Monday, July 15, 2013

Avraham Heschel Defends His Editorial And Says That Torah Should Be Used In The Voting Booth

In response to my previous editorial and a private Email conversation based on that editorial Avraham Heschel gave me this response to post on this blog

Dear Mr. Adler:

Thank you for reaching out to me to clarify certain statements that I had supposedly made during the course of several private conversations.

At the outset, I wish to stress that I am writing this email as a private individual, wholly independent of any work I may do for Hamodia. For any inquiries regarding Hamodia’s editorial policies (which are based on daas Torah) please contact their office directly.  I am not speaking on their behalf, and I must ask you – and anyone you may decide to share this email with – to make certain not to extrapolate or draw any conclusions from this email regarding the positions or views of Hamodia.
In regard to your inquiries:

I certainly never “paskened” that one shouldn’t vote for a candidate who supports moral values but has no realistic chance of winning an election.

For one thing, I don’t pasken shaalos. Secondly, I certainly wouldn’t take a position that contradicts numerous Gedolei Yisrael who have unequivocally declared that it is prohibited to vote for candidates with immoral views. Thirdly, I personally have on numerous occasions voted for third party candidates who had no reasonable chance to win as a form of protest against the liberal positions held by both major party candidates.

Either your source misunderstood what I told him, or you misunderstood what he related to you – or possibly both.

Regarding the tax exempt status, I have stated that a religious leader is legally prohibited from making endorsements in the name of his congregation or as part of his official duties. There is of course no restrictions on making endorsements as an individual, if he so chooses. If your source quoted me otherwise, he misunderstood me.

Finally, I fully share your grave concerns that criticism of a pro-morality candidate can be misinterpreted as support for the abhorrent positions of his opponents. I take this concern very seriously.

However, I do not feel that any candidate is above reproach, regardless of his actions.

Specifically, for numerous reasons I feel that it is crucial that fraudulent claims of endorsements are publicly condemned, even if the candidate in question was misled and is not at fault himself.

In addition to the obvious hashkofic reasons (see the Sichas Mussar’s powerful explanation on the gemara in Pesachim 69a, regarding the exchange between Rabi Eliezer and Rabi Akiva) fraudulent claims of endorsements, whether they stem from miscommunication or willful deception, is very destructive for the pro-morality cause.

Once truth stops to matter, any candidate, regardless of how left-wing he may be, can simply show up at a home of a Rebbe or Rav during his regular petitioning hours, exchange a few words and claim an endorsement.

The assertion that a blessing is equivalent to an endorsement, isn’t only erroneous it is also very harmful to the same cause. For the record clearly shows that several recognized Torah leaders gave “blessings” to pro-immorality politicians such as Koch and Dinkins.

(Why these Gedolim, who are no longer alive, agreed to talk to them, and allow them to think that they were blessed, is something that I can’t possibly answer. I am sure however that they had a very valid reason for doing so.)

It is entirely possible that current liberal politicians will also emerge from meetings with contemporary Gedolim claiming they received a “blessing.”

Therefore, it is imperative that this differentiation is publicized: A “blessing” is not an endorsement, nor a show of support in any way.

Ultimately, who to vote for is a decision that must be guided by daas Torah.

It is a matter of public record that Hagaon Harav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, a Torah giant who touched the lives of thousands, strongly felt that moral issues were the only issues a frum Yid should consider when deciding for whom to vote. He was certainly not the only Torah leader who felt this way.

There are three separate kol koreis that I know of prohibiting voting for, honoring, or otherwise supporting candidates who support the passage of laws espousing immorality. Among the signatories on these declarations are the Satmar Rebbe, the Beirach Moshe; the Kashauer Rav; the Debreciner Rav; the Voideslover Rav; the Tartikover Rav; the Viener Rav, and the Kiviashder Rav, zichronam livrachah, and, yblc”t, the Skulener Rebbe, the Pshevorsker Rebbe, and Hagaon Harav Yisroel Belsky, shlita.

A number of these Rabbanim have also publicly elucidated their views in drashos and in published teshuvos. 
Instead of taking pro-morality candidates to Rebbes who have not taken a position on this question, it would be far wiser to publicize the opinion of the aforementioned Gedolim.

Avraham Heschel 

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