Sunday, April 14, 2019

When Gedolim Err

Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein has just published a fascinating essay, "Who Deserves to be Our Hero?" in which he argues that if we seize upon every error in order to disqualify a rabbinic leader, there will be no more Torah heroes left:
"Heroes need not be perfect. Gedolim need not be perfect. They never were, and they never will be. A person who demands never to find fault in his or her mentor will never have a meaningful mentor."

Rabbi Adlerstein mentions this in the context of discussing reactions to an earlier essay of his which denounced the opposition to vaccinations. The elephant in the room is a leading charedi Gadol B'Torah who stands at the helm of the anti-vaxxers. Rabbi Adlerstein bemoans how the just and necessary opposition to his support of the anti-vaxxers leads people to disregard his honor and credibility entirely.

There's an additional point that should be made here. Many people feel that anti-vaxxers should be called out as evil murderers. Now, I believe in the importance of vaccinations as much as anyone. My post on "The Lakewood Suicide Squad," the all-time most read post on this website (30,000 views), I called out (by name) the small group of rabbis who support the anti-vaxxers. Nevertheless, as I stressed in a follow-up post, "These Rabbis Are Not Murderers," I believe that it is wrong to call these people "murderers" or "evil." They are merely sincerely, tragically mistaken. They are appalled by sickness and death as much as anyone - they simply believe that vaccines contribute to these rather than solving them.

Having said that, there is something in Rabbi Adlerstein's essay which I think should be qualified. He writes that "There are fatal flaws, but not every flaw is fatal. A talmid chacham who shows shallow thinking in one area should not be consulted in that area. It does not follow – and experience shows otherwise – that great people can be insightful and incisive in some areas, and not in others." Now, it is certainly true that a mistake in one topic does not necessarily disqualify someone's opinion in every topic. However, certain types of mistake reveal certain types of character flaw or worldview, which are likely to have ramifications in other areas. 

The case of vaccinations is a perfect example. Someone who distrusts the entire modern medical enterprise either suffers from a conspiratorial worldview, or an anti-scientific mindset. This is very likely to affect their views in certain other areas, and vice-versa. That's why it's no surprise when advocates of alternative medicine turn out to be anti-vaxxers.

This is in fact one of the most important lessons which emerged from the notorious controversy over my books. The fact that three dozen leading charedi rabbonim considered it false and heretical to believe that there was an age of dinosaurs, or that there's no such thing as salamanders that grow from fire, was not just a narrow dispute regarding peshat in a few pesukim and a few lines of Gemara. Rather, it reflected a completely different worldview - the non-rationalist worldview - with ramifications for everything from brain-death to shiluach ha-kein to IDF service to marital intimacy to kollel vs. working. It led hundreds and possibly thousands of people to recognize that they needed to be in a different kind of community with a different kind of rabbinic leadership.

There are mistakes which are just mistakes. There are mistakes that are indicative of serious personal flaws. And there are mistakes which are neither of the above, but which reveal a different worldview. It's important to recognize these as such.


  1. Well said. Everyone makes mistakes. Even Moshe Rabbeinu did, even Gedolim do. I think that those who acknowledge their mistakes, are recognized by poshuteh Yiddin like myself as having intellectual integrity and earn my respect.

  2. Someone who distrusts the entire modern medical enterprise either suffers from a conspiratorial worldview, or an anti-scientific mindset.

    This is the absolutely the worst argument to use against anti-vaxxers because it is so trivially easy to find examples of the medical companies and the government cooperating to do wicked things such as selling 'non-addictive' opioids that literally kill 10,000s of Americans every single year.

    Stick to the catastrophic effects that would ensue in the absence of mass vaccination given high-density urban living and depressed immune systems. Give a balanced account of the risks of non vaccinating without denying the undeniable cases of people who have been harmed by vaccines. Another avenue, if you prefer, is to show that while conspiracies are common, conspiracy theorists have a very bad track record of uncovering the real ones. Whatever you do, though, try to refrain from gaslighting. There's plenty enough of that to go round already.

