Oct 28, 2008

voting the mitzva

I ask the following questions, not as an attack on a way of life, but with the greatest respect and as an attempt to understand. Please read it that way and respond accordingly.

Also, the questions are not really directed at the average native Israeli voter (not that there are too many of those reading this anyway). It is more directed toward the oleh from Western countries.

1. In the United States or in England, or wherever you are from, you would have gone into elections with a decision of which candidate you support based on the issues and the candidates policy on those issues. Issues that affect you more would sway you to one candidate over the other, based on which candidate addresses those issues and needs more.

The rabbonim in America (I will stick to America because I am familiar with it, but I think it is the same in other countries as well) might tell people to vote, but they rarely tell people which candidate to vote for. And when they do, it is rare and generally because of a specific volatile issue.

At what point do people make the transition from being able to vote on their own, perhaps with rabbinic guidance, to moving to Israel and only being able to vote depending on the announcement of a rav as to whom to vote for?

What is different that used to allow you to vote for your preferred candidate, to arriving at the point where you will only vote for the ravs candidate?

2. A second question is why the rabbonim and their voting preference is considered as anything but simply a recommendation, rather it is considered a mitzva and a demand?
My issue with voting based on a rabbinic declaration (whether it be a local one, or a national one) is that the rabbonim are generally "nogei'ah b'davar".
They will never look at the issues and say in this election party x deals with this issue more in our favor so vote for them, and in that election they say party y deals with our issues better so vote for them.
That never happens. It is always vote for one specific party. That is, the party they support, the party that they are associated with. The party that funnels money to their institutions, sometimes even based on how strongly the rav is associated with the party.

Why is the ravs opinion on voting, unless his opinion goes against the standard "vote for my party" line, taken as a mitzva? It is the clearest situation of a psak based on "negios" - conflict of interest.?

For example. Rav Ovadia Yosef will always say it is a mitzva to vote Shas. Of course - he is Shas. Will he ever say vote Gimmel, or vote Labor or vote Likud because of a specific issue? Of course not. He has a conflict of interest, and cannot say anything but vote Shas, whether he wanted to or not. Can Rav Elyashiv ever say anything but vote gimmel? Of course not. You will never hear him say vote shas, or vote Likud, or vote Marzel, or vote Kadima. He cannot. (these names were picked as common examples - they are not attacks on these rabbonim).

So to sum up my questions briefly:
  1. At what point do you make the transition from deciding on your own for whom to vote, to only voting based on the announcement from a rav?
  2. why are the rabbonims statements taken as mitzvos, when they are clearly "nogei'a b'davar" in these voting situations?
And again, please respond to the point and do not take these questions as attacks. They are points I never understood well, and they always disturb me every time there is a new election season.


  1. in response to question no. 1 -

    when in rome...

    just like all those who send there kids to the most chareidi of all chadarim, and who would never ever do such a thing if they were still living in america.

    just like the hakpada on the most stringent of chumros in hechsherim for all those who would be eating OU if they were still in america.

    i think it's a societal thing, kinda like peer pressure. you move to israel, and you get swept away. personally, i think that sometimes that is a very good thing, but sometimes it can be very detrimental.

  2. I'm with you there, Rafi.
    See here for my less diplomatic opinion on the subject.

  3. Shaul, it is really a different twist on the subject. I am not voicing an opinion on whether one should or should not listen to the rabbonim tell us how to vote, I am asking why they do..

  4. #1 --
    A few reasons come to mind.
    1) The Jewish / chareidi public is much stronger here than anywhere else in the world. Power is in the numbers and they can get more clout of they are all on the same side. (Think for a minute what would the country look like if ALL of the shomer shabbos parties were able to get their acts together and form one bloc. I think they would hit 30 seats, which would put them in position to form the coalition.) Therefore, there is a certain amount of trust in the rabbonim who are "in the know" about the major issues facing the society at large - and therefore can get more bang for their buck.
    2)When all is said and done, i dont think anyone really trusts the politicians and their promises. Specifically here in Israel where there is no accountability, no one really has faith in the people running. All you have is the party, which you hope is run by people you trust. Most people (even those that dont trust rabbonim) trust rabbonim more than politicians.
    3) Politics in israel is so dirty, people realize they dont know the half of all the shmutz that goes on behind closed doors, and dont even really want to know how awful it is, lest they get turned off even more to every and any thing that goes on here. The rabbonim - for better or for worse - are in the know, and therefore there is an assumption that the decision is being made my people who know and care.
    4) Also, different here than in America is that in America our school system, how the community looks demographically speaking, and jewish communal services such as shuls, mikvaos etc (and other assorted reasons) are not under the jurisdiction of the local governments. Its not the main issues facing the folks running for office. Here, its a given that those are the most important issues. Chinuch habonim, shuls and mikvaos are the bread and butter of our community. Those are the most imp issues. The cleanliness in the parks is nice.

