Tuesday, March 13, 2018

These Rabbis Are Not Murderers

The previous post, The Lakewood Suicide Squad, is already the most-read post in all eight years of this blog, with over 24,000 hits. A number of comments described the rabbis opposing vaccinations as being murderers. That is a very strong term, and I believe it to be severely inappropriate.

Murder connotes an intentional act of taking people's lives. These rabbis most certainly do not want to kill anyone! They care about life just as much as anyone else. From their perspective, they simply do not see what they are doing as in any way leading to the loss of life. In fact, from their perspective, it is the pro-vaccine people who are causing children to suffer, and yet we wouldn't like them to call us child abusers! It would be more appropriate to use the term "murderer" for people who text while driving, because at least they are aware that they are doing something very dangerous. The anti-vaccine people have no idea that they are doing something dangerous.

The correct description for what these people are causing is involuntary manslaughter. This, indeed, was the court verdict for David and Ginger Twitchell, devout members of a Christian Science church who sincerely believed that the best thing to do for their sick children was to pray for them (which regrettably did not save their children from dying).

If someone opposes vaccination because they sincerely mistakenly believe vaccination to be harmful, does that make them a bad person? Well, if there is an abdication of their responsibility to analyze such topics carefully and properly, then this is a moral failing. You could argue that it's irresponsible for people to believe that they know better than not only virtually the entire medical establishment, but even the professionals in their very own communities that they generally respect (see the letter on the right, signed by the frum physicians of Lakewood; click to enlarge it). But I'm not entirely sure that the situation can be described this way. I think that many such people genuinely lack the ability/worldview which enables them to analyze this topic correctly. And as I explained in the previous post, it's a natural result of their non-rationalist approach in general.

(The people who are more morally accountable are those who accept that the anti-vaccination approach is dangerous, and yet still promote these rabbis as being Gedolim. Some such people also commented on the last post, and they were more concerned with me giving these Gedolim a bad name than with the fact of their promoting Gedolim who could be causing the deaths of children.)

People can do terrible things with the best of intentions. This also relates to a topic that came up recently with the passing of Rav Shmuel Auerbach. In my post The Elephant in the Room, I quoted some people who declared that Rav Shmuel was totally leshem Shamayim in everything that he did. That is absolutely true, but it doesn't count for as much as people seem to think. A person can have entirely pure motivations and yet still do terrible things. But on the other hand, it's easy to categorize riots and shutting down cities as being terrible deeds. A particular course of medical action/inaction, on the other hand, can only described as good/bad in terms of its effects.

So, in conclusion, I don't think that the anti-vaccination crowd can be described as evil people. They are well-meaning people who are just badly misguided. Unfortunately, in this case, innocent mistakes can have fatal consequences.

In future posts, I plan to discuss the question of on what grounds someone such as myself (and most readers), who have not engaged in extensive studies of medicine or the medical literature, can confidently conclude that vaccinations are necessary.


  1. They are not murderers, but they are baalei gaavah. Without so much as a rudimentary training in the required fields they consider themselves capable of making judgements. Be skeptical all you want but you know nothing of the topic at hand.

    1. They aren't baalei gaavah either. Anti-vax has a huge propaganda machine that they believe.

    2. It doesn't make such great judgement to realize that the anti-vax movement is not backed by evidence.

    3. Exactly. They know no science at all, yet they weigh in on this scientific discussion. Maybe I have a halachic opinion they ought to consider? Doubtful they would. That's my approach right back at them: if you know nothing about the science, stay out of it.

    4. Their pious claim of "do the research for yourself" is such a farce. Sorry, but I don't know anything about Tukey lamda distribution, so how am I evaluating their work "for myself"?

  2. "I don't think that the anti-vaccination crowd can be described as evil people. They are well-meaning people who are just badly misguided. Unfortunately, in this case, innocent mistakes can have fatal consequences."

    So so so disappointed that you could write that sentence.

  3. The British governments in the 1840s really thought it was doing the right things in dealing with the Great Hunger in Ireland. As a result, a million people died, and another million had to flee for their lives.

    1. I would not have thought Charlie Hall would have been against vaccinations, but his point in comparing the pro-vaccination side to the British Government in the 1840s is correct.

    2. Charlie Hall is not against vaccination. He is saying that these Rabbis are like the British government. Thinking that they are doing the right thing, but actually killing people.

  4. It deserves to be mentioned that anti-vaccination sentiment is not limited to the charedi community. Mayim Bialik, who is modern orthodox, has often made statements that question vaccination. And she has a PhD in Neuroscience and has toured the US speaking at modern orthodox synagogues about parenting!

    1. I believe she has decided to vaccinate her children despite her reservations over the practice.

    2. question.. but she still probably vaccinates.

    3. Not accurate. Mayim Bialik, 15 Feb 2015: "I would like to dispel the rumors about my stance on vaccines. I am not anti-vaccine. My children are vaccinated. There has been so much hysteria and anger about this issue, and I hope this clears things up as far as my part."

    4. can you live with a goy and be modern orthodox ?

    5. She definitely made anti-vaxx statements in the past. At best, she changed her mind: https://www.timesofisrael.com/is-mayim-bialik-an-anti-vaxxer-its-complicated/. So the example is still good.

  5. "was totally leshem Shamayim in everything that he did. That is absolutely true, but it doesn't count for as much as people seem to think. A person can have entirely pure motivations and yet still do terrible things."

    The problem with doing things for the sake of God (or any "greater good") is that it can justify ignoring basic common sense and morality. In that sense, when it comes to dealing with others, it better to say to yourself "would I be doing this even if I didn't think that I special insight into God's Will?". If the answer is negative, then some hard thinking is called for.

    As an aside, I think that this aligns with the Rambam's principles that all Mitzvos have a reason and that the the eyes were placed in front and not behind.