    1. It is true that the majority of doctors advocate vaccines. It is not true that all doctors do. Some doctors disapprove of vaccines in general, some believe too many are being given. Some say they are not overall safe, but the pros out way the cons. With that in light, you are dealing with a new picture. Should a perfectly healthy child take a vaccine that may possibly cause harm, when at the time there is no illness at hand. For those interested I compiled a write up (not edited yet) of over 90 doctors who say that vaccines can harm. It is a large spectrum of opinions, but the common line is they do not endorse vaccines at fully safe with no major side effects.

      Commenting as
      Reply as:

    2. Military service is not fully safe with no major side effects, yet we expect our 18 year olds to do it because the alternative is more dangerous to society generally.

  3. However, certain types of mistake reveal certain types of character flaw or worldview, which are likely to have ramifications in other areas.

    Despite the general truth of this sentence, it can't be applied universally. As you yourself have said on many occasions, sometimes gedolim come out with statements that are based on the misinformation provided to them by those around them.

    But even when that's not the case, somebody can be absolutely brilliant at many things and have a perfectly legitimate worldview yet have a strange stubbornness about one particular subject.

    On that topic, a famous story (first link in Hebrew, second in English):

  4. But the real question that Rabbi Adlerstein does not actually address is --how-- do you know when a gadol is wrong. Rabbi Adlerstein comes close to permitting using rational logic to determine it and i suspect he does so himself (as we all do) privately but his comments are in reference to a case where "the majority of medical and halachic" leaders disagree with this gadol. This is not the case with your book ban where the majority of scientists disagree with the majority of chareidi rabbis. Or perhaps metzizah b'peh where again there is disagreement between scientists and hareidi rabbis

  5. An even more serious allegation is a major American gadol's support of Tamar Epstein’s annulment and remarriage on the weak basis of her husband allegedly suffering from mental issues. For details see

    1. That is, in my humble opinion, the crux of the matter. A Gadol who errs REPEATEDLY by overstepping his boundaries into medicine, science, Halacha l'maase in Gittin, is not the same as one who says something wrong because of scientific ignorance.

  6. Your quotes from Rabbi Adlerstein contradict your definition of "Daas Torah" in your monograph The Making if Haredim: "Daas Torah, however, presented the opposite notion: that the ultimate guidance on all
    areas of life—even social and political decisions with no obvious connection to Torah—is
    provided precisely by those who are the most cloistered from the world and have only been
    immersed in Torah. Daas Torah also presented itself not as advice, but as obligatory
    commands that must be followed. A further significant characteristic is that in contrast to the
    time-honored approach of rabbinic responsa, Daas Torah presents its conclusions without
    any explanations, halachic or otherwise." So is Rabbi Adlerstein conceding that Daas Torah is a false doctrine?

  7. You don’t get far arguing the big picture argument. The truth is seldom one thing. The truth of Torah is an idiosyncratic mix of rational and nonrational ideas much to everyone’s disappointment. The arguments are in the details and that is the first not place in which progress can be made.

  8. I think attempting to unseat the gadol may be in order. Great rabbis in his position may not be motivated by money, and fame they already have. What had been proven to sway their public positions is concern over legacy. This same rabbi wrote an approbation for your book and The Science of Torah, but when enough rabbis signed onto the ban, he joined them - citing concern over his legacy, right?

    If concerns over legacy is what it will take to have him recant his public position on vaccines, then he should be called out by name.

  9. from r'ya :amounted to a full-throated declaration: Halacha follows the majority.
    methinkis R' Chaim would disagree. In any event I think the issue here is whether "organizations" specifically call for EVERYONE (including the followers of the nameless gedolim who "err" in this case) to follow the majority.

  10. @Avi Rosentha
    You can read about Rabbi Alderstein's understanding of Daas Torah in his blog post from five years ago on the same topic.

    1. it has some interesting comments from {MD October 29, 2014 at 10:27 pm} and {MD November 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm} that should be confirmed or debunked.

    2. The first comment in that article says it all: it shows that people steeped in Torah are capable of basic logical errors that average people can sniff out without said lifetime of study.