    #2 --
    In America the rabbonim dont say who to vote for, hence its not a mitzva. Here, when the rabbonim come out and tell you who to vote for, shouldnt it be considered following daas torah? (Unless you dont believe in that, which means you wont vote gimmel anyways) if, in america the rabbonim came out in favor of one candidate, wouldnt it be the same thing there? For chassidim, dont they all follow the same rebbe in america who will instruct them how to vote? I dont think New Square randomly gets like 99% of the people backing the same candidate. I imagine its prearranged from the rabbonim and askanim.
    Also, i dont think rabbonim affiliated with american not for profits are allowed to take a stand on elections in america

  5. Tell me this Rafi: Who will help me with the high arnona costs?
    That group gets my vote!

  6. undecided - nobody is going to lower your arnona, unless you possibly qualify for a discount. But once you have to pay so much, vote for the party who will at least help you get your moneys worth! (whoever you might think that is)

    anonymous - I know daas torah is passed around, and I hear your explanation, but the level of "conflict of interest" is so great that it is hard to understand hwo that is really daas torah. If a rav would tell you to vote for a party he is not connected to, ok - I can hear that being daas torah. For example, if Rav Kornfeld would say vote Chen, or vote TOV. But for Rav Kornfeld to say vote Gimmel is nothing more than him doing the only thing he can do, no matter what he thinks of gimmel (and I am not implying he thinks anything but the best of gimmel - again, this is just an example).

    If Rav Elyashiv would say vote Baruch marzel becaus eonly he will protect Eretz Yisrael, that I can take as Daas Torah, because he is not connected to Baruch Mnarzel. But for him to say vote Gimmel, when he is Gimmel, makes it difficult to see it as daas torah.

  7. when we were making aliyah we talked about living in a place that's more charedi vs. a dati leumi place. At the end dati leumi won because of issues like this and others (education for women amng the top). The answer is that I don't belive my rav (dati leumi or not) has the halachic authority to decide for me.
    On a related note, why do Rabbamin in America feel that they must support the anti-abortiion conservatives even if their anti-abortion stance is clearly anti-Torah?

  8. "The rabbonim - for better or for worse - are in the know, and therefore there is an assumption that the decision is being made my people who know and care."

    Rav Elyashiv is in the know????

  9. The peer pressure of being "Charedi" enough is a major challenge for Anglo Olim.

    How many of us look for Badat''z only hechsherim when we don't agree with 95% of what they say about other things?

    If a Chardal or dati-Leumi person conforms to the Shulchan Aruch, is kovea itim each day and lives a true Torah life why is he considered "less" of a Jew?

    Because of the color of his shirt?
    Type of kippa?
    Lack of black hat?
    Where he sends his kids?
    What shul he davens in?

    This is pure nonsense.

    Many people have crippled their ability to think and make decisions and place it in the hands of their Rabbonim (some of whom have their own agendas).

    One of the great things in Torah life is the ability to think and question based on truth and fact .

    There are 70 facets to the Torah. Let us honor and repsect all of them.

  10. About Arnona --

    The reason people in RBSA still pay a higher bracket is because the old Bet Shemesh looks at the Rama as its milk cow (this was actually an exact quote from one of Vaknin's guys about five years ago).

    Is there a solution? I am not sure. But with if Mafdal and Tov get a strong showing, then we could talk about such things.

  11. rachel - why not? because voting is not a halchic issue, or because he is not familiar enough with the issues (at least no more than a regular person), or something else?

  12. I agree with Anon 12:31. Almost any charedi decision, whether it's about kashrut, education, headgear or politics boils down to peer pressure. It usually has little or nothing to do with actual halacha or, in many cases, even common sense. Rafi, think third grade socialization patterns and that usually will answer questions such as these.

