I live in Bet Shemesh. As you probably know from the last time there was elections (X2) it’s a very touchy subject. Anyways, as an American, i was always taught or just felt that the candidate that I choose is a very personal subject that is totally up to me to decide who to choose. Coming to Israel, though, was a bit of a culture shock, as everyone is much more in-your-face, vote-for-me-or-the-world-is-going-to-end. This is true both of the religious and non-religious populations. Being as my Rabbi has told us that it’s a Mitzvah to vote for a certain party and Mayor, it made me start wondering. Do we see any source or precedent for it being a Mitzvah to vote for a certain person or party? If so, where?
Elections in Israel are different than they are in the America. Israel is a small volatile country that has numerous issues, and the elections have major ramifications on people’s lives. Additionally, Israel has numerous factions and people with opposing ideologies, with each person or party pushing their ideology, and wanting to make changes in that direction. This is especially true in a religious sense, where unfortunately in Israel politics and religious freedom and intertwined. There are people and parties that want to push a more religious way of life, and there are those who want to stifle religious growth, and are outright anti-religious. The big Rabbis, especially the leaders of the generation, see the overall picture of how the elections have an effect on the growth of torah and the orthodox community, the schools, the religious rights, and the ability for the religious to get the services that they deserve. Therefore they have said numerous times that it is important to vote for a candidate that is going to help torah growth and religious freedom. For example, the leader of Orthodox Jewry in Israel in the 40’s – 50’s, the famous Chazon Ish said, “There are many ramifications regarding torah observance that are effected and dependent on the elections”. The rabbis are not coming from a political angle, but from a perspective of what will be better for torah and religious growth, and therefore since elections has such a great effect on the various issues they tell us how to vote for, because often the layman can get distracted with election promises, and all sorts of different reasons why he/she may want to vote for a specific candidate or party. The Rabbis want to make sure that our perspective stay straight, with our eye on the important issue. Therefore they do tell us exactly who to vote for, and yes it is a mitzva to vote for those that we are told to vote for.
May H-Shem help us make the correct decision and bring Moshiach soon, and he will be our king and we won’t have to get involved in these issues!
As a side point- In truth, for many it is not easy to ignore one’s opinion and preference, and subject oneself to what the Rabbi’s say, however it is a Kiddush H-shem that we are doing what H-shem wants and not what we want. I have a close friend that is a rov in Beit Shemesh, and he the people in his shul two Shabossim ago that it is a Kiddush H-shem to vote for the candidate etc. that the Rabbis tell us is more beneficial for torah observance, and even though it is difficult, but it is a big merit for the person is heaven, when H-shem will see that the person set H-shem’s preference over his own. One of the congregants came over to him and told him, that he needs a big siyata dishmaya now, because he needs 15,000 shekels in four days. If the rov is willing to guarantee that he will get the 15,000 shekel he will vote for the candidate that the rov wants. The rov told him, that the merit for doing what the gedolim say will be his, but he cannot guarantee that H-shem will want to save the merit voting for something in the future that may be more important. He agreed. Two days later he came back to the rov to tell him that the night before someone came to his house from Beer Sheva with a check of 15,000 that he owed him!