  11. Point well taken. G'dolim can and do make mistakes. But they will acknowledge their mistakes. R` Moshe Feinsteinmade a psak and was shown to be wrong by R` Yoelisch Teitlebaum (the Satmar Rebbe). "Peer review" has its advantages.

    But how many (intentional) (factual) mistakes must a gadol make before he can no longer be accepted as a posek and leader of Klal Yisrael? One would hope that in his critiques of other Orthodox groups, the gadol speaks respectfully of that group and its leaders. (One of the failings of the current political climate is that people do not know how to criticize respectfully without attacking.) If the gadol goes so far in his inflammatory language that the leaders of the Agudah have to go to the office of that leader to apologize, then that is one strike against his midot and leadership skills.

    When that gadol relies on false science to issue a psak, it is not only shabby scholarship but it is also dangerous. People can and do get very sick and some, ר"ל, pass away. When this happens, does that gadol lose his leadership role? Or must it happen after a third, fourth, fifth or xth time that gadol trips up?

    Even gedolim are subject to standards by which they are held accountable.

  12. When someone seeks dirt on other groups or people, it's called parasitic. A creature that continually seeks dirt, is usually a very lowly creature.

    1. When someone seeks dirt on other groups or people, it's called parasitic.


  13. I don't understand how this is a pro-science post.

    Firstly, the Gadol you refer to is one of a number of Gedolim who feel this way. It is so clearly against the mainstream that it must be exceedingly difficult to stick to their position against the crowd. Wouldn't it be so much easier to say, "hey, I made a mistake"?

    Why don't these Gedolim do that?

    In terms of "Someone who distrusts the entire modern medical enterprise either suffers from a conspiratorial worldview, or an anti-scientific mindset." I would counter that someone who blindly trusts the modern medical enterprise in the face of responsible people saying they investigated the matter and find some issues that make mandatory vaccination a bad idea on multiple levels, and does not at least spend a few hours investigating what the claims are, is not really being very scientific.

    I do not believe in alternative medicine and I believe that 911 was conducted by Arab hijackers. But out of respect for these Gedolim's position, I actually spent many (many) hours researching this topic.

    The science is not at all clear. The statistics are not at all clear. The risk of complications from measles is very clearly being exaggerated (ask anyone that lived in these Gedolim's generation if they know ANYONE who died from the measles when 4 million kids got it every year). It was rare then and unheard of now, with the vaccination rate between 85% and 95% on a consistent basis for at least the past 20 years. With that rate of vaccination, somewhere between 2 and 8 people dies from the measles since 2004. And 2014 had a much larger outbreak and no one died that year.

    There are hundreds if not thousands of doctors and scientists who back up these claims. I am no scientist but I have enough sense not to criticize Gedolim before I even spend a few hours trying to understand their position.

    There is clearly a very real risk with vaccines that is difficult to quantify. But large enough to make the benefit not so clear cut. And under those circumstances, mandatory vaccination, or even coercion, would appear to be unethical.

    1. 1. Gedolim don't like to admit that they made a mistake. They would lose credibility among their followers, many of whom believe that a "gadol" is infallible, and then they wouldn't have followers, so they would no longer be a gadol. Ego is a powerful thing.

      2. Nobody is saying to blindly follow science. However, if your research shows anything other than that the benefits of vaccination and most other medical practices outweigh the negatives, there might be something wrong with your research. The facts are that modern medicine, and other scientific techniques, is safe and effective far more often than not. If there are specific circumstances that would prevent you from obtaining a specific procedure, or a vaccine, by all means, discuss it with your doctor. If he/she is knowledgeable and honest, you will have a candid discussion of the risks and benefits. However, if you have no medical problems that would preclude you from being vaccinated, you have no excuse not to vaccine. Vaccines do not cause autism, period, and any complications can either be foreseen and prevented, or are so infinitesimally rare that they should not be considered. Again, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

      3. If you would even consider a conspiracy theory to be true based on the words of a rabbi, you need to get out of your bubble and learn how the world works. Rabbis are not all-knowing, and only doing research once a rabbi mentions the topic will not benefit you. I know that charedi schools and communities hate "secular" history and knowledge, but producing multitudes of people who do not understand history and society has had and will have disastrous effects on Jews. Rabbis can be wrong. Just because a leading "gadol" entertains conspiracies does not mean that you are obligated to consider it true. It's good that you did the research, but it's a problem that you didn't know enough to contradict this false information earlier (and in this case, I blame the charedi education system, not you personally).

