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At the Shabbat Table

Mayor May Not

The cleaning lady who became the mayor of the town.
Rabbi Daniel KirschKislev 6 5781
16
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Nikolai Loktev looked out his office window, and gazed at the pastoral scene that lay before him. Lush foliage. Blue skies. Quaint log cabins. While Povalikhino wasn’t one of the better-known Russian towns, Loktev felt an affinity for the city he had led, for all these years.
Although there was a mayoral election coming up, Loktev wasn’t overly concerned about the results. After all, he was both the incumbent, and the only candidate. Of course, there was that technical detail to hammer out. According to the regulations, he could only run for mayor if there was someone running against him. Now it was just a matter of finding the right candidate…
The mayor’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. He know who it was without even asking. "Marina, you can come in!" he called out.
The door swung open, as Marina came in with her cleaning cart. As Marina efficiently dusted, swept, and gathered the garbage from the bin next to his desk, a thought popped into Nikolai’s head.
"Marina!" he exclaimed. "How would you like to run against me in the election?"
The only sound Nikolai heard in response was that of Marina’s broom clattering to the floor.
"I see you’re not sure what to make of my suggestion," Loktev continued. "Let me explain the problem. I’ve been the mayor of this town for years, as you know. My current term is almost up. Of course, it would be in the best interest of the people of Povalikhino if I were to be reelected. However, there’s a small problem. In order for elections to be held, I have to have someone running against me. I think you’d do a great job!"
"But I don’t know anything about running for mayor," Marina responded. "Besides, I don’t even want to be mayor!"
"Well, that’s the beauty of the situation," Loktev explained. "You don’t have to do any campaigning because you don’t want to win! I’ll tell you what. I’ll even take care of registering you as a candidate."
With Marina’s reluctant permission, Loktev went about registering the new candidate for the election. For her part, Marina continued as usual, sweeping, dusting and straightening. Until the day after the election.
"62% of the vote!" Nikolai exclaimed. "For Marina! But she didn’t even do any campaigning. And she has no political experience! I can’t believe anyone actually voted for her!"
If it was possible, Marina was even more surprised with the election results. "I only ran to help out Nikolai, and I really wasn’t looking for a career change right now!" she mused, as she pondered her options. "Maybe I should just refuse the appointment, and let Nikolai continue being the mayor."
From a Torah perspective, is Marina allowed to back out, after having been elected?
Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
A leader is appointed according to the will of the people (see Brachot 55a). Because the residents of the city elected Marina as mayor, she is required to fill the position. It would not be an act of piety for her to give up her position to Loktev, because, in doing so, she would be going against the will of the people.
It’s interesting to note that, according to Jewish folklore, several hundred years ago, a Jew was once appointed as a temporary king of Poland. The prior king of Poland had died, and the Polish nobles were divided regarding whom to appoint as his successor. Polish law mandated that, if the noblemen could not agree upon a king, it was necessary to appoint a temporary king, in the interim. One of the noblemen was acquainted with, and impressed by, a young Jew named Shaul Katzenellenbogen. The nobleman convinced the others that Shaul was an appropriate candidate for the job, and Shaul was pronounced temporary king. During his rule, which lasted no more than a few days, Shaul worked feverishly to overturn numerous Polish anti-Semitic laws. When the noblemen reached their final decision, Shaul stepped down from his position. Sometime after, the name "Wahl," which means "election" in German, was appended to his name. While it is questionable whether Shaul Wahl was, in fact, suited to fill the position of king of Poland, he filled the wishes of those responsible for choosing a king.
In summary:Marina must fulfill the will of the people, and assume the position of mayor.




Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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