Chief Rabbi Dovid Lau
Chief Rabbi Dovid LauPhoto by Miriam Alster/Flash90

A special ruling by Israel's Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, allows members of the Jewish community in Argentina to participate in presidential elections although they are taking place on Tisha B'Av [Jewish day of mourning for the Temple].

The question was addressed to the Chief Rabbi of Israel by Rabbi Shaul Sa'id of the Agudat Dodim congregation in Argentina.

Rabbi Said wrote: "If our Messiah does not come by Tisha B'Av, we will mourn the destruction of the Temple, and on the same day there is a compulsory election for the president of the country in our provinces."

To read Rabbi Lau's full halachic ruling in Hebrew click here.

In a reply sent on Sunday, the Chief Rabbi wrote: "Your letter discusses the question of whether it is proper to vote in the presidential elections in Argentina on Tisha B'Av."

"First of all, it is a common misconception that there is a difference before chatzot [halachic midday, about 1 p.m.] and after chatzot. The only difference relates to sitting in the manner of mourners [on a low chair] and wearing a prayer shawl, and putting on Tefillin during Mincha prayers. In some communities it is customary to clean the house or to whitewash to show our hope that the Messiah will come soon and we're preparing for it. In all other matters, we act after chatzot in the same way we do before chatzot."

"The question is whether voting constitutes a distraction [from mourning]. In my opinion, the essence of the fact that you're voting for a president of a country abroad on such a vital date for the Jewish people, without regard to the Jewish calendar, is in itself reminiscent of the reality of the pain of exile. According to the hours of the day, the time when the stars appear in your country allows you to vote after the end of the fast. But if it's not possible to vote at night, it's allowed - because of the importance of the matter - to vote even during the day."