      4. I'm going to say it again: vaccines are not dangerous. They do not cause autism. Countless studies support this. Be a skeptic if you want, but the numbers do not lie. Measles has killed people in the US before vaccination was commonplace, and it still kills elsewhere where vaccines are not as common. Deaths are not unheard of, but there are other complications that can lead to life-long health problems. Just because someone seems fine right after recovering from the measles does not mean that there will be no complications later. Besides, do you really want to take the risk that someone will actually die? "Between 2 and 8" deaths is inexcusable today. You don't have to be a scientist to criticize gedolim on medical issues, and you should realise that they are not all-knowing and that they suffer from the same lack of instruction and information as the rest of the charedi world. Their opinions on anything other than halacha are virtually worthless if they do not have experience or training in other fields. I don't ask a gadol how to invest in the stock market, and you shouldn't ask them if vaccines are safe. Then again, if you trust gedolim before trained doctors and scientists on medical issues, and you're not willing to question them, you're going to disagree with me anyway.

    2. Are you aware of some basic facts?

      - Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 26 which prevents anyone injured or killed by a mandatory vaccine from suing the manufacturer

      - That act instituted the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVIC), also referred to as Vaccine Court (although it’s not a court), in order to compensate families of those injured or killed by vaccines - in service of the greater good. This program has paid of $4 billion for vaccine injuries and death

      - The act also created the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a self-reporting system to collect information about post-approval vaccine injuries. This reporting system is on the CDC website and shows about 90,000 serious adverse reactions and about 8,000 deaths.

      In comparison, in the years just prior to the measles vaccine there were an average of 432 deaths in the US. Ask anyone who lived then and they will tell you that everyone got the measles and it was no big deal; no one died or had long-term negative effects (to be clear, in there were of course 432 deaths and probably over 1,000 cases of encephalitis but those are small numbers for a big country that has 40,000 deaths from car accidents that doesn't stop anyone from driving.

      And since 2004, with the same vaccination rate at today (85% - 95% depending on the state) there were zero children deaths and up to eight deaths all together.

      And according to the CDC VAERS database, there were 9,000 serious adverse effects from the MMR and 459 deaths.

      There are thousands of doctors who are strongly against mandates and are vaccine skeptics:

      Physicians for Informed Consent

      American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)

      So the 5,000 doctors of the AAPS believe that vaccines are dangerous and the risk/benefit is not as clear as you think it is.

      And not that it matters, but I have a masters degree.

      The other side has legitimate concerns and it behooves us not to denigrate others without fully exploring what they are basing their positions on.

    3. People who bring up the Vaccine Court as if it somehow "protects vaccine manufacturers" are either ignorant or malicious.

      The vaccine court is entirely funded by a tax on vaccine manufacturers. The government (and by extension other taxpayers) don't provide a dime. What it does is streamline the vaccination lawsuit process - and demands a far lower standard of proof than any other court of law!

      You are also wrong about it preventing people from suing vaccine manufacturers. It doesn't. You can go to a regular court with its higher standard of proof if you like.

      The VAERS database is entirely self-reported and is not filtered or verified. Anybody can submit whatever they like to it. Famously, there are entries in which people claim that a vaccine turned them into the Incredible Hulk. Using that as a source of medical data is farcical.


      But let's pretend for a moment that you're right, and that the number of deaths due to measles is equal to or even less than those of the MMR vaccine (which you admit that they aren't: 432 deaths per year as opposed to 459 deaths in 50 years - even according to the unreliable VAERS you're cutting deaths by 98%!).

