In America, celebrities are constantly voicing their opinions on a variety of subjects. While some endorsements are as trivial as shoe brands or makeup lines, others hold a great deal of importance. This is particularly demonstrated in the recent trend for celebrities to endorse politicians. During the 2020 presidential election, numerous celebrities supported Joe Biden for president, and pop superstar Lady Gaga even performed at his rallies. Similarly, incumbent President Donald Trump received endorsements from the likes of Kid Rock and Lil Wayne. And the celebrity endorsements do not stop at a presidential level. In 2018, rap star Travis Scott joined Texas Senator candidate Beto O’Rourke at a rally in Houston.
With this wave of celebrity political opinions, we are faced with a serious question: Should we let the people who entertain us impact our political beliefs? Jewish tradition has some guidance on this.
The obvious answer would be no. It is ridiculous to allow our opinions on something as important as politics to be impacted by the beliefs of pop stars or actors. If Jews should let anything impact their beliefs, one might argue, it should be the teachings of the Torah. We should shape our political values based upon what is written in the Torah, not what Lady Gaga says on Twitter. It is illogical to let celebrities, who typically do not have an in-depth perspective on politics, to tell us who to vote for. In a Biblical sense, allowing celebrities to shape your opinions could be akin to worshipping false idols. Committing idolatry is a sin in Judaism. By letting celebrities formulate your political values instead of the Torah, you are essentially ignoring the word of G-d and replacing it with the words of false idols. There is no place for the opinions of celebrities when a Jew is in the voting booth.
Yet, some secular Jews would argue that the Torah is a relic, and not able to be transcribed into modern political thought. Does the Torah truly offer a perspective on Black Lives Matter or climate change? If the Torah cannot be translated into meaningful and current political commentary, perhaps it should be discarded. In contrast, celebrities are offering endorsements based upon their own knowledge, and they are current on political issues. While their opinions might not be as well-expressed as those of the Torah, they are certainly more relevant. Some might also argue that equating enorsements to idol worship is hyperbole, a panicked refrain from religious zealots who cannot advance with the times. The definition of idol worship is worshipping something as if it were G-d. Can it truly be claimed that taking a celebrity’s opinion into account when voting is the same as treating him or her as G-d?
Judaism has always encouraged freedom of thought. While it is not ideal to ignore the Torah and focus solely on the opinions of celebrities, a Jew could feasibly combine the teachings of the Torah with the endorsements of celebrities. Instead of formulating a political opinion based upon just the Torah or just endorsements, a more balanced and reasonable opinion could be created when the two are melded together. This would ease the fear of idol worship, as the word of G-d is still considered. And, the Torah’s ancientness is offset by the modern opinions of celebrities, while the shallowness of some endorsements is influenced by the wisdom of the Torah.
The answer might not be as obvious as a Jew might originally think. Both sides of the argument have merit, so it is best for Jews to combine the perspectives of the Torah and celebrities, to create a blend of modernity and ancient knowledge. The Torah might not have an endorsement for a Senate candidate in its verses, and Travis Scott might not be considering the laws of G-d when tweeting his support for a candidate, but the two can be mixed to create an opinion that is both modern and influenced by G-d.