  6. This is the likely law in New York:

    Penal Code

    15.05.4. Criminal negligence. A person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a ircumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a
    reasonable person would observe in the situation.

    125.10 Criminally negligent homicide.

    A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, he causes the death of another person. Criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony.

    Class E felonies carry a prison sentence of 3-4 years.

  7. It seems from your posts (R' Auerbach and Anti-Vacc.) that only those who agree with your (anyone's) agenda ought to be be called Gedolim and respected as such. As a 'Lakewood-Yeshivish' raised jew I could respect any Jewish figure who upholds the Mesorah and doesn't do anything anti-Torah. That doesn't mean they can't make mistakes. But if i stop respecting people who don't agree with me on everything...Ein L'davar Sof. I don't think this is what the Torah means that one should listen to the Chachamim.

    1. What does listening to the Chachamim have anything to do with vaccines?

    2. Chusid, you raise an interesting point, though I think that your terminology is too vague. Respect people *as what*? As Talmudists? As Poskim? As wise people with good judgment? As leaders? Any one of these does not necessarily imply the others.

    3. The Torah says to listen to the Kohanim and Judges of your day, and this is in the context of specific judgements. It says nothing about then-non-existent Rabbis. It doesn't say anything about "Da'as Toireh". All of that came as an expansion on the text from the very Rabbis who wanted respect and authority.

    4. "As a 'Lakewood-Yeshivish' raised jew I could respect any Jewish figure who upholds the Mesorah and doesn't do anything anti-Torah. That doesn't mean they can't make mistakes. But if i stop respecting people who don't agree with me on everything...Ein L'davar Sof."
      That's partly the answer to the oft-raised question of why the black hat world is much less hesitant to criticize actions from gedolim on the "right" than errors from the "left". E.g., Reb Shmuel Auerbach was still a great person and worthy of respect in spite of his seeming misjudgment over the draft issue, and why Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg was still a highly respected posek despite permitting abortion in many circumstances. No one would confuse him with Planned Parenthood.

    5. "Partly the answer"

      Is it a bad or wrong answer??

      Endgoals should be very important

      To some ,all that does matter is the process ,if even that

    6. "Occasionally, people from the Chareidi community question or attack my articles. Even though they are well aware that I strive to follow in the path of Maran Harav Kook zt”l, nevertheless they argue: “Why don’t you accept the authority of the Gedolei haTorah (eminent Torah scholars)?” The simple answer is: I don’t consider them Gedolei haTorah.

      "They definitely are important talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) whose fear of sin precedes their wisdom, educate many disciples, and it is a mitzvah to respect them. But they are not Gedolei haTorah.

      "Gadlut beTorah (Torah greatness, eminence) necessitates an
      all-embracing, fully accountable handling of serious issues facing the
      generation, including: the attitude towards Am Yisrael in all its
      diversity and various levels – both religious, and non-religious; the
      attitude towards mitzvoth of yishuv haaretz (settling the Land) and
      the on-going war which has surrounded it for over a century; the
      attitude towards science and work, and the contemporary social and
      economic questions." - Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

  8. Warning: (only) partially tongue-in-cheek.
    I have a solution to the whole anti-vaxing debate which has been raging here.
    Next time an anti-vaxer requires an urgent operation, say an appendectomy or bypass surgery, they should strongly take into account the very real life-threatening risks, however small, associated with any operation. If, after rationally weighing up all the evidence (obviously the only way they weigh things up), they nevertheless foolishly decide to proceed with the operation, they now must consider the partially separate problem: whether to have a general anesthetic or not, as that entails its own partially separate set of risks.
    By following the above plan, the problem will largely disappear over time, by a combination of natural attrition (among those who choose to forgo the operation because of the risks), and a large dose of reality (among those who forgo the general anesthetic).

  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nugXXqsFEJQ

    1. First off, I thought anonymous comments were not allowed here.

      Second, this entire video is nonsense. I'll only comment on a few things he mentions.

      The concept of "vaccine shedding" is only an issue with live virus vaccinations. Those are the ones that he mentions from the St Jude's release. Most vaccinations nowadays with the exceptions of the ones listed are not live virus and hence "shedding" is impossible. Note that the MMR is not on that list which includes measles, the disease he was discussing.

      As for nonsense "destroying" the concept of herd immunity. Only certain diseases require a booster. Measles for example, does not require a booster and those vaccinated as children carry protection for life in almost all cases. Diseases like pertussis do require boosters. Guess what? There's a reason why pertussis is still around! It's because adults aren't getting their boosters and there is no large scale herd immunity. The best we can do is ensure that those around susceptible individuals are vaccinated. Have you ever met a parent or grandmother in the NICU racked with guilt because they unknowingly transferred pertussis to their unprotected baby? You haven't? Maybe you should go visit a hospital to see what that's like in person before you comment further. Better yet, if you haven't had your booster shot, just stay home.

  10. RNS

    "Respect people *as what*? As Talmudists? As Poskim? As wise people with good judgment? As leaders? Any one of these does not necessarily imply the others."

    To me a Gadol is someone who is all of those things (if qualified to be a Posek) and more. The question i have is, at what point does someone lose this status and who gets to make that determination.

    IF a Doctor goes out and murders someone and is locked up for the rest of his life, he still remains a qualified Dr. However, if he abuses his privilege as a Dr. he very well may lose hs license. But there are some gray areas also. Such as a Doctor who abuses his license to help save lives or kills someone by performing a procedure on a trial basis. Some would be quick to condemn while others might praise him as a hero. Who decides?

    1. If the doctor can consciously describe and defend his course of action and the inputs that went into his decision then he is more deserving of respect, even if that decision is disagreed with. If he is silent and committed to maintaining a mystique around his thought process or is too busy to bother articulating his position then it is very difficult to discern one way or another whether this doctor's moral or technical judgment is impaired. A status quo that is committed to maintaining an envelope of impenetrability and infallibility around a "gadol" is one that seems to disrespect the very possibility of discernment and earned respect.

