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The Jewish Duty to Vote

Renee Eder on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

U.S. midterm elections are just a week away! Since the year I turned 18 (many moons ago), I have voted every year. Similar to paying taxes, serving on juries, and registering for the draft, voting is a civic calling, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to vote in this country.

As you likely know, unlike other civic callings, voting is optional. Whatever the stakes, no law compels Americans to vote. In some elections, only a minority of eligible voters cast ballots. What you may not know is that voting is a Jewish duty that dates back to biblical times. Here's how:

- Civic engagement is an important part of our Jewish tradition of community. The great first-century sage Hillel taught, “Do not separate yourself from the community,” reminding us that in the ecosystem of the collective, each of us plays a role in sustaining one another.

- The impulse to participate in the public sphere has become a Jewish cultural reflex. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein taught that as an expression of hakarat hatov (gratitude) "American Jews must participate in our democracy — which safeguards our freedoms — by voting."

- The duty to create and support government is one of the few duties that Jewish law recognizes for all, Jews and non-Jews alike. To Maimonides (1135-1204), the purpose was to ensure public order; while to Nachmanides (1194-1270), the purpose extends to include all social welfare.

-Jewish tradition views government as a human partnership with G-d. Where Torah predicts that Israelites would want civil rulers instead of priests and prophets, Moses told the people: “[B]e sure to place over yourselves the king that G-d elects for you."

As you know and can see from words of wise Jewish sages, it is all of our duty to be civically engaged. On Nov. 6, be sure to to exercise your civic duty and Jewish heritage and vote!

 

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