      Don't you realize that the point of the measles vaccine is to eliminate the measles? And that once it is eliminated, we won't need to vaccine against it anymore, just like we don't need to vaccinate against smallpox? Then there won't be any deaths from either the disease or the vaccine. Forever. That will literally save billions of lives over thousands of years. Why would you want to prevent that?

    4. Let me first state that I and my children are vaccinated. I see people suffering and I decided to investigate. I can assure you that I am not being malicious. I don't think I am ignorant either. I assume you want good health for you and your children and I can assure you that I do as well.

      See more about the Childhood Vaccine Injury Act here (just read the name of the act for goodness sakes): clearly states:

      In the United States, vaccine manufacturers have attained an extremely high level of liability protection through legislation and judicial interpretation. The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (the Vaccine Act); the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (the PREP Act); and Bruesewitz v. Wyeth LLC, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision interpreting the Vaccine Act, together afford vaccine manufacturers almost blanket liability protection from damages for vaccine harms.

      While there may technically be an opt-out (perhaps that is what you are referring to), continue to read this article:

      "Engstrom points out, though, that many dimensions of the Vaccine Act made it very difficult to take claims out of the NVICP, even before the Bruesewitz decision. … And in the event that a claimant does go to civil court, punitive damages are unavailable except in cases of fraud, intentional wrongdoing, or other illegal activity."

      Read the entire article. It gets worse.

      As you say, the vaccine compensation fund is funded with $0.75 of the sale of every vaccine (selling for hundreds of dollars). That does not remove the fact that you cannot sue for vaccine injury or death. They have no incentive as they do for drugs and as does every other manufacturer, to improve the safety of their product.

      That fact alone should raise major red flags.

      True, VAERS is self-reported. And there certainly may be some claims that may not be actual vaccine injuries (I’ve read as many as 40%). But no one really knows for sure. And according to a study by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care commissioned by HHS, less than 1% of vaccine injuries are reported to VAERS

      So it may be more than 100 times worse than reported. And I have spoken to tens of frum parents whose children have been injured or died from a vaccine (I spoke with the woman who took this video: Based on anecdotal evidence, the numbers may be much higher:

      And according to the limited vaxxed vs. unvaxxed studies done, there is a massive difference between the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated kids. For example And also as reported to me by parents who have both vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

      In terms of eliminating the measles, that is not going to happen, especially not with the measles vaccine which has a live virus. China has 99% vaccine compliance and has outbreaks.

      Here are some articles that explain that:

      Measles Outbreak in a Highly Vaccinated Population — Israel:

      This is very complex and too much for this forum.

    5. In terms of risk/benefit, 432 annual deaths in the US was before 1963. That is (1 out of 500,000 of population. The trend was way down from the early 1900's by over 95% due to improved sanitation and nutrition. You can see a graph here (I confirmed this data

      Other countries such as England/wales and France did not start vaccinating in 1963 and their death rate continued to drop before they started vaccinating.

      There is no way to know if measles deaths would be been essentially eliminated on its own. Without any vaccine, Scarlet Fever and Typhoid deaths in the US went down to almost zero.

      But what we do know is that since 2004 the number of deaths from measles is somewhere between 3 and 8 (1 out of 600 million of population)

      And the vaccination rate has been steady at ~91% all that time. A few more or less Jews (or even all of us) will not make a difference.

      With risk of death from measles at 1 in 600 million (at current vaccination rates) and the VAERS serious injury reports at for measles at 9,000 and death at 459 (since 1990) and no way to know if it is half that amount or 100+ times that amount, I don't see a compelling reason to mandate vaccinating and certainly not the absolute sina that is being hurled toward that community. They are being put in Cherem, kicked out of shuls, schools, belittled, and more. Major Shalom Bayis issues, lashon hara, and more. I don't see how that makes sense. Particularly when there are literally thousands of doctors who recommend against vaccinating and investing about 20 hours to research this you will see plenty of scientific basis for concern.

      Do you really want to live in a world where you can be forced (or coerced) to take on a medical procedure that you and your selected doctor believe is dangerous for you? Even for the “greater good”? That has not worked well for us in the past.

