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Are You Allowed To Choose Who To Vote For?
Does a religious Jew have the right to make a personal choice regarding who to vote for?
The March 21 issue of HaModia featured interviews with a number of Anglo Charedi rabbis in Israel, entitled "Rabbanim Discuss the Rift in Israeli Society." Previously, I wrote about the comments of Rabbi Bloom regarding the alleged greater sacrifice made by people learning in kollel than by soldiers killed in the line of duty. The article is an eye-opener for people who look at figures such as Rav Zev Leff and Rav Yitzchak Berkovitz as being "moderates" rather than full-blooded charedim.
One of the rabbis interviewed is Rav Elimelech Kornfeld, a brilliant Torah scholar whom HaModia mistakenly describes as Rosh Kollel of Kollel Iyun HaDaf (it's actually his brother), but correctly describes as Rav of the Gra shul in Ramat Bet Shemesh. He says the following:
"Olim coming from the United State often have a preconceived notion that one's personal decision of who to vote for is his basic democratic right and that nobody has the right to dictate his vote. They are not always aware that here in Eretz Yisrael serious religious issues are on the line and the decision of who we vote for is made by the Rabbanim and Gedolim, who are most aware of the pressing religious needs."
Contrary to what you might expect, I'm not going to say that he is wrong. He is right - sort of.
In the absence of a formal system of rabbinic authority such as the Sanhedrin, rabbinic authority is what a person makes of it. If you are part of a community such as that of Rav Kornfeld, this means that you have selected him as your rabbinic authority. You might not agree with his attempts to remove Mishpachah magazine from the city, or his attempts to prevent the establishment of restaurants which have seating, or his opposition to Lemaan Achai, or his opposition to the TOV political party; but if you are part of his community, you must respect his authority. This includes accepting his decision regarding the parameters of that authority. And if he believes that this means that you must accept his decision regarding whom to vote for - i.e. UTJ - then that is what you must do - or you are defying the very authority that you have accepted upon yourself.
On the other hand, every person makes a decision (or chooses to accept a decision made for him) regarding who he defines as being his Rabbanim and Gedolim in the first place. And some Rabbanim and Gedolim believe that people should not vote for UTJ. Some Rabbanim and Gedolim - even in Ramat Bet Shemesh - believe that even their own flock are entitled to make their own decisions regarding who to vote for, let alone people outside of their community. (Cue shock and horror!)
The problem comes when people believe that every religious Jew is obligated to accept a certain fictitious objective definition of who "the Rabbanim and Gedolim" actually are. (And when rabbis, for various reasons, tell people to vote for a party that they don't really think the people should vote for.)