  11. You're being too pedantic. Most people do not use the term "murder" in the strict legal sense. So you basically covered their usage by calling it involuntary manslaughter. Though I would argue that there is enough easily accessible information for these ignoramouses to not be considered in the category of "involuntary". Also, there is clear, present and very loud "hasra" further working against the idea it being involuntary. These people are VERY voluntarily choosing to ignore sound medical science and basic observation to endanger people's lives.

  12. "In future posts, I plan to discuss the question of on what grounds someone such as myself (and most readers), who have not engaged in extensive studies of medicine or the medical literature, can confidently conclude that vaccinations are necessary."

    Before you write those future posts, please do the responsible thing and take the time to find out why the U.S. Government has paid out more than 3.7 billion dollars in compensation to families whose children were determined to have likely been vaccine damaged.
    Look here for starters:

    Then take the time to find out why the U.S. Congress requested a hearing in investigate the testimony of a CDC whistle-blower who revealed the CDC was suppressing the studies about the adverse effects of vaccinations on African-American children.

    Here is a pro-vaccine pediatrician's personal experience with thousands of patients and how he has kept them autism-free by delaying vaccinations till the children get older and stronger:

    1. It is quite simple and I answered it in the previous post. Vaccines have a minuscule chance of danger. That does not warrant a decision not to vaccinate. But the public who benefits from herd vaccination should compensate the minority who suffered.
      Nobody ever said they were 100% safe. But 99% safe, with so many benefits, is enough for most other decisions

    2. PART 1
      Let's address these points one by one.

      First, the payments that the US government has made. This goes back to the late 1980’s when Congress passed the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program which was signed into law by President Reagan in 1988. At the time, parents were making claims of vaccine injury and were suing vaccine manufacturers for alleged side effects even if the science at the time did not support a connection between the alleged injury and the vaccine. With big judgements coming down, more and more parents lined up to sue to vaccine manufacturers in the hope of finding a sympathetic jury and scoring a big payout. Some were legitimate, but the vast majority were not. In response, many pharmaceutical companies decided to just withdraw from the vaccine business altogether. Contrary to popular belief, vaccines are not a hugely lucrative business when compared to other pharmaceutical products that are taken daily rather than a one and done shot.

      In order to make sure that vaccines would remain available and affordable, Congress passed the VICP which serves as a trust fund financed by an excise tax of 75 cents on every vaccine administered. I will not go into the mechanisms of how the court works since it is not relevant to the question I’m answering. What is important is that the standard to recover an award from the court is rather low, using the “preponderance of the evidence” rule of civil law, rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a criminal case requires. This has led to settlements in 80% of cases brought since 2006. Settlements are in no way an admission of an actual harm. This is stated quite clearly on the Health and Human Resources website. Sure, the government could spend the time and money arguing every single case, but they have found it far more cost effective to settle most of them in order to resolve cases “quickly and efficiently.”

      Still not convinced? Look at the actual numbers. It may seem like a huge amount: BILLIONS! Well, from 2006 to 2014, there were approximately 2.5 billion doses of vaccines given in the US. During the same period, there were 2976 claims brought to the VICP, and 1876 received compensation. 1876 settlements (which again, are not slam dunk cases) divided by the number of vaccine doses given. The result is a 1 in 1,000,000 risk of harm. I have more to say here, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

    3. PART 2
      Next, the famous "CDC Whistel-blower." Antivaxxers will often speak of the famous "CDC Whistle-blower." His name is William Thompson. Most antivaxxers don't know much more about the details of his claims or case. A few years ago, William Thompson, a CDC employee released a statement expressing some concerns on data that was omitted from a particular paper. He basically said he was uneasy about them leaving out a subgroup analysis that may have suggested a correlation between MMR and autism in African-Americans. That's it. The whole huge whistleblower claim ends at that. He has never made further claims and from what I can tell, does not plan to.

      I am not familiar with the conversations that went on privately when discussing what data to highlight from the study, but I can tell you a little bit about subgroup analysis and its dangers. Stay with me because there will be some minor math involved.

      As I'm sure you know, being that you are a scientifically literate consumer of the literature, in order to find something "statistically significant," you need to show a "p" value of 0.05 or less. This is to disprove the null hypothesis (defined as "no relationship between the two groups studied.") In layman's terms, I'm saying that there is only a 5% chance that this result showing a certain finding is the result of pure chance.

      Now, let's say we are studying if there is a link between chicken consumption and fungal toe infections. We do a study of 1000 children and, surprise surprise, there is no link. But now let's do a subgroup analysis. We will make 20 different subgroups of these children and see if we can make the link between chicken eating and foot fungus. We will divide them up into blue eyed children, brown eyed, black hair, blond hair, black skin, white skin, etc etc. until we have 20 groups. You wouldn't expect this to make any difference, right? I mean, why would having blue eyes make it more likely that your eating chicken would cause foot fungal infections more so than having brown eyes? Of course it wouldn't. But this is where statistical magic comes into play. If I have 20 subgroups, odds are that one of those twenty (5% !!) will show the correlation. This is the danger of subgroup analysis and why any subgroup analysis should be taken with a grain of salt. In medicine, we rarely, if ever, make conclusions based on subgroup analysis. They are usually springboards to suggest further areas of study.

      Now, as I said above, I don't know the conversation that went on while writing the paper, but I imagine that William Thompson argued that they should include the subgroup analysis since it at least functions as a springboard to suggest further studies (e.g. studies asking the question specifically about African Americans.) The other authors felt that Thompson may be correct, but in the current climate, their subgroup analysis was more likely to be taken out of context by the anti-vaccine community. Which is now has. Sheesh.