    6. This is stupid. You know why we vaccinate? Because people die from these diseases. I don't care if you're unconcerned about the "low" mortality rate from measles, but these deaths are preventable. Again, take a look at countries outside the US, particularly third-world countries. Measles and other potentially fatal diseases are common, and people die from them. The vast, vast majority of people who get vaccinated are perfectly fine (I'm going to run far away from any study that even gets to close to comparing vaccines and autism; it's been debunked, so stop bringing it up). I'll take a few potential (and, even according to your verifiable numbers, basically unheard of) vaccine injuries over the far more serious damage that these diseases can do. Do you also think we should stop vaccinating against the flu because "most people are fine"? Look at what these "harmless" viruses can do to people. The 1918 flu pandemic killed over 20 million people, and it only takes one new strain to do the same damage. That is why vaccines exist.

      You want to know why else measles and other diseases aren't so common anymore? Because vaccines give something called herd immunity. The more people who vaccinate, the less chance there is of an outbreak, and the less severe such outbreaks are. These anti-vaxxers are rightfully being hated on because they're the single cause of preventable injuries and deaths from these diseases. Just be glad that nobody has died from this measles outbreak yet. If someone does die, the hate you're seeing now will seem like love. These people need to be dragged into the 21st century even if they have to lose custody of their kids.

    7. There is no way to know if measles deaths would be been essentially eliminated on its own.

      Sure there is. Even today, 1 out of every 1000 measles patients ends up dying from it, more are rendered permanently deaf or end up with other disabilities, and even more die of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis five years after you think the disease is over. Not to mention the disease's suppression of the immune system that leaves you vulnerable to deaths and hospitalizations from diseases of all kinds for a couple of years.

      And the vaccination rate has been steady at ~91% all that time. A few more or less Jews (or even all of us) will not make a difference.

      If the vaccination rate drops within a particular community, it doesn't matter how much vaccinating goes on in other communities to bring the overall rate up to 91%. This community is rendered vulnerable. If you want to put yourself at risk you have that right, but you do not have the right to put others at risk.

      With risk of death from measles at 1 in 600 million (at current vaccination rates)

      So that's totally a reason to stop vaccinating, right? Like how deaths from car accidents dropped when people started wearing seat belts, so now we can stop wearing seat belts.

      How does that make any sense?

      I don't see a compelling reason to mandate vaccinating

      "Saving people's lives" isn't good enough for you? "Permanently eliminating a deadly disease" isn't good enough for you?

      Major Shalom Bayis issues, lashon hara, and more

      I don't remember being taught by my rabbis that Shalom Bayit and lashon hara are יהרוג ובל יעבור. (Notice I did not say יהרג, I said יהרוג.)

      Particularly when there are literally thousands of doctors who recommend against vaccinating

      And thousands of doctors believe in alien abductions. Doesn't mean they're right, when there are literally millions of doctors on the other side of the debate.

      investing about 20 hours to research this you will see plenty of scientific basis for concern.

      Only if you have no scientific literacy and don't understand what you're reading.

      Do you really want to live in a world where you can be forced (or coerced) to take on a medical procedure that you and your selected doctor believe is dangerous for you?

      Nobody's forcing or coercing you to do anything. You're free not to listen to the doctors or to the poskim if you like. But non-coercion is a two way street: if we can't force you to vaccinate, you also can't force us to let you into our schools. Go start your own school.

    8. While there may technically be an opt-out (perhaps that is what you are referring to)

      The article you linked to repeatedly says that if you're not satisfied with the vaccine court's decision you can go to regular court instead. I don't know what you're complaining about.

      in the event that a claimant does go to civil court, punitive damages are unavailable except in cases of fraud, intentional wrongdoing, or other illegal activity

      Consider the following: there are some people who are allergic to peanuts. Can you sue Skippy if your kid goes into anaphylactic shock the first time they eat peanut butter? Of course not - peanut butter carries an inherent risk to certain rare individuals, and there's nothing Skippy or you can do about it. It's not Skippy's fault. The same is true for anything else that can cause an allergy.

