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DOING YOUR DEMOCRATIC DUTY´┐Ż ON SHABBOS?

Rabbi Rafi RankDear Cyber Rav,

Timing is everything, as the question asked by the wife of the Homeland Security employee is similar to the one I planned on asking, and still will ask. In May, the Eighth Congressional District Republican Convention will be held to determine our candidates for the fall.  I am a delegate to this convention and as is typical, the convention is being held on Shabbat. As a voting member, for which there are no absentee alternatives, am I permitted to attend and vote in this nominating convention? I know it is not a life/death situation, but I also know the importance of Jewish involvement in community/political affairs.

I will say this, as for our local GOP, here in Alexandria: I have managed to keep major events from being scheduled either on Shabbat or holidays.  I am also consulted regarding calendar events to ensure they do not interfere with Jewish holidays.

What are your thoughts or recommendations?

Republican, Jewish, and Proud to be Both

 

Dear Republican, Jewish, and Proud to be Both,

I have enormous respect for anyone who is trying to juggle their commitments and obligations as a Jew while fully engaging themselves in the challenges of the real world.  This situation sounds like one such challenge.

If you decided that you could not participate in the convention as a Jew, I would both understand and respect that.  There are good grounds for making such a decision.  On the other hand, an observant Jew might find a way to be involved without violating Shabbat.  I don't know to what extent you would find such accommodations reasonable or feasible, but an observant Jew might reason as follows--

I have to be a part of the Eighth Congressional District Republican Convention but at the same time observe Shabbat--what to do? 
Okay,  I will--

Rent a room in a nearby hotel so that I don't have to ride to the convention;

Leave my badge and other convention paraphernalia at the convention hall, in a locker, some guarded area, etc. so I don't have to carry;

Bring food for Shabbat meals to eat in the hotel;

Daven in my hotel room or--

Advertise a minyan at the convention hall for all the other Jews who are there and haven't thought about any of this stuff;

Refrain from writing during the convention;

Sacrifice the opportunity to take photos, since it is Shabbat (a small sacrifice);

Any way, you get my point.  There is a way to work these things out.  Of course, a political convention will never generate the kind of Shabbat atmosphere that we would hope to create on Shabbat, but Shabbat need not be abandoned simply because one is trying to fulfill their duty as a delegate.  I recall the example of Senator Lieberman who often had to stay late in congress on Friday nights in order to cast important votes or participate in debates.  He nonetheless always found time to recite kiddush back in his office with a few other Jewish senators.

Being Jewish isn't so difficult, but living as a Jew in the modern world will always present us with challenges.  There's a way to meet those challenges head-on without abandoning our Judaism.

Hag Kasher ve'Sameah!

Rabbi Rafi Rank

CyberRav


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