      Besides, I didn't realize that there were that many black Jewish anti-vaxxers out there until I started hearing about concerns over the "CDC whistleblower."

    4. "In layman's terms, I'm saying that there is only a 5% chance that this result showing a certain finding is the result of pure chance."

      To clarify: It's NOT saying that given the results, the hypothesis has a 5% chance of being false. Rather, that if the hypothesis is false- the results had a 5% probability of being produced by pure chance.
      So if all our science knowledge tells us that a certain hypothesis is bizarre, and the results of an experiment seem to confirmed the whacked out hypothesis- we can conclude that the results of the experiment did indeed occur by chance. (If the same bizarre results persist in future experiments, that's another matter.)
      On the other hand, for a reasonable hypothesis which just needs experimental evidence, we would not quickly dismiss positive results as being by chance alone.

    5. To Ari Elman:

      So you admit that a full 80% of cases win in vaccine court because of "preponderance of evidence"? That's certainly enough to warrant serious concern for most people.
      When was the last time you took a safety risk simply because it wasn't "proven beyond a reasonable doubt" that it was harmful?

      "Well, from 2006 to 2014, there were approximately 2.5 billion doses of vaccines given in the US. During the same period, there were 2976 claims brought to the VICP, and 1876 received compensation. 1876 settlements (which again, are not slam dunk cases) divided by the number of vaccine doses given. The result is a 1 in 1,000,000 risk of harm."

      You seem to not have read the article I linked to, which explains:
      "The CDC recommends every person receive 72 doses of 16 vaccines (note one MMR shot is considered to be 3 doses, same for DTaP), but let’s use a smaller number and say those that do get vaccinated, only receive 40 of the recommended doses. That comes out to be one in every 20,000 kids is damaged and compensated
      (3.1 billion ÷ 40 doses each ÷ 3,597 victims).

      But if you take into consideration the CDC also reports only 1% of adverse reactions are actually reported.
      Voluntary reporting makes accurate numbers impossible. So with all our computer technology why not automate it? It was. When vaccine injury was covered in automated reporting there was 100 fold increase in identified reactions."

      I hope to G-d that Rabbi Slifkin actually does his own research on this matter instead of relying on replies like yours for his rebuttals.

    6. Ephraim: I know what it means. It was a layman's explanation.

      To Just askin: I will respond when I have the time soon.

    7. PART 1"
      In response to “Just askin”:

      I see that we now need to discuss the vaccine court in more detail. First, I’m not admitting anything. These are not my opinions. They are stated facts. The 80% number is not a matter of opinion.

      Now to your concern. Yes, that 80% number does seem rather high. It means absolutely nothing though when speaking of vaccine safety for a number of reasons. First, courts are not constructed to decide scientific matters. They exist to adjudicate criminal and civil disputes. A court ruling for or against vaccine safety means absolutely nothing in a scientific search for truth.

      Next, perhaps I was not clear on what a settlement means. Per the Health Resources and Services Administration: “Almost 80 percent of all compensation awarded by the VICP comes as result of a negotiated settlement between the parties in which HHS has not concluded, based upon review of the evidence, that the alleged vaccine(s) caused the alleged injury.” The key here is that they have NOT concluded that the vaccine caused harm. The settlement is meant as a way to save money in protracted litigation.

      Further, many of the settlements from VICP are not children and many do not involve permanent injury. If an adult receives a flu shot and has an allergic reaction (perhaps forgetting that they have an egg allergy) or if someone develops an infection or abscess at the infection site that causes serious harm, those people can also file a claim and possibly receive compensation. This doesn’t speak at all to the actual safety of the vaccine itself, but adds to the VICP settlement numbers we are discussing.

    8. PART 2:
      You are completely missing the point though by focusing on that 80% number. Even if we say that every single case that is paid by VICP is due to actual vaccine injury (WHICH WE ARE NOT SAYING), the incidence of each settled case is still less than 1 per 1,000,000 doses of vaccine administered. Let me put that number in perspective for you. Even in 2018, despite all of the blood screening and precautions, if you take a blood transfusion, there is a 1 in 600,000 chance of contracting Hepatitis C and a 1 in 2,000,000 chance of contracting HIV. Yet none of us (at least I hope) would ever refuse a blood transfusion if it were needed.

      Here’s a more relevant way to put it in perspective. Before pertussis vaccination in the 1940's, about 200,000 were sick in the US each year and about 9,000 died. Nowadays there are 10,000–40,000 cases reported each year and about 10–20 deaths. Let's examine the large measles outbreak between 1989 and 1992. (This outbreak is what spurred the recommendation for a second MMR shot, which raised immunity from 95% to 99%.) There were 57,859 cases of measles during this time, and 127 deaths, working out to just over 2 deaths per 1000 cases of measles.

      More recently, in Europe during the 2011 outbreak, there were 26,000 cases and a death rate of around 1 per 3000, but this varied highly by country. France bore the brunt with a death rate of around 1 per 2300. I would use caution when comparing these statistics to the US system as most of these countries have wide access to medical care for all residents.

      So, we have diseases with DEATH rates nearly 1000 times more common than the highest estimate of court settlement rates from alleged vaccine injury.

    9. PART 3:
      No, I did not read the article you linked. I don’t debate entire websites. If you want to restate what the article says, I’m happy to discuss it. Now to your fuzzy math.

      Your math makes a number of errors of assumption. First, you are assuming that those 3.1 billion shots are distributed evenly and that everyone the same age has all received all of the shots in their lifetime that are currently recommended. This obviously is not the case, but it isn’t as glaring as your other error. If you want to see the number of compensated cases per vaccine, you do the following:

      3.1 billion shots ÷ 40 shots = 77.5 million (number of patients who got shots). This then becomes the DENOMINATOR, not the NUMERATOR for the next calculation. 3597 settlements (not “victims” and not “kids” as I pointed out above) ÷ 77.5 million = Odds of a person who had the shots receiving a settlement. That equals 1 in 21,545. That’s the chance of receiving a settlement after a full lifetime of vaccinations, not just childhood vaccinations. This is where your 20,000 number comes from.

