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Points of View
My Point of View--Oct 15, 2002
© Rabbi Jack Moline

You have a sacred obligation to vote.

I don’t have the chutzpah to call it a full-fledged mitzvah, but I would if I could.

The universality of suffrage in this country is one of the more magnificent advantages of living in the United States of America. We directly elect the people who will represent us in government, from local officials all the way up to Member of Congress. If those officials represent us well, we can help them to continue their good work. If they violate our values or trust or interests, we can do our best to send them packing.

The model of democratic government may be America’s contribution to the world, but America’s contribution to us as Jews is an opportunity we have rarely enjoyed. For us, it is the electoral equivalent of military might, economic preeminence, or even a divine assist. Each of those resources has enabled us to meet the needs of our people and express our values to the wider world. Without them, we found ourselves in trouble for our powerlessness. In America, the vote is as mighty as the gun, the dollar, or the prayer. (It is also safer and more reliable!)

And rarely does a secular opportunity give us a better opportunity to see in practice one of Hillel’s most famous teachings.

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? That is, if I do not cast my vote in my own interests, nobody will.

When I am for myself alone, what am I? That is, if I do not consider others in casting my vote, I set myself apart from the concerns of the community.

And if not now, then when? That is, if I don’t make it to the polls (or make arrangements to vote absentee), I have squandered the opportunity.

Study the issues, study the platforms and records of the candidates and then get out and vote your conscience. It is your sacred obligation.

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