      And the same is true for medicines. If your kid has an allergic reaction to amoxicillin, which is a thing that happens quite often, you can't sue the makers of amoxicillin. They didn't screw up to hurt your kid. It's not their fault. Why should vaccines be any different?

      If everybody who had an adverse reaction to something could sue the manufacturer, we would have no eggs, milk, soy, fruit, wheat, celery, or even water in our grocery stores. Yes, there are people who are allergic to water - look it up!

      You can't sue for damages unless the maker did something wrong. The vaccine court therefore makes vaccines more liable, not less. The sort of thing that gets you payouts in that court would never fly for any other product.

      And I have spoken to tens of frum parents whose children have been injured or died from a vaccine

      No, you have spoken to parents who *think* their children have been injured or died from a vaccine. Most of those claims are the result of casting about for something to blame.

      And according to the limited vaxxed vs. unvaxxed studies done, there is a massive difference between the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated kids. For example

      There aren't "limited vaxxed vs. unvaxxed studies". Heck, a half-a-million-child study was just released a few months ago! Anti-vaxxers have this bizarre myth that "nobody has ever looked into this", when (thanks to them) we've looked into it far more than it even needs to be. And all the studies show the same thing: vaccinated kids are healthier.

      Except this one you linked to, which is famous because it's pretty much the only one to support anti-vaxxers' claims. And why? Because it's a fundamentally flawed study.

      Did you read how it was conducted? The participants weren't randomly-selected; a link to an online questionnaire was sent out to people by mail, and the study is based on the people who bothered to respond. So you tell me: Who is more likely to bother to respond? A parent who thinks their kid was hurt by vaccination, or one who doesn't? It's a wonder the study didn't conclude that 100% of vaccinated kids are harmed! What a stupid way to conduct a study.

      In terms of eliminating the measles, that is not going to happen, especially not with the measles vaccine which has a live virus.

      The smallpox vaccine had a live virus, and it was eliminated. The rinderpest vaccine had a live virus, and it was eliminated. The polio vaccine has a live virus, and we are very close to eliminating that, with less than 100 cases per year worldwide. You have some serious misconceptions about how vaccines work.

      China has 99% vaccine compliance and has outbreaks.

      If 99% of Chinese are vaccinated, that means there are over 10,000,000 unvaccinated. If those are concentrated in specific places, there will be outbreaks. As I said: It doesn't matter how many people the next city over are vaccinated. If there's no compliance in *this* city, it's vulnerable.

    9. Yerushalmi,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed response. Due to time limitations before Yom Tov I want to focus on a few points. That being said, the bulk of your comments I believe are addressed in a PowerPoint presentation at

      Let me first say that this is a very complex subject.

      For example, you say that "Even today, 1 out of every 1000 measles patients ends up dying from it"

      That is not correct. Over the few years prior to the measles vaccine in 1963, there was about 1 out of every 1,200 REPORTED cases that did result in death. As most cases are not reported (the CDC estimates 10%) and there were about 4 million cases per year, so 400 deaths is 1 out of 10,000. That is a common level of risk in any surgery, including elective, and most people don't think twice if their surgeon informs them the risk of death is 1 in 10,000 (not that I make light of it; just to place it into perspective).

      All indications are that healthcare has improved since 1963 so that number would naturally be reduced significantly.

      My father, who got the measles, says that in his day, everyone got it and no one he knows every died or had any long-term negative impact. Ask around and you will hear the same story.

      For a humorous but eye-opening look at Measles, Back In The Days Before The Marketing Of The Vaccine

      In terms of vaccine injury, there was clearly so much injury that they needed to pass the Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to protect vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits.

      You are correct that the Mawson vaxxed, vs. unvaxxed study was not a true study; but such a study was actually never done on all US children. And studies claiming no major side effects have significant flaws (again, see for details). There are other small vaxed vs. unvaxed studies and they all consistently show a significant different in general health.

      The VAERS data is what we have to work with. Clearly, there are injures. Some may not be real injuries. The Harvard Pilgrim study shows under 1% of injuries reported. So who knows?