  13. Ask RMG who to vote for. Dont know if he will tell you gimmel or not, but word on the street here is that its not a simple issue for him. Maybe he wont tell you what he really thinks since he doesnt know who you are... IYH i will tell you what he tells me

  14. who is RMG? I know a few people with those initials... and why should anyone care what he thinks?


  15. "The rabbonim - for better or for worse - are in the know, and therefore there is an assumption that the decision is being made my people who know and care."

    Rav Elyashiv is in the know????

    MOST people vote bc their rov said to vote for this specific person or party. Not bc the gedolim. Same as with piskei halacha.

  16. "MOST people vote bc their rov said to vote for this specific person or party. Not bc the gedolim. Same as with piskei halacha."

    Then tell me why the local Kupot Tzedaka had to spend thousands of shekel for a glossy photo op shot with Rav Chaim Kanievsky to tell us to give our tzedaka to them.

    And what does Rav Chaim really feel if he tells all Jews to give to Kupot Hair, Va'ad Artzi,etc.?

    Which poster should I believe?

  17. Rav Mordechai Goldstein is not telling people to vote for Gimmel.

    His chevre are voting for Shas.

    A few opened minded people in his camp are considering Tov. Tov is not chasing after them, however.

  18. anon of 1:58. Rav Goldstein's situation is different. He is telling people to vote Shas out of protest against Gimmel. They upset him and this is his protest. he did not choose Shas because of objective reasons.

  19. 2 comments
    1) The simple answer to your question is that the Rabonnim here CAN effect the results of elections, so they get involved. In America, they have no effect. Take a smaller case: like the representative on the NYC Assembly for Flatbush, and I assume the Rabonnim would have what to say
    2) I feel that it is a somewhat artificial separation btwn Daas Torah about Tefillin and Kashrus and Daas Torah about Olam HaZeh-Dich things. The Gemara is full of advice from Chazal about varied topics, including finances and relations, which seems to me to indicate that if you trust a Rov with your Olam HaBah, you can probably trust him with the much less consequential decision of who to vote for.
    3) Once you say Rabonnim are Nogeah BaDavar, then Ein LeDavar Sof. Who is to say that they're not Nogeah when you ask them where to send your kids to school, or where to give Tzedaka. Or should Rabonnim also not answer these questions?

  20. 2 reasons:
    1. In EY every aspect of public life should be according to the Torah.Only the most orthodox parties will fight to make sure that that society will be led as much as possible according to the Torah.
    2. All the other parties really want to destroy the Tora (secular)or weaken it (the RZ). Thus voting is a matter of survival. Some people might not vote out laziness, so they have to be told its a mitzva. In this case there are no excuses.
    By the way, the mitzva is generally not defined as the act of voting per se, but listening to the rabbis

  21. Ein ledavar sof. Not quite. In fact if they are nogea bedavar about which school to send your children to, then that lessens the value of their advice. Also, in the end it is only advice, you did not ask them a pesak halacha.
    That being said, being nogea bedavar doesn't necessarily prevent a rav from paskening outside of beis din.
    I think rabbanim pasken for their own kitchen all the time, even if it the question can change their own dinner from steak to PB&J.
    But, when we pick a rav to ask we need to pick one who is honest enough to rise above that, and of course where possible we might be better off asking someone not involved.

  22. Forget about being negeia bedavar. The reason why it is not the place for rabonim to tell you which party to vote for is:
    That's what the halacha says.

    Yes, that's right, according to the halacha, a town's representatives are to be appointed by its citizens, NOT its rabbonim.

    You can search through the hundreds of teshuvas written on the topic and you will never, ever see a suggestion that rabbonim pick a town or kehila's representatives. Netzigei tzibur are picked by the tzibur, not by rabbonim.