      As I’ve explained above, a settlement doesn’t mean it’s a child, doesn’t mean it’s permanent harm, and doesn’t even confirm an actual scientific connection to the vaccine. Regardless, the odds of getting this settlement is still laughably low when compared to the odds of DYING from one of the diseases that the shots are protecting from. And that doesn’t even take into account the odds of being permanently disabled from one of these diseases. With measles, 1 in 20 will develop measles pneumonia, 1 in 1000 will develop encephalitis (brain infection). In the pre-vaccine years, mumps caused transient deafness in 4% of patients infected and permanent deafness in 1 in 20,000. That’s just two diseases. For Rubella, if a woman is infected during the first three months of pregnancy, there is a HIGH likelihood (read: much more than 1 in 20,000) of the baby being born with a serious birth defect such as deafness, cataracts, heart defects, liver and spleen damage, and mental retardation. And that’s just the MMR shot.

    10. PART 4:
      “But if you take into consideration the CDC also reports only 1% of adverse reactions are actually reported. Voluntary reporting makes accurate numbers impossible. So with all our computer technology why not automate it? It was. When vaccine injury was covered in automated reporting there was 100 fold increase in identified reactions."

      I’m going to need a citation for where the CDC says this. I’m also going to need a citation for when reporting was “automated.” While the current reporting system is far from perfect, it has been extremely effective in picking up safety signals in a number of vaccines that had side effects and were pulled from the market. Antivaxxers never seem to want to talk about that part, you know, where the reporting system has actually worked and found real side effects of some vaccines which were subsequently pulled from the market.

      “I hope to G-d that Rabbi Slifkin actually does his own research on this matter instead of relying on replies like yours for his rebuttals.”

      Yes, I hope Rabbi Slifkin does his own research. That’s what I do when confronted with a complex issue outside of my field of study. My car was making noise and I took it to three mechanics who all said the same thing, but I did my own research and they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. Then I wanted to invest my money into the Taiwanese stock market, and three friends who are professionals in finance advised me against it, but I showed them and did my own research. I also decided that I don’t have to pay taxes since my interpretation of the law determined that the income tax is unconstitutional. Two friends who are tax attorneys and a friend who is an accountant advised me against it, but I did my own research and read the tax code and the constitution and determined that they didn’t know what they’re talking about. I also had a really complex kashrus question and I asked three different Rabbanim in my town who all told me the same thing. I did my own research though and feel that their logic is faulty and have paskened otherwise.

    11. I don't see why you call it "fuzzy math." the figure you came up with was 1 in 21,545. The number I conveyed from the website was 1 in 20,000. Yes, its rounded up a bit, but the same basic result.
      And if the number seems high, it means that it is high. Despite all your hand-wavings and excessive verbiage,"preponderance of evidence" connecting a vaccine to an injury is a very serious basis for concern.

      The source for the difference that automated reporting made is here:

      The outsourced company that was hired to implement the automated system and analyze and compare it with the old system, complained that they were prevented from doing completing the project and making the proper recommendations by CDC bureaucracy.

      About the shockingly poor state of knowledge of what harm vaccines were possibly having as late as 2000, see

      Particularly, page 5,6 and 15, 16.
      Of particular interest:
      "Specifically, IOM Committees identified the following limitations of existing knowledge: 1) Inadequate understanding of biologic mechanisms underlying adverse events; 2) Insufficient or inconsistent information from case reports and case series; 3) Inadequate size or length of follow-up of many population-based epidemiological studies; 4) Limitations of existing surveillance systems to provide persuasive evidence of causation, and 5) Few published
      epidemiological studies.

      IOM warned that ‘‘if research capacity and accomplishments[are] not improved, future reviews of vaccine safety [will be] similarly handicapped.’’ 9 IOM recommends: ‘‘More research could be done on potential long-term adverse effects from vaccines as well
      as the potential of vaccines to induce or worsen immune disorders.’’
      CDC agrees that there remains ‘‘uncertainty about estimates of the risk associated with vaccination’’ and that to ‘‘continue research to improve the understanding of vaccine risks is critical.’’ 10

      Despite concerns of IOM, parents, public health authorities and other stakeholders, research needed to develop additional scientific evidence that conclusively addresses many issues of causality has not been completed. Concerns have been expressed that additional
      research is needed to address the effects of vaccines on chronic diseases, adverse events reporting, the delivery of multiple vaccines and increased rates of childhood vaccinations.11 While vaccines must be demonstrated to be safe and effective prior to marketing, agencies including NIH, FDA and CDC contend they are constrained
      by limited resources.
      However, in part as a response to the concerns of this subcommittee, HHS has recently contracted with IOM to undertake further vaccine safety studies."

      So yes, VAERS does an adequate "front-line" job in detecting immediate, widespread, severe adverse reactions. But they do not give us nearly enough data to determine overall safety--which is the question at hand, by the way.
      It's like saying this smoke detector works-- it will go off after there is enough smoke in the room to asphyxiate everyone sleeping in it. Then it calls the fire department to come put out the fire in order to save the rest of the neighborhood.

    12. Now on to the meta-issue.

      Rabbi Slifkin isn't simply deferring to the experts and saying he will humbly follow their expert opinion because he is ignorant. If he said that, it would be in line with all your examples.

      But no no no. Rabbi Slifkin always has to go way beyond that.
      He says he "can confidently conclude that vaccinations are necessary."

      Now maybe I'm in for a surprise, but I don't see how
      HE can be confident that vaccinations are necessary without doing his own research.

