done. To fiercely oppose and protest his policies is legitimate and is part of democracy, however to character assassinate the individual and turn him to a villain with glowing animosity in my opinion is contrary to our upbringing.
- As to Lubavitchers, they must keep in mind the Rebbe’s opinion written in a Letter on the 15th Teves 5714 “As is known, Lubavitch is very careful to avoid any political affiliation. This applies to Eretz Hakodesh as well as other countries. This was a directive from the Rebbe Rayatz which I upkeep.” In light of this philosophy. The Rebbe always showed respect to all leaders, including those on the far left, and did not character assassinate them as individuals and simply negated their ideas. With that said, it is unclear on what basis some official Chabad Mosods and Rabbanim have come out with recent statements promoting one candidate over the other in the 2020 presidential election, and seemingly they should keep to the Rebbe’s standards of not mixing into politics, as is followed by Beis Din Rabbanie Chabad in Eretz Hakodesh who never issue a statement of whom to vote for, despite the election being far more sensitive for people with Jewish and pro Israel values.
Sources: See the following article and all sources mentioned there regarding elections:https://shulchanaruchharav.com/halacha/elections-in-halacha/
See the following article regarding the philosophy of our Rebbes on patriotism to ones country: https://shulchanaruchharav.com/halacha/may-should-one-fly-an-american-or-israeli-flag/