In short, everything. In Pirkei Avot, the sage Hillel says “al tifros min hatzibur”—do not separate yourself from the community. For the past 300 years, wherever Jews have lived freely, we have engaged deeply in the proper stewardship of the public. The desire to serve others for the benefit of all comes directly from our sacred texts like the passage from Hillel above. Later, in the Talmud, Rabbi Yitzḥak teaches, “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted.” Now, we shouldn’t read this as the clear predecessor of our modern democracy, BUT it is an endorsement that the leadership and the everyday citizens must work together.
Even the prophet Jeremiah, who often speaks of doom and gloom, shared these words from God when the Israelites were exiled by the Babylonians, “seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to God on its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper.” Wherever the Jewish community is found, in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, or anywhere around the globe, we must still work for the betterment of our fellow citizens.
Only days away from the end of our election season, I hope that every registered voter in our congregation has already voted or has a plan to cast their ballot on or before November 3rd. As Jews, it is our obligation to engage in the everyday affairs of our government; our sacred right and privilege to choose our leaders.
Blessed are You, Source of Power in the Universe, who commands us to elevate our lives by exercising and fighting for our civic rights.