      He can certainly claim he is doing the responsible thing by accepting the expert opinion that vaccines are necessary. But being personally confident that vaccines are necessary just because you were told they were necessary by experts would seem to be a little to much science worship and discarding one's capacity for critical thinking.

    13. I am personally confident that the Earth is round despite not personally verifying the calculations and photos proving it.

    14. Huh? You saw the photos!
      That's at least one level of personal verification. You didn't JUST take someone's word for it that the earth is round like you are with vaccine safety!

      And BTW, many anti-vaxxers (not all, I know) don't just question the mainstream claims of vaccine safety because they are conspiracy theorists. They actually present peer-reviewed counter-research and are following the expert opinion of many professional clinicians and pediatricians in the field.
      Here's a partial list:

      What I find most interesting is the number of MDs and PhDs who were trained in the conventional mindset and became anti-vaxx when they saw how many kids were getting damaged after a vaccine, did their own research and discovered how serious were accumulated load of neurotoxins contained in vaccines, and stopped listening to the CDC propaganda.

    15. Because photos are *so* hard to fake...

    16. Your analogy is problematic because we can all verify for ourselves or through people we know and trust that the world is round without relying on any expert knowledge:
      1) Many of us know people who have traveled to Australia by going west from the U.S. and also by going east from Israel.
      2) There is a body of halachic literature dealing with the issue of an international dateline which implies that the globe can be circumnavigated.
      3) Most people have flown airplanes and have seen the downward curvature at the edge of the horizon.

      So the average person today only feels personally confident that the Earth is round because he has his own way to verify it through his own senses and trusted sources without putting faith in unknown experts.

      For an analogy to work, we ought to find something that is more analogous to our knowledge about the safety of vaccines--something the average layman only "knows" is true from information fed to him by experts. Then we can ask ourselves if we feel personally confident that the information is true by just relying on experts, or that we simply accept it tentatively as true out of necessity because of our ignorance and lukewarm trust in the expertise of people we don't really know.

      Let's see... maybe something really basic and elementary from the field of astronomy. You know, like the fact we were told about since very early childhood-- from all our teachers and encyclopedias and planetarium exhibits-- that our solar system has 9 planets?
      Oh, wait...

    17. 1 - Most people would feel perfectly confident in science's assurances that the globe is round *without* any personal verification of that fact. That was my entire point.

      2. Labeling nine orbs in the sky as "planets" as opposed to only eight is a taxonomical issue not factual. There are plenty of examples of science retracting - this was a really bad one.

      FYI - I continue this conversation not to convince you but to give you a greater platform to discredit yourself before everyone else. Please continue to argue how Pluto's being reclassified as a dwarf-planet is in any way related to the matter at hand.

    18. Ji March 20, 2018 at 9:25 PM : spot on. many of these characters are not "anti-vaxxers", they are old-fashioned anti-science. the rambam 800 years ago described them and their mindset very well, including how it influences their conception of (their) "God".

    19. 1. But how do you know that this assurance nowadays comes from scientists telling us so and not from our own ability to verify the information?
      Find something that the average layman can't verify on his own and then see if he is "perfectly confident".

      2. The point in the example was to show how great confidence in a scientific pronouncement doesn't mean the layman should also buy into it without reservation.

      BTW, the issue is factual: The reclassification was called for because astronomers misjudged Pluto's size to begin with, and recently discovered more bodies of similar size.

      "The word "planet" originally described wanderers of the sky that moved against the relatively fixed background of star. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was at first thought to be larger than it is. It has an eccentric orbit that crosses the path of Neptune and also takes it well above and below the main plane of the solar system.

      Recent discoveries of other round, icy object in Pluto's realm have led most astronomers to agree that the diminutive world should never have been termed a planet."

      FYI-I appreciate your willingness to continue this conversation which allows your readers to see how much misplaced blind faith you put in scientists.

      People who think critically and independently should realize that other people's expert opinion just means that it makes sense to rely on their judgement on a practical level.
      Adopting their level of confidence will make you needlessly rigid and less responsive to new information.

    20. 1. The average layman has no personal verification that Pluto exists at all. Yet I'm pretty sure most are perfectly confident that it is there.

      2. I haven't see that Pluto's initial entrance into the planet gang was due to misjudging its size. Now, the fact that astronomers discovered more objects in the Kuiper Belt is utterly unsurprising. Science worshipers think there are NO more objects to be discovered in the solar system? Absurd.
      Why would you pick such a terrible example of science's mistakes? I'm pretty sure there are better ones than that (not that it proves your point anyway).

      3. Yes, let's continue this conversation. Also, please continue to argue the relevance of Pluto's reclassification to this conversation.

    21. 1. At least you admit that this would be a better example than your original one--of the Earth being round. And here, you start to equivocate: "...pretty sure most are perfectly confident..."
      We're making progress.

      2. You conveniently neglected to concede that I'm right and that the reclassification was a factual issue; now you are trying to obfuscate by talking about other objects in the Kuiper Belt. (I didn't say the public was mislead into thinking there were no other objects in the Kuiper belt at all. But we were certainly misled into thinking there were no possible contenders for a planet designation!)

      So much for intellectually honest debate.
      But let's keep trying.

      Maybe in hindsight the reclassification was unsurprising. Or maybe it was unsurprising to astronomers in the field all along. But that's irrelevant to the point I'm making (which you seem to have difficulty grasping.)

      The example I'm using is a perfect way to illustrate how we as laymen often have no clue as to how certain the science actually is--even though it is presented as absolute fact to the public by the entire scientific establishment.

      Put yourself back 15-20 years and you'll see that you would have confidently stated there are exactly 9 planets in our solar system--as an absolute fact of science--without a shred of doubt in your mind.
      How many laymen even heard of the Kuiper belt or knew about the possibility of other contenders for planet designation?
      I'm not blaming you for this. That's how we were indoctrinated by all our teachers, encyclopedias and planetarium exhibits. And I'm not blaming them either-- because it was based on the best data available to them.