  23. "rachel - why not? because voting is not a halchic issue, or because he is not familiar enough with the issues (at least no more than a regular person), or something else?"

    because of the second reason. Even if it is an halachic issue, why can I choose who to vote for? Like Shaul Behr said, as long as the candidate fulfills certain relugious requirements.
    I think it all boils down to one simple argument. Are Rabanim infallible? Does knowing Talmud and Halacha mean that you also know about politics, science, economics, etc. Do we believe the science described in the Talmud and reject modern science?
    I belong to the category of people who belive that Rabbamin are very smart and knowledgable people who excell at Torah and Halachah and can offer excellent advice in life because of their experince and knowledge. But my medical questions go to the doctor unless there is an halachic component, and I don't belive that the sun and planets rotate around earth (in fact I don't care about it) or that bug can spontaneously generate inside an apple. It is possible that certain Rabanim will know more about politics because they are better connected than I am. And I will listen to their OPINIONS as long as they provide all the background information. I don't believe that Rabanim should keep the knowledge to themselves and just tell us to vote for X. That's the same things as teaching a kid what objects are mukze but not teaching him the principles behind it.
    Sorry about the long rant

  24. ohh, I forgot to add, I will listen to rabanim's opinion as long as they disclose conflicts of interest. You...they do exist

  25. If in the end RMG decides to vote shas, his decision is NOT a protest vote. Its simply a decision that one must choose the party that listens to the rabbonim. His (and rav nosson) having decided one thing, and the party policy makers deciding something else, is enough of a reason for him to say that gimmel doesnt follow the rabbonim. Hence, one should vote shas who does follow the rabbonim. Not a protest. Shows how little you understand about the rabbanim, and what happens when you try to put your frame of refference for them. Protesting that your man didnt get in, is petty. This cuts to the core of the issue

  26. Here in America the vast majority of frum Jews are voting McCain because he is in line with Jewish views. I know that throughout Israel American seminary girls went to vote in mass by absentee ballets for McCain asa well. Its a very dangerous election where McCains opponent poses a serious treat to the security of Israel as well as the United States.

  27. sorry anonymous. the humor was missed. my initials are also RMG and I was referring to myself, not to Rav Goldstein, when I said who would care what RMG thinks....

  28. Who is Rav Nosson? Kopshit? He holds that you are not allowed to vote at all!

  29. a number of people have mentioned peer pressure. i don't understand. isn't there a secret ballot in israel? how could there be peer pressure inside a voting booth.

    and who says rabbis in america don't tell you who to vote for? (although this violates IRS regulations if done in a shul that is a non-profit)

  30. Question #1:

    Voting in the Good 'Ol US of A and voting in Israel are 2 fundamentally different beasts.

    Let me explain: in the US - there is no religious political party to speak of and the frum not only have no chance, but have no INTEREST even in controlling (even influincing is not really soought after) the show.

    Nothing PERSONAL is at stake. It is the Goyim's show and Jews are quite happy frankly just to be living in a land where they have unbridled freedom to live prospoerously as Jews as never before in the Golus.

    Governmental Political power is B"H not on anyone's radar at all.

    Here in EY the religious have real political power and dream of more (I am not judging yay or nay here, this is just a fact uncontested by anyone on any side of the aisle) .

    ALso, the way things have worked out historically for a number of reasons which would take too long to elaborate, the frum in EY are GREATLY and DIRECTLY affected ON A PERSONAL LEVEL as religious Jews by much of what happens in the gov't here. not so in the good 'ol US of A.

    so if you vote for or against the religious parties - whther you are Shas or Aguda you are percieved to be and in fact to some degree indeed helping or hurting in real terms, the religious cause or your own particular identity group.

  31. after writng the answer to Q1. I tink that really that explains Q2 as well.

    if I need to elab just yeller.

  32. to Rachel in Israel:

    And the Pro-Abortion stance is not Anti-Torah?

    Could you explain yourself?

    And specifically the following:

    While it may be true that some details of the pro-life position are not 'halachic' (and I suspect you would agree with me that goyim do nto need to follow halocho) , the general appraoch of pro-choice people is clearly agaisnt not just halocho but the entire spirit of the Torah which places preserving life before all precepts except the big 3. COntra the pro-choicers who treat lives as disposable diapers and who do not hesitate to inflict unspeakable and cruel torture on the most indefensible just for sheer convenience and corrections of oops! really stupid mistakes.

  33. and one more point re abortion to ponder before you respond that fetuses are not life and such nonsense.

    If a woman who wanted her baby was undergoing distress in the oh say 4th month and needed to undergo an operation on Shabbos to save the life of her 'fetus'.

