The Blessing of Democracy

Posted on November 5, 2020

by Rabbi Michael Schwab

As Jews we should be especially grateful to live in the United States of America, a country that is built on principles like democratic elections and religious freedom. On Tuesday we were all given the great privilege to vote in our election process, making our voice heard in deciding who will represent us in our government.  It gave me great pride to participate this year, as it has for every election since I was 18. 

The voting process resonates with us as Jews since it reinforces the notion that all of us are made in the image of God, and therefore each person is sacred, each person’s opinion matters.  As you know, due to the closeness of the vote and the preponderance of early and absentee ballots as a result of the pandemic, the ability to declare the winner in a number of elections has taken longer than usual. While frustrating and worrying to many, when election officials take the time to verify and count every ballot, as they have a responsibility to do, that’s a sign that our democracy is working. So this delay should actually reassure us that the process is being taken seriously. 

As the Talmud tells us about the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah, “The candles should burn until the feet of all those who attend the market leave” (Shabbat 21b).  Just as everyone should be given an opportunity to participate in lighting the candles, so too should everyone who cast a valid ballot be given the opportunity to have that vote count.  Legal disputes are normal in every election, and we must have faith in the strong processes in place to work all of these issues out fairly. Democracies are built on laws and procedures that both ensure our rights and that elections are handled fairly.  We should maintain our confidence that this will be the case in this election as well.  Whoever wins a given election, we should stand by one of the hallmarks of our great democracy: that there be a peaceful transfer of power, if that is what the voting calls for, and a reaffirmation of the legitimate right to govern, if an incumbent prevails.  

Through it all we should pray as we do each Shabbat: “Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country – for its government, for its leaders and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights of Your Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst, Amen.”