      But why should WE as consumers of scientific information with little access to the primary data and analysis, simply take for granted that what we are told by the establishment is unequivocally true?

      I'm just askin': shouldn't this example be a caveat emptor warning to us about how misleadingly confident the scientific establishment is in presenting its conclusions to the public?
      Shouldn't this example teach us to have some reservations before being "personally confident" that their pronouncements are unequivocally true and will never be modified or revised in the future?

    22. 3. I guess you will respond with your new example; when it comes to existence of Pluto at all, we are perfectly confident about it despite our inability to personally verify it.

      So let me ask you to try to be somewhat objective:
      Which example is more analogous to the safety of vaccines? (I'm not assuming my conclusion here--lets just compare methodology and level of justified confidence.)
      Is the question of the safety of vaccines as easily verifiable--by the experts themselves mind you--as the existence of Pluto? Can a trained toxicologist just look into a microscope and see that vaccines are safe-- just as a trained astronomer can look into a telescope and see Pluto?
      Or is it somewhat more murky and requires extensive, long-term population studies and careful analysis-(which the U.S. government admits that even by the year 2000 was not done adequately at all)-with many possible confounds and mitigating factors making it much harder to get a definitive answer either way?

      So which example is more instructive for our question? Mine or yours?

  13. None of these sources qualifies as a peer reviewed study in a reputable medical journal.
    -Just tellin'

  14. A secular state court is a lodestar for Jewish behavior? Better alert the community, so we can start accepting homosexual marriage, female judges, and outlawing prayer in our schools.

    Here's the key point: As Mayim Bialik is quoted above, there's a lot of hysteria out there. Just look at the comments to your prior post and you'll see it aplenty. You can play to the foam-at-the-mouthers if you want to, by calling your opponents names. That's fine. But some people, at least in America, have learned that you don't actually get anywhere by doing that. [And that includes disingenuous patronizing, like "they're not murderers, its just manslaughter."] This is still a new enough issue that people's opinions haven't completely hardened. In other words, you can still do your kiruv work for your beliefs. To do that, the first thing you have to acknowledge is that your opponents are at least as smart as you are, care for their children and other's children at least as much as you do, and prefer civil discourse at least as much as you do. If you cannot bring yourself to realize this, you have no chance of success.

    1. YOU were the model of civil discourse in the prior post?? Wow - talk about total lack of self-awareness!

    2. Edward Jenner said,

      Vaccines are a new issue? How long ago do you think I lived? Methinks education in America has really gone downhill...

    3. You are repeating the same dumb argument. People get excited when you suggest something that can kill their children even at low probability. In fact, you can find all kinds of excited statements all over the internet pushing both good and bad ideas.

      Your suggestion for a calm advertising campaign is already being followed. See the example linked to above by R Slifkin in this very post.

    4. DF,
      Your comments in general are real good.
      However your first paragraph is an unhealthy leap

      Careful lest you grant anyone here
      A straw to pursue dangerous conclusions

    5. Bewildered - unfortunately the blog host chose unwisely to attack those who differed with him by name calling, which led to fanatical comments, and now the accusation that his opponents are all guilty of criminal manslaughter. Fire must be met with fire. And I am a mere commenter. What I suggest is for the host to level set, apologize for his inflammatory rhetoric, and explain in earnest why he feels the benefit of vaccinations outweigh the harms. After all, he may be right. I, for one, am willing to hear both sides. But when I see the type of vitriol as I saw before, it immediately turns me off. That's no way to win friends and influence people.

      Chaya Cohen - thanks for the kind words, but not sure what you mean about the first paragraph.

    6. What I suggest is for the host to level set, apologize for his inflammatory rhetoric, and explain in earnest why he feels the benefit of vaccinations outweigh the harms.

      You are mixing up two issues:

      1) The benefits outweigh the harms. That is just an easy to discover fact. If you don't have the skill to evaluate the evidence (and based on your comments, you don't) then you'll have to rely the consensus of medical authority.

      2) Since it is so easy to discover this fact, these leaders are being extremely irresponsible and are potentially responsible for future deaths. If you build a bridge on unsound engineering and it collapses, the fact that you did it l'shem shamayim will not save you from being criminally charged. These Rabbis cannot be so charged in the US because you can't be criminally charged for bad advice outside your profession, and that fact that a person can't be generally charged for bad advice is a good thing. But morally, there is definitely an equivalence.

      3) From a halacha perspective, the whole thing is a Chillul Hashem. People look at these Rabbis as the products of Orthodox Judaism. When they make these utterly idiotic and dangerous statements, it brings disrepute to the entire branch of the religion.

  15. At least they're willing to show a baby without a shirt in Lakewood . . .

  16. While I greatly appreciated your previous article and I am glad that the important message it conveys has reached many people, I think the title is somewhat responsible for evoking the reaction that the Rabbis are murderers.

    If the families that join the coalition are part of a "suicide" squad it follows that those that give them validation to strengthen their efforts are murderers. (Not talking about technical legal definition.) I think the title was a little over the top, and generated the over the top comparison of the rabbinic endorsers to murderers.

    However, titling it the "Lakewood's Darwin Award Contenders" probably wouldn't have generated nearly as many views, so perhaps the sensational headline was justified.

  17. "I quoted some people who declared that Rav Shmuel was totally leshem Shamayim in everything that he did."

    You might also argue that Korach was doing everything lshem shamayim. See where that took him. There is simply no heter for Chilul Hashem.

    1. Maybe you're wrong. Maybe in this case those who live their lives closer to Hashem than we do have determined that it is warranted. And if it was an error (I don't know the facts but it seems that RSA zt"l is being vilified due to non-action) a mistake doesn't erase a lifetime of good.

