I understand that we have both College Democrats and College Republicans chapters on our campus. To be honest, I don’t understand why. Don’t get me wrong — I can readily understand why a Torah Jew might choose to vote Democrat and why a Torah Jew might choose to vote Republican. But I do have concerns about a Torah Jew perceiving his or her core identity as either a Democrat or Republican. I know that a large number of people will disagree with the statement that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties’ platforms in totality are in accordance with Torah values. If you disagree with this statement it is not because it is wrong, but because you are seriously confused about Torah. When you vote, you hopefully evaluate the full gamut of issues and discover that on some issues one party’s views are more in accordance with Torah and on others it is the other party’s, and often neither are. You then make a choice fully recognizing that you sacrifice some things for others, but the voting choice you make should never influence your understanding of Torah values. God forbid you should vote X, and then by association assume that all of X’s positions accord with the Torah’s perspective.
I don’t know what the Second Amendment actually means, but whatever it does exactly mean, that has no bearing on the Torah’s halakhic and hashkafic views towards weapons and gun-control, nor on what choices we, as bnei torah, should make as individuals in our own private spheres. I have no idea what the Constitution really holds about abortion, but I’m pretty sure that neither the typical pro-life nor pro-choice positions and attitudes are reflective of the nuanced and complex approaches of most of the contemporary poskim (decisors of Jewish law) who actually regularly answer these she’eilot (questions). And when it comes to economics: It’s worth noting that in the last few years there have been a couple of speakers, not Rabbinic individuals, who have come and spoken on this campus where at least parts of their remarks addressed the Torah’s ethos in the realm of economics. Suffice it to say that neither was sufficiently expert to opine about the economic values of Torah Judaism and certainly not in a makom torah such as this where there are plenty of talmidei hakhamim (Torah-scholars) who are. And while the Torah is most certainly not socialist, the conservative — lower case “C” — views expressed were also most definitely not in sync with the spirit of Hoshen Mishpat and Yoreh Deah. This should not be taken as a criticism of the speakers — they were invited to express their ideas and did so — but rather of those who invited them to do so, and of some of those in the audience who uncritically accepted what was said.
The Torah’s weltanschauung on economic justice can be understood only through the study of large tracts of Torah, not by cherry picking halakhot to conform to one political philosophy or another. If you want to understand the Torah’s philosophy on economic justice — something that regrettably seems to attract little interest in large segments of our community — I would recommend that you study the laws of ribit (usury), shemitah and yovel (the Sabbatical and Jubilee years), sekhirut poalim (labor law), nizkei shekheinim (neighborhood zoning laws), geviat hov me-hayetomim (collections of debts from orphans), tzedakah and the list goes on and on. But don’t look to the platform of the party that you vote for to figure out your theory of economic justice nor any other matter of Torah values. A Torah Jew should not, at his or her core, be a card-carrying Democrat or Republican; he or she should view him or herself as a member of the party of the Ribbono shel Olam. How you vote, and what you advocate for in the public sphere of a mostly secular republic is complex and nuanced, but your fundamental allegiance and what you stand for and aspire to should never be in question — in your mind and in any impression you give to others.
Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, “‘A Stranger and a Resident I Am Amongst You’”, The Commentator (8 December 2019) [https://yucommentator.org/2019/12/a-stranger-and-a-resident-i-am-amongst-you/]