    What do YOU say about that? Are you so convinced that the fetus is just 'tissue' that your passionate yearning for Kedushas Shabbos tell
    you that sorry kid it is Shabbos - you will have to die!

    I am not asking what the TOrah says at this point - what does your gut say - if you can honestly answer that yes- my heart tells me the kid must die to preserve kedushas Shabbos. only than can you maintain inellect honesty when claiming that fetii have no status as life and as such one of the Torah's most fundamental precepts is not being violated when an abortion r"l occurs.

    As for what the Torah actually says and not our gut feelings. See Yoma 82a Rashi D"H Oobra where Rashi clearly indicates that the Oober is be a factor in the permissibility of violating the Holiest day of the Year.

    Or ask your Rov for other sources.

  34. ANON:

    "in the US - there is no religious political party to speak of and the frum not only have no chance, but have no INTEREST even in controlling (even influincing is not really soought after) the show."

    this may be true on a national level, but at least in new york this is false on a local level. look at how the politicians slobber over all the rebbes who can deliver them votes.

    and locally we do have our frum politicians also who ostensibly have our interests at heart.

    and i just don't understand you abotion comments. neither the pro-life or pro-choice camps are compatible with the dictates of הלכה

  35. Lion of Zion-
    Different anon. here.
    Why do you say neither side is compatible with halacha?

    What does Halacha say about abortion?
    I know that after 40 days a baby is either male or female. But that killing a fetus is just a knas.

  36. Mr. Lion,

    Comment #1. You are arguing against the premise of the question. Which I thought was valid.

    Yes, individual Chasidic groups vote as a bloc. And when I was in Yeshiva Rabbi Herman
    Neuberger O"H (not a Rov himself - but a big askan - told bachurim who he most influence with and therefore to vote for that candidate.

    And Rabbi Neuberger's (and the Rebbe's) actions are no different than any other community activist telling
    his people who he has more influence with.

    But you will have to admit that this is Atypical of the frum world. And pales in
    comparison to what is IDEOLOGICALY going on in EY. Where IDEOLOGICAL or Kittos Kittos as
    the case may be...wars are waged every election season.

    Come join us in January and bring the popcorn, it will be fun to watch.

    Comment #2.

    I tohught that my implied and admittedly not explicitly stated argument would get through
    w/o writin longer than Idid but I guess I need to spoonfeed a bit more so here goes.

    First, did you see the comment I was responding too?

    Now, I think that you woudl agree with me that we are NOT interested in America becoming a
    'Halachic' state. As I mentioned in my orevious comment. So the question of whether the
    laws passed are al-pi-halocho are not relevant.

    Now, what does concern us as Jews in America that America should be a basically moral society as defined by the 7 mitzvos. Please do not cooment that there are Halochos about the seven mitzvos. becase that tat is totally besides the point.

    That being said. Rachel in Israel indicated that the pro-abortion stance was more
    in line w/the Torah than the pro-life and I am much taken aback by that statement since
    if the choice is between those who advocate wanton disposing of life like we much dispose
    of the garbage when we do not it to bother us anymore and those who beleive life is sacred
    (and we agree with them on that,I hope because if you beleive that there is nothing wrong
    with cruelly murdering fetuses - and in partial birth - actual children and this w/o getting to the next step -
    Obama's leaving babies to die,well then there is no point talking w/eachother about his...
    BUT we disagree with them on some (one? - danger to the mother) points then it sems
    obvious that you pick the side you have the most in common with.

    I made a different argumet there which was a counter to what someone might say - well a fetus is not life
    so therefore does not under the category of sanctity of life.

    BTW, another point, even hotza'as zera l'vatolo if considered shefichas domim by Chazal - so al achas
    kama v'kama a viable fetus.

  37. the other anon.

    is this 'halakhic' opinion of yous based on your reading of Chumash?

    Do you also think we take out an eye for an eye?

    please. the flaws with your argument aside from being halochically wrong - you will not poskim who sacntion abortion unless the mother's life is at stake. and that is ONLY due to the technical definition of the fetus as a rodef. otherwise - it has full legal rights to live except that granted an insignificant grant - there is not death penalty - but there is no death penalty for a lot of things - for instance - if you plant poison in someone's food and he comes and eats it - you are NOT punishable by death generally speaking even though this was premediated murder - but it wasa gramma. Does this mean the Torah Sanctions Grommo Murder?

