More Than Just ‘Politics’

To many people, elections means politics, and they tend to brush them off by saying, “I’m not into politics.” That may be the case in the American elections. But when we see the great importance that Gedolei Yisrael, both of our generation and of previous generations, attributed to elections in Eretz Yisrael, one realizes that perhaps for Netanyahu et al. it is about politics; for observant Jews it is about kvod Hashem and kvod haTorah.

I’d just like to point out three anecdotes that underscore this point:

Rabbi Shmuel Mordechai Mintz, z”l, the secretary general of Agudas Yisrael, recalled an election rally in Batei Horenstein in Yerushalayim which was graced by the presence of Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, who traveled to Eretz Yisrael for the express purpose of strengthening the Agudah list. Harav Kotler stood on a dais and delivered a fiery speech. He explained that there are three yemei Hadin: one, when a person is judged each day; a second, after a person passes away and returns his soul to his Creator, and the third, in the World to Come, which is the Yom Hadin Hagadol, the biggest day of judgment of all. What is the purpose of the Yom Hadin Hagadol? Hasn’t each person already experienced judgment for every day of his life, twice?

Harav Kotler explained: “Rashi wrote his peirush hundreds of years ago, and Am Yisrael learn it constantly, with Chumash and with Gemara. When Rashi came to the Upper World, all his mitzvos were reckoned. But what about the subsequent generations, that learned his commentary after his passing? Only on the Yom Hadin Hagadol will a person be rewarded for the results of his actions and their ramifications on coming generations.

And then he continued: “When a Yid votes and puts a gimmel into the ballot box during elections, he prevents chillul Shabbos for generations. With one small note, he can effect great things, and all these zechuyos will stand in his merit on the Yom Hadin Hagadol.”

Another story took place before the elections for the fourth Knesset, when the Brisker Rav firmly rejected a proposal raised by various askanim regarding political parties. When Agudas Yisrael heeded his instructions, he agreed in Tammuz 5719/1959 to help them by issuing a signed letter in support of participating in elections. It was not a new letter, but rather a duplicate of the letter he wrote in Brisk in Europe before the war, calling to elect chareidi representatives.

It was during his final illness that he instructed Reb Moshe Sheinfeld to translate what he had written into Lashon Hakodesh, and he then went over it, made some changes, and made sure that every word was the way he wanted it to be. Then he added his full signature, and he gave the document to his sons. When the full text of the letter was published, close to the elections, after the Brisker Rav had already passed away, a few people from Neturei Karta tried to cast doubt on the authenticity of the letter, but those close to the Rav knew that it was authentic. Even Harav Aharon Kotler (in a letter written in 5721/1961) notes “the letter from the Brisker Rav, zt”l, regarding elections, written at the end of Tammuz 5719 with the instruction that it be published before elections.” In his fiery way, he explained that all these speculations should be ignored, and electing the list of those who listen to daas Torah is a vote for the kiyum of the holy Torah. (See Marbitzei Torah U’Mussar, vol. 3, p. 208.)

Thirdly, it is said in the name of the Sadigerer Rebbe, zy”a, that the Lubliner Rav, Harav Meir Shapiro, zt”l, once said before elections for the Sejm in Poland [the passuk in this week’s parashah]: “Hashem yilachem lachem.Yilachem, to fight, is from the word lechem, or parnassah, gashmiyus; “v’atem tacharishun — and you will remain silent,” which in Yiddish is “shtimmen.” Shtimmen in Yiddish also means to vote.” In other words, Hashem will bestow material bounty if you vote.

When we see how the Gedolim related to these elections, one realizes that this is far above and beyond politics.