Monday, March 10, 2014

"Do you think I could be mayor someday?"

If I believed it was my religious duty to vote for Moshe Abutbol - and not for Eli Cohen - because the latter isn't a ritually-observant Jew, I'd do the following thought-exercise...

...I'm elected as the mayor of the city. I visit a school under my jurisdiction, and I meet a classroom full of bright-eyed little boys and/or girls. One of them comes up to me and asks the following question:

"Do you think I could be mayor someday?"

Suddenly I'm taken aback. Because here's the thing - these kids are not religious. The question is, what would I respond?

One thing's for sure - I could not, and would not, look that little girl or boy in the face and tell them what I really believed: "No, you can never be mayor, nor should you ever be mayor. Not unless you become religious." Or: "No, not unless you move to a non-religious city." Why? Because it's cruel. Because I know in my heart that it's wrong to say such a thing. And because I know with every moral fiber of my being that the right response would be:

"Of course you can become mayor - if you're talented and put your mind to it, you certainly can!"

Now carry the thought-experiment into real life. As a voter, I'd find myself in a rather profound philosophical dilemma.

"Morally" I wouldn't want someone to be mayor if they - and the whole system supporting them - believed that half the city's residents are disqualified from ever leading the city they live in - not because of any lack of talent or integrity or honesty, but because of their ritual-observance level.

My conscience wouldn't allow me to support someone who "in principle" would have to look little kids in the eye and tell them that they should never be the mayor of their own city.

On the other hand, if I believed that "halachically" speaking it's forbidden to vote for a non-ritually-observant Jew no matter how talented or capable or decent they are, then effectively my hands are tied.

So then what would I do? What could I do? I imagine I'd take the following principled stand:


Yes, if I were living in a city where EVERY single one of the residents were religious, where there wasn't a single person whom my belief system would render inherently "forbidden" from being mayor, not one bright-eyed child whose dreams of leadership I'd be taking part in denying, then I could vote in good conscience.

But if I were living in most places, like say, Beit Shemesh - then I'd do my best to maintain both my religious integrity and my moral integrity, and I wouldn't vote.

Just a pre-election thought.

Wishing all of us good luck tomorrow - and even better luck in the days to come!