During the turbulent early years of the 20th century, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, was once traveling on a train to Petersburg. With him in the car were some noblemen, clergy, and a group of chassidim. After a while, the discussion became a heated debate. The subject: ideal systems of government.

At the time, the world was a hotbed of "ism's"-- socialism, communism, capitalism, pacifism, fascism, etc. This debate, however, examined the issue from a Jewish perspective, each individual presenting various proofs from the Torah pointing to the virtues of a particular approach to government.

When they reached an impasse, as is the tendency with most debates, the chassidim asked the Rebbe — who had hitherto kept his silence — for his opinion. The Rebbe responded:

"You are all correct. The Torah is the source of all good in Creation. The positive elements within each of these systems are derived from Torah; their failings stem from the man-made additions to the Torah values."

The 2008 presidential campaign has kicked off. The list of individuals declaring their intention to become the 44th president of the United States is slowly growing. For most of us, the campaign is still background noise, the elections too far away to be taken seriously. But it won't be long before the pack is whittled down to a select few candidates, the mud will start flying, and the rhetoric will reach a fevered pitch.

The Left will declare that it is the responsibility of society to care for the underprivilegedSomewhere between the negative ads and character assassinations that will take center stage, the two parties will also present their ideas, their vision for the future of our nation. The Left will declare that it is the responsibility of society, and particularly the wealthy, to care for the underprivileged, and provide first-rate healthcare, education, and the basic needs of those who need it most. Aside for the moral aspect of this argument, they will also insist that this approach of empowering the less fortunate will actually strengthen the economy. I think we can all agree with the basic line of reasoning.

The Right then will assert that while society is indeed responsible to provide the minimal needs of its most vulnerable and needy, it is immoral and unwise to overtax the rightfully earned money of individuals, effectively punishing them for their hard work and success. Their economic experts will maintain that indiscriminately "sharing the wealth" weakens the economy, creates dependency, and takes away people's incentive to be productive. Furthermore, we will hear the argument that many of these social programs are really the domain of charities and religious institutions, and governmental involvement serves to stifle the people's spirit of generosity. These arguments sound compelling, too.

So who do we vote for?

Let us examine the Torah's approach to the abovementioned issues:

As with every mitzvah, the obligation to give tzedakah (charity) is regulated and defined. Yes, society is responsible for its needy citizens. Yes, this obligation includes providing the needy with their every need. Yes, charity isn't optional, it is mandatory; Torah law instructs us to give ten percent of our earnings. But no, equal sharing of the wealth is not expected or even condoned. No, we are not responsible to be charitable to people who prefer to live off others' largess rather than work. And yes, it is considered pious — but not mandatory — to give even more than one is required.

So the donkeys and the elephants both do have respectively valid points.

If an enemy is poised to attack us, then it is our obligation to strike firstThe same is true with regards to the currently most burning foreign policy issue.

While for so many centuries the worth of an individual human life was scarcely valued, the Torah is unequivocal about how priceless every human life is. We are commanded to disregard virtually every mitzvah when a human life is in danger — this is regardless whether the person is righteous or a sinner; healthy, handicapped, or even if he is terminally ill and on his deathbed. And before going to war with any nation, no matter how vile or despicable they may be, we are commanded to extend an olive branch and offer terms for a peaceful settlement of the dispute.

On the other hand, the very same Torah enjoins us to never show weakness in the face of adversity and mortal danger. "If someone is coming to kill you, arise early and kill him first." And this directive isn't contingent upon anyone's approval or sanction. If an enemy is poised to attack us, then it is our obligation to strike first. There is a Midrashic statement which perhaps sums up this idea best: "He who has mercy on cruel people, eventually is being cruel to merciful people."

Once again, the Doves and the Hawks can both present arguments that clearly derive from Torah values.

The real question is this: will we be given the option of voting for an individual who recognizes that no one party or ideology has a monopoly on virtue and ethics?