Is voting a mitzvah?
That depends whom you ask.
Jewish Values Online, the website that adheres to the Jewish tradition of asking the rabbi, presented the question to three rabbis from three denominations.
They all agree that voting is a good idea and the right civic thing to do. But are we required as Jews to go to the polling stations on November 2?
Orthodox and Conservative rabbis think we are.
Rabbi Gidon Rothstein, Orthodox, looks to the great sage Rabbi Soloveitchik and concludes that Jews are required to vote since political involvement helps the community and is also a nice way of showing gratitude to the United States.
Conservative Rabbi Wayne Allen quotes prophet Jeremiah who speaks of the need to participate in the welfare of the countries in which we live. “And, if not an actual Jewish legal obligation, voting is certainly interpretable as a prophetic instruction,” Rabbi Allen writes.
But Reform Rabbi Joseph Blair believes that all these arguments do not amount to any halachic obligation to vote. In fact, he even finds reference in ancient Jewish writings to the need to avoid any engagement with the government.
If there is any Jewish imperative for voting, Allen argues, it is for tikkun olam — repairing the world.
That is if you believe that voting will make the world a better place.
Are We Commanded to Vote?
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.