Stop! Have you voted yet?
Photo: Israel Bardugo
Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman
Photo: Haim Zach
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Photo: Yaakov Cohen
Prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis have declared that voting in the Knesset elections taking place Tuesday is a "holy duty" from which no one can be exempt.
Senior Lithuanian leader, Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, instructed a yeshiva student to exercise his right to vote although it is his wedding day, and the same ruling was issued by the Belzer Rebbe.
Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, ruled that a person mourning the death of a relative must cast their vote, despite the fact that according to Jewish mourning laws a mourner must not leave the house during the seven days of "shiva."
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Kikar Hashabat website reported that in response to an appeal from a young haredi man getting married on Tuesday, Rabbi Shteinman said that "there is no doubt he must vote on Election Day."
As for the claim that the groom would be busy with the final preparations for the happiest day of his life and should perhaps be exempted from this duty, the rabbi responded: "How long does it take to stand in line at the voting station and vote? The groom can certainly devote 15 minutes to observe the mitzvah of 'you shall take care to do according to all that they instruct you.'"
The Belzer Rebbe, who was asked to comment on the issue as well, gave a similar ruling, adding that just like in a "holy war," in which "a groom from his room and a bride from her chuppah" join the battle – so is the struggle for every vote.
The rabbi explained the comparison to war by stating that "in the current election campaign, all those who hate religion are rising up against the haredi public." He stressed that "it is a mitzvah to listen to what wise men say."
Sketch for haredi child
One of the rabbis in the haredi Sephardic public was asked whether a person "sitting shiva" was allowed to leave the house to vote. He directed the question to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who ruled that "it is permitted and is a mitzvah."
Meanwhile, the haredi public improved its PR efforts as the election campaign entered the last straight, recruiting children to emphasize to their parents the duty of obeying "the greatest sages of Israel."
Haredi educator Yossele Eisenbach recorded a particularly amusing sketch targeting Talmud Torah schoolchildren, which has been aired in recent days on a telephone program presenting his lessons to children, not just during the elections.
Yossele tells the children of a boy humming a song he wrote about the elections. "The greatest sages of Israel have the supreme power to bless Israel. All of us together, in unanimity, will do and obey. On the third day of the week, in the morning, we will do and obey."
The haredi educator then requests each child to ask his parents how they plan to obey the greatest sages of Israel on Election Day – and share their answers with him.