The Elections in Context

Ever since the State of Israel was founded, the overwhelming majority of Gedolei Yisrael instructed their followers to vote.

This duty was considered very important by Gedolim, equal to or overriding other obligations. For example, the Belzer Rav, zy”a, refused to take kvitlach on Election Day, instructing his Rebbetzin, his gabba’im and his would-be petitioners to go vote. Many Gedolim, including the Tchebiner Rav, zt”l, closed their gemaros and personally went to the voting booth. The Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz, zy”a, cast his ballot singing “laasos nachas ruach laBorei Yisborach Shemo.”

Ever since much of Torah Jewry united in the beginning of the 20th century to establish Agudas Yisrael, the approach was nahara nahara upashtei — every river has its own course. It was clearly understood that there would be differences in opinion on some matters, but this would not detract from the respect the kehillos have for one another and the achdus with which they would work.

There was also an understanding that what may be detrimental in one city or country could actually be beneficial — or even imperative — in another. That is why it has long been argued that it is the spiritual leadership of each locale that knows what is best for its Jewish population. Based on this approach, the Gedolei Yisrael in the United States, including Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein, and Hagaon Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, responded to the call of Gedolei Eretz Yisrael by stating that it was a sacred obligation to take part in elections there.

Thus, in those turbulent times, Reb Aaron actually traveled to Eretz Yisrael on the eve of elections to urge Torah Jews to vote. He referred to Election Day as a yom hadin, and viewed voting as a fundamental part of being mechazek Torah.

With the grave danger facing yeshivah bachurim, the importance of heeding the call of the Gedolim of yesteryear and, ybl”c, the Gedolim of today could not possibly be overestimated. The Torah prohibition of lo saamod al dam rei’echa applies, for choosing to stay home and not vote means assisting those who seek to force yeshivah students into the army, and to destroy all the past accomplishments that enable Torah Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Tuesday was a critical day, one that will decide whether it will be possible to live as Yidden in the land of our fathers and to raise our children in the Torah path.

One day each member of the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael will have to answer this pivotal question: “Did you do enough to protect the future of Yiddishkeit in the Holy Land?”One day we will have to answer whether we did everything we could to help them protect Yiddishkeit.

On Tuesday, more than any other Election Day since the founding of the state, it was apparent that chareidi Jewry is confronting its persecutors, those who want to destroy it, and is making an effort to defend itself by the skin of its teeth, much like a lamb among 70 wolves.

Torah Jews have expressed fearfully that this time we are really like Avraham HaIvri — with the whole world on one side and all of us on the other side. In other words, the right, left and center are all united in the opinion that we must be excised from the source of our life, the sea of Talmud. They know that this is our life, and that is why they are so determined to cut off our source of spiritual sustenance.

This time, unlike any other previous time, it is not just threatening slogans. The head of the army’s manpower division speaks about 3,000 draft orders — and these are not exaggerations or illusions, nor is it electioneering. This is the execution of the decree. The IDF is ready to carry out whatever orders they are going to get from the new ruling government.

It is incredible to think that in a Jewish country, Jews are being forced to sacrifice their principles and join a secular army, similar to the cruel edicts some 200 years ago when Jews were forcibly inducted into hostile gentile armies.

While the elections are over, it is likely that the actual results won’t be known for months. As these words are being written, all that we have are exit polls, and they are deeply disconcerting.

While both Torah-true parties appear to be holding their own or gaining a seat, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid has emerged as the biggest surprise of this election. If the polls are right, this party, led by a charismatic former media personality, championing “equal service for all” and imposing a core curriculum on the chareidi educational system, will be the second-largest party in the Knesset.

It seems probable that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be asked to form the next government, but the million-dollar question is whether he will go with his “natural allies,” the right-wing and religious, or reach out to the political center, with parties like Yesh Atid or Tzipi Livni’s The Movement.

Under the complex structure of Israel’s parliamentary system, a voter can end up with the exact opposite of what he chose at the ballot box.

Netanyahu could have 67 MKs in a right-wing, religious coalition — which, when you factor in the Arab vote, means that an overwhelming majority of the Jewish public identifies with the right — but then form a centrist government that will make unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians.

In the same vein, he could opt to form a coalition with parties that want to launch public transportation on Shabbos and undermine the Torah world, despite a clear majority that favors bolstering the country’s Jewish character.

But Am Yisrael is not like any other nation. While it was important to unite in the recent election campaign and do everything possible to bring about the desired results, the elections are a cog in a very big wheel that is ultimately turning in our favor — even if we don’t see how

In this week’s parashah, when Am Yisrael is already at the Yam Suf, it says, “And Yisrael saw the great hand that Hashem inflicted upon Egypt… and they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant” (Shemos 14:31). Isn’t it strange that it is only at the Yam Suf that Am Yisrael recognizes the miracles, including the 10 plagues, that Hashem inflicted on Mitzrayim to facilitate their deliverance from slavery?

The Chofetz Chaim answers: Whether it is Yetzias Mitzrayim or any of the other myriad miracles that the Jewish people has experienced over the ages, we only recognize them as such when we can see and practically feel them — as was the case at the Yam Suf, where a maidservant saw what the great navi, Yechezkel ben Buzi could not see.

Every miracle, explains the Chofetz Chaim, is made up of a series of miracles that preceded it, but since each event appears to us to stand on its own, we cannot see it as a miracle until the final chapter plays out.

He brings as an example the miracle of Purim. It is made up of a series of seemingly insignificant, decidedly unmiraculous events, beginning with Bigsan and Seresh plotting to kill Achashverosh and including the king being unable to sleep and asking for his chronicles to be read before him just as Haman was coming to seek the death penalty for Mordechai.

“When do we understand that a miracle happened?” asks the Chofetz Chaim. “When all the events come together. Then we all understand that the miracle began with Mordechai’s hearing the words of Bigsan and Seresh and that all the events that transpired afterwards were links in the miracle of Purim.”

Now that the hishtadlus has been done — and we can only hope that people heeded the words of the Gedolim and voted — we have to put our faith in Hashem that the ultimate results will be good, even if there are bumps along the way.