The one page of Talmud you MUST read before voting!

A couple of months ago I published a book, How Would God REALLY Vote: A Jewish Rebuttal to David Klinghoffer’s Conservative Polemic, in response to Klinghoffer’s How Would God Vote: Why The Bible Commands You To Be A Conservative.
My favorite chapter is the one defending gay marriage on halachic, midrashic and public policy grounds.
But on the eve of the election, I’d like to share my concluding chapter, God’s Platform: How Would God REALLY Vote, which includes the bottom-line answer to my book’s title: How would God really vote tomorrow

Until now, we have examined the arguments brought by David Klinghoffer, and by turns analyzed, dissected, rebutted, refuted and ridiculed them.
Now it’s time for God to seize the agenda.
What would be the key issues according to the Bible? Are there any burning issues that Klinghoffer missed?
Remember, the Bible and Jewish tradition indicate that the central role of government is the preservation of life and liberty. And yet, for Judaism the Torah is all about commandments. Six hundred and thirteen of them, according to the Talmud.
That’s a lot to keep track of in a voting guide, let alone in a voting booth.
Luckily for the harried voter, the very same passage from the Talmud (Makkot 24a) which numbers the commandments (248 do’s, 365 don’t’s, for those keeping track) reduces them to more manageable numbers as well:

David came and reduced them to eleven [principles], as it is written, “A Psalm of David. Lord, who shall sojourn in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy mountain? —
[1] He that walks uprightly, and
[2] works righteousness, and
[3] speaks truth in his heart;
[4] that has no slander upon his tongue,
[5] nor does evil to his fellow,
[6] nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor,
[7] in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but
[8] he honors them that fear the Lord,
[9] he swears to his own hurt and changes not,
[10] he puts not out his money on interest,
[11] nor takes a bribe against the innocent. (Psalm 15) ”

Doesn’t bode well for the politics of negative campaigning, does it?
If eleven commandments prove too cumbersome, the Talmudic passage continues:

Isaiah came and reduced them to six, as it is written,
“[1] He that walks righteously, and
[2] speaks uprightly,
[3] He that despises the gain of oppressions,
[4] that shakes his hand from holding of bribes,
[5] that stops his ear from hearing of blood,
[6] and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil; he shall dwell on high. (Isaiah 33:15-16)”

The Talmud continues:

Micah came and reduced them to three as it is written, “It has been told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord require of you:
[1] only to do justly, and
[2] to love mercy and
[3] to walk humbly before thy God. (Micah 6:8)”

And further still:

Again came Isaiah and reduced them to two, as it is said, “Thus says the Lord,
[1] Keep justice and
[2] do righteousness (Isaiah 56:1)”

Justice and righteousness. These are certainly good values to look for in a candidate, a platform and a party. Good values, too, to demand from our government, no matter who is elected.
What is missing in these lists of values are an array of “wedge” issues. Unlike the imperatives, values and directives that Republican party strategists have placed front and center in recent years (and that Klinghoffer placed at the forefront of his book)—gay marriage, most notably, but also abortion, birth control, and evolution—the Talmud’s issues don’t divide the electorate.
And of course, injustice and unrighteousness are what campaign contributors pay the big bucks for. (“He that despises the gain of oppressions, that shakes his hand from holding of bribes,” isn’t a likely recipient of donations from corporate lobbyists, no matter how much Isaiah might stump for him.)
Klinghoffer began his book with the challenge: “Every election poses a radical question. Will we vote with Him, or against Him?”
I’m going to vote with God. With the God that says: “Keep justice and do righteousness.”
And how will Klinghoffer vote? It is clear that he feels he also votes with God. But let us take a look at this dark God who gets Klinghoffer’s ballot. This God delights in the spread of fear and division. This is the God who promotes enriching politicians through the taking of bribes, and a God who turns a deaf ear to poor people and to endangered species. This is a God who encourages those who make millions selling substandard ammunition to our troops overseas—and whose central goal since January 2001 has been to hide the truth, to cover up their actions and to deflect the attention of the American voter away from the terrible consequences caused by such deportment.
“Justice” and “righteousness” would require that you don’t keep people in overseas prisons for years to avoid the embarrassment of having it made public that you have arrested them by mistake in the first place. The words of Isaiah and Micah are not based on any ideology about abortion or picking the Book of Samuel apart with a fine tooth comb to prove that a 20% tax rate is more kosher than a 32% tax rate.
The fact is, what God wants from His followers is what the American Constitution expects from its leaders:

“…establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”
—Preamble to the United States Constitution

Our Talmudic passage finds its echo in these words of the founding fathers.
There is no big mystery here as to how God’s will would play out in the realm of politics. The calls for justice and righteousness from Psalms, Isaiah and Micah, and James Madison answer the question of this book: How would God really vote?

5 thoughts on “The one page of Talmud you MUST read before voting!

  1. Hmm, I see you prefer to see commandments becoming increasingly abstract and general. Which ofcourse makes it easier to justify anti-Torah positions on social questions.

  2. “You prefer?” I think the case was laid out rather simply. Read it again and then tell us what exactly is “Anti-Torah”.

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