After watching historian Jon Meacham on CBS yesterday compare the selfless patriotism of Abraham Lincoln, who was more than willing to give up power had he lost in 1864 (see his quote above), with those who cynically subvert confidence in our elections today, I realized that we all could use a reminder as to why it is a mitzvah to vote.
A vote is the least cynical thing AND the most Jewish thing we could do, a celebration of freedom, and a rebuff of those who deny the ballot's validity simply to stoke anger and mistrust. It is an affirmation of light and life in a world of growing darkness.
Rabbi Yitzhak taught that "A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted" (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a). Living in a decidedly non-democratic age, the ancient sages understood the importance the consent of the governed.
Here is some more about how Jewish values relate to elections and voting and why it is our responsibility to play an active role in our community and choosing its leaders.
"The Torah teaches us, "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live" (Deuteronomy 30). There is an eternal Jewish value, a mitzvah, that informs us to be active in shaping our future for the good, for a better life: u'vacharta b'chayim, "Choose life!" When faced with options that offer us two or more different paths on which to proceed, we are instructed to choose, to make a selection, to vote.
Here are some more texts on voting and fair elections: In the Talmud, the rabbis state that not even God would select rulers without consulting the people (B.T. Berachot 55a). As the rabbis did, we continue to "pray for government's welfare, for without fear of it [we] would swallow each other alive" (M. Avot 3:2). In fact, support of government became one of the few duties that Jewish law recognizes for all, Jew and non-Jew alike (B.T. Sanhedrin 56b).
The Rabbinical Assembly's resolution on voting in the 2020 elections (no resolution was passed this year), calls on all segments of American society to preserve democratic norms and values in the elections process. It's a resolution that never was even considered in years before 2020.
We are called upon to do the same. Lincoln would have done no less.
Please forward this message to all who might be receptive of it, especially anyone signaling that they are on the fence about voting tomorrow.
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