  38. Anon of 11:49-

    Other anon. here.

    I wasn't taking a stance either way.
    I just mentioned places where it's discussed.

    The halacha you mention seems to coincide with the moderate pro-life crowd.

  39. Let me clarify my point since it was unclear. Both the pro-life and pro-choise are going against Torah. Given that there seems to be no middle and only two evils I would vote for pro-choice. Why? Pro-life would require me to die for an ectopic pregnancy (among other forms of horrible pregnancy related deaths), I did learn the halachos of pregnancy and abortions, so there is no need to teach me.

    The system that's now working in the States is probably closer to the Torah than either Obama's (pro-choice) or McCain-Palin's system (Palin beign a true pro-life advocate). I guess if there was an option of keep the status-quo that would be my choice. But between the two extremes...

    For anyone interested in what society would mean if real prolife was the policy, some latinamerican countries have it.
    just google nicaragua, abortion ban.

    As someone who has had a complicated pregnancy I simply cannot support someone who would let me die during it.

    I've heard all those arguments that pro-choice people don't care about babies, are murderers, and evil people who don't value life, etc. Please, I've heard them all.

    Anon 12:35: I'm sorry to hear that all the women you've meat have used abortions as a form of birth control. I can assure you the vast majority of women, whether pro-life or pro-choice are not like that. And, yes I would violate Shabbos to save a fetus. In fact I've done it plenty of times.

  40. "when I was in Yeshiva Rabbi Herman
    Neuberger O"H (not a Rov himself - but a big askan - told bachurim who he most influence with and therefore to vote for that candidate."

    When I was in that Yeshiva, R. Neuberger did not exactly do that.
    He DID post a letter on the bulletin board stating that regardless of which candidate one votes for, it is important to vote, and that he was asked how he was voting. He then listed the candidates he was voting for with a short blurb about all or most of them explaining why he chose that candidate. Which was valuable, because Rabbi Neuberger was expressing his opinion as someone who was personally involved with many if not all of those politicians. He wasn't just a talmid chacham who sat on the mizrach expressing opinions about what people asked him, and he wasn't relying on what someone told him. He knew first hand. Yet, he never TOLD anyone who to vote for.

  41. ANON:

    "Rachel in Israel indicated that the pro-abortion stance was more
    in line w/the Torah than the pro-life"

    no she didn't. go back and read what she wrote. anyway, while you think she is so capriciously indifferent to the plight of the unborn fetus, you are obviously indifferent to the plight of a mother in a risky pregnancy.

    "BTW, another point, even hotza'as zera l'vatolo if considered shefichas domim by Chazal . . ."

    a) this a halachically binding statement?

    b) btw, another point, a fetus that endangers the health (acc. to some this can include mental health?) of a mother is a רודף

    "I need to spoonfeed a bit more so here goes."

    are you intentionally trying to be arrogant or am i misreading you?

  42. rachel in israel said...
    "ohh, I forgot to add, I will listen to rabanim's opinion as long as they disclose conflicts of interest. You...they do exist"


    How right you are! Yet how many of these Rabbonim will openly admit their bias?

    I learn (but don't daven regularly) in a particular shul here in RBS.

    Shortly after my arrival I approached the Rav of that shul (who also learns there during the day) about 2 tzedakas in the city.

    Without explanation why he told me to give to one and NOT to the other. He wouldn't explain why. Nor did he tell me to investigate the 2 for myself. Just give to this and NOT to that.

    My curiosity was piqued and I chose to check them both out. I found no basis for this Rav's opinion other than some personal bias. He himself has certain connections to one and not the other.

    From this story I am much more careful about asking Rabbonim non halachik questions.

  43. I remember when Rabbi Reichman was speaking in Aish Kodesh on Tisha B'Av he mentioned the idea that every Country/medina has its own type of yetzer hara that impacts the yidden who live there. In America, it could be said that the communal nisayon is a focus on money/luxuries/gashmius. In Eretz Yisroel, however, it was clear that the yetzer hora is machlokes and sinas chinam. That's why there is such sinas chinam between frum Yidden in the political scene here and not in America.


Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...