    2. It is a Chillul Hashem. Their positions on vaccines is so obviously idiotic that it brings disrepute on Orthodox Judaism. If the leaders of the system can be so wrong on something that is so easy to get right, then the system is broken.

  18. In today's news. . .


  19. If I repeatedly tossed heavy rocks off a 3 story building without any concern over what or who might be at ground level, but with no intention of killing anyone, and then after 10 tosses, the 11th rock strikes a pedestrian in the head and kills them, would I be a murderer?

    And what if I said according to phony research I read summarized by an activist on the internet, it's not possible for rock tosses to harm anyone? That makes me not a murderer?

    And doctors and engineers warned me rock tossing harms public health and gets people killed but I know better than them because they are secular? Good excuse?

  20. https://physiciansforinformedconsent.org/leadership/
    Above is a link to a group of Orthodox rabbis opposed to vaccines.Oh those Damn ignorant Orthodox Rabbis with their opposition to the vaccine industry who are bringing shame on all of us other enlightened Jews. Poor David Ohsie. Poor Natan Slifkin, for having to be humiliated by these anti science anti medicine lunatic outlier fringe anti vaxxer lunatics.Oops my bad. I made a mistake it is just a list of medical doctors and scientists who are opposed to vaccines especially without informed consent. It does not appear that any of them are Rabbis and some of them are even women and gentiles.Lions, tigers, bears, anti vaxxers, oh my! Please forgive my sarcasm.

  21. @Anti Vaxxer: There are over 1 Millions Physicians in the US. The fact that you can some handful of them to endorse a website or join an org is not proof of anything. This is besides the fact that just being an MD doesn't mean that you are an expert in epidemiology. BTW, many of the people on that page are not even physicians.

    Of course, there are anti-vaxxers everywhere. It is just more than disappointing when leading Rabbis falls for such a cheap hoax, especially when the potential negative impact is so large. As R Slifkin points out, if they don't understand evolution, who cares? This actually has a practical impact. It is very disappointing to say the least.

    1. News Flash:
      13% of pediatricians don't follow the CDC vaccine schedule--many cite "safety concerns" as the reason to omit or postpone a number of vaccines.

      citing from here:


      In case it needs reminding, 13% of pediatricians is a big number. Maybe they are the ones who actually looked into the studies instead of having David Ohsie's knee-jerk jerk reaction like most people?

    2. It would be nice if Rabbi Slifkin would understand the practical implications of evolution vis a vis the effects that selection pressure caused by public health mass vaccination campaigns, has on the the human microbiome,genonme, and the creation of super pathogens. The exquisite natural balance that has taken billions of years to evolve (at least according to standard theories of evolution) has been utterly destroyed by this regimen to mankind's detriment. There is also the interesting theory of Dr. Preston Marx of the Tulane institute. He certainly is a credentialed scientist. He theorized that the Aids epidemic was caused by the mass immunization campaigns in Africa in the 1970s and particularly the Polio campagins. It seems there was a lot of reusing of dirty needles back then so you had what is known as the "serial passage" mechanism for transforming the benign SIV into HIV and spreading it all over Africa and then to the rest of the world.Naturally he was told by his colleagues and other scientists to shut up and stop bad mouthing vaccines. Would all you pro vaxxers say that the benefits outweigh the costs if the cost was the Aids and Hepatitis B epidemics? All of these problems at the end of the day stem from hubris and arrogance and demonstrate the need use the knowledge gleaned from scientific inquiry with extreme caution when it comes to permanently altering our planet.

    3. The study says nothing like what you said. Among pediatricians with children, no fewer than 98% said that they gave each vaccine. One of the 98% numbers came up on rotavirus which is not required to enter school in Maryland where I live. The lower numbers come from hypothetical issues like "would you give a future child their MMR at 12 mos or 18 mos", not "is MMR safe" and whether to give rotavirus vaccine, which is not required to go to school. Again, despite the hypotehticals, the physicians with children got the not-required rotavirus at a 98% rate.

    4. "The study says nothing like what you said."

      Um, maybe that's because you didn't read carefully what I said .
      The point being that 13% of pediatricians are skeptical of the level of confidence the CDC has in the safety of the vaccines. (At least, in the way they recommend administering it.)
      They don't accept the schedule as blindly as you seem to. They know there are neuro-toxins in vaccines at very high levels.
      Shouldn't that give you pause?

    5. You said "13% of pediatricians don't follow the CDC vaccine schedule". That is totally false. Here is what they self-reported actually doing for their own kids (Generalists and Sub-specialists).

      DTaP 100% 100%
      Hib 100% 100%
      Pneumococcal 100% 99%
      IPV 100% 99%
      Rotavirus 98% 98%
      Hepatitis A 99% 98%
      Hepatitis B 99% 99%
      MMR 98% 100%
      Varicella 99% 97%
      Meningococcal 100% 98%
      Influenza 99% 99%

    6. Just asking - Wow, they are conflating physicians who don't follow the cdc schedule (which includes special health risks) with general skepticism about vaccines (which does NOT include special health risks). The healthyhomeeconomist is a propagana outlet so of course they deliberately misread the data. What's your excuse?

    7. Your stats don't show if they postponed the vaccine from the CDC scheduling.

      Here is what the authors of the study wrote:

      "While most pediatricians and pediatric specialists
      (95% and 93%) have adhered to the recommended ACIP
      vaccination schedule up until 2009, a potential for change emerged with 10% of pediatricians and 21% of pediatric specialists claiming they would not follow the recommendations for future progeny. Despite their education, physicians in this study expressed concern over the safety of vaccines."

      Maybe its because of their education. Self-education that is...

  22. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urZLTobAfJc

    (Dr.) House VS. Anti-Vaxxer


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

The Value of Participating in a Mishnayos Siyum

A wonderful person that I am privileged to know, Mrs. Mollie Fisch of Teaneck, sent me a gentle critique of the post before last, in which ...