When I composed the first version of a voting prayer more than ten years ago, someone said to me that prayer doesn’t belong in a voting booth. But for me, nothing I do in civic life feels more like a sacred act than voting. It’s not just the ceremony of it, not even the aspect of seclusion, of secrecy and privacy, though that’s part of it. In the end, the thing that seemed most like entering a voting booth to me was going up to the Torah.
Ad’rabba (as we say in yeshiva), if we can’t take moments like that and bring a deeper spiritual consciousness to them, then what use is religion? And even though I know that simple meditation can accomplish this, words that take the forms of ancient prayers also have their place. And words that call us to act on our ideals are even more important.
When I realized that I was “going up” to the voting booth, this inspired me in 2006 to include a pledge for tsedakah in the prayer, just as we have a pledge for tsedakah in the mishebeirakh blessing one receives after going up to the Torah. With a few more tweaks this year to the Hebrew and the English, I’ve found what really feels right.
I don’t think that religion should be used to impose political positions or candidates on anyone, but religion does provide for us some bottom lines — the difficult part is that we may not agree on what those are. But for each of us there is something more than just self-interest that motivates, or should motivate, our vote. Prayer helps some of us keep that focus front and center.
With my vote today I am prepared and intending
to seek peace for this country, as it is written:
“Seek out the peace of the city where I cause you to roam
and pray for her sake to God YHVH, for in her peace you all will have peace.” (Jer. 29:7)
May it be Your will that votes will be counted faithfully
and may You account my vote as if I had fulfilled this verse with all my power.
May it be good in Your eyes to give a wise heart
to whomever we elect today
and may You raise for us a government whose rule is for good and blessing
to bring justice and peace to all the inhabitants of the world and to Jerusalem,
for rulership is Yours!
Just as I participated in elections today
so may I merit to do good deeds and repair the world with all my actions,
and with the act of…[fill in your pledge] which I pledge to do today
on behalf of all living creatures and in remembrance of the covenant of Noah’s waters
to protect and to not destroy the earth and her plenitude.
May You give to all the peoples of this country, the strength and will
to pursue righteousness and to seek peace as unified force
in order to cause to flourish, throughout the world, good life and peace
and may You fulfill for us the verse:
“May the pleasure of Adonai our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands for us, may the work of our hands endure.” (Ps. 90:17)
Download a pdf of the prayer to print out, with linear Hebrew and English, or just with English.
Record the pledge you make for tikkun olam.