      What we do know is that with the current rate of vaccination (and that includes pockets across the US with very low rates - an extreme example is the Amish) there have been zero children deaths and as many as 8 total deaths in the past 16 years. Compare that with the VAERS reported deaths from the MMR alone during that period of 147 deaths from the vaccine. Even if you discount the Harvard Pilgrim study that would imply 100 times the death rate (or 10,470 deaths (and over 1 million serious adverse reactions) and you say that 50% of the VAERS numbers are not really vaccine related, you still end up with 8 vs 75 deaths. And the vaccine injury numbers are much higher than deaths.

      As much as you would like to believe it is not so, there are plenty of studies showing health concerns with vaccines (as I linked above). And there are immunologists and chemical biologists who have identified vaccine toxicity as a significant cause of the current increase in childhood chronic illness. For example:

      Dr. Boyd Haley PhD, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry, Markey Cancer Center, Univ. of Kentucky

      How can you watch this and say that concerns are not at least reasonable?

      Tetyana Obukhanych Ph.D Immunologist

      So the cost/benefit is not clear.

      Chag Kasher V'Sameach

    10. Also:
      Dr. Andrew Zimmerman - the government’s own pro-vaccine medical expert who helped the government and pharmaceutical industry defeat vaccine-autism claims in vaccine court in 2007— now says he learned vaccines can cause autism in certain susceptible children.
      "He said he informed the government a decade ago but that they hid his opinion and misrepresented it in vaccine court."20

      Sharyl Attkisson, a respected investigative journalist, writes and has shows dedicates to vaccine issues. In addition to the article above, Watch this interview:

      The obvious dehumanizing tactics being used against vaccine skeptics is shockingly taking hold in our community to the point where an obviously good and well-meaning person such as yourself can so callously say "Go start your own school." As if that was a practical option. So you want these kids out of Yeshiva or in public schools (which ironically MUST accept them if they show a religious exemption)?

      See excerpt from "Braving the Wilderness" by Brené Brown

      What is happening to our discourse on this topic is scary. Discussed in more detail at:

      Chag Kasher V'Sameach

    11. One more thing: You wrote:

      Don't you realize that the point of the measles vaccine is to eliminate the measles?

      Please read this article quoting Dr. Gregory Poland, one of the world’s most admired, most advanced thinkers in the field of vaccinology. He is a major proponent of vaccination. Yet...

      Some quotes:

      And he sees the need for a major rethink, after concluding that the current measles vaccine is unlikely to ever live up to the job expected of it: “outbreaks are occurring even in highly developed countries where vaccine access, public health infrastructure, and health literacy are not significant issues. This is unexpected and a worrisome harbinger — measles outbreaks are occurring where they are least expected,” he wrote in his 2012 paper, listing the “surprising numbers of cases occurring in persons who previously received one or even two documented doses of measles-containing vaccine.” During the 1989-1991 U.S. outbreaks, 20% to 40% of those affected had received one to two doses. In a 2011 outbreak in Canada, “over 50% of the 98 individuals had received two doses of measles vaccine.”


      To make matters worse, even when the vaccine takes, the protection quickly wanes, making it unrealistic to achieve the 95%-plus level of immunity in the general population thought necessary to protect public health. For example, 9% of children having two doses of the vaccine, as public health authorities now recommend, will have lost their immunity after just seven and a half years. As more time passes, more lose their immunity. “This leads to a paradoxical situation whereby measles in highly immunized societies occurs primarily among those previously immunized,” Dr. Poland stated.

      And another by the same author:

      Several decades following the vaccine’s introduction, the measles death rate rose, largely because the vaccine made adults, expectant mothers and infants more vulnerable

    12. I admit I laughed out loud at this: "Sharyl Attkisson, a respected investigative journalist..." Just read her argument that Trump never denied that Mccain is a war hero (among many, many other nonsense items from her in recent years). Perhaps once upon a time she was respected, but certainly no longer.

    13. Hi Fred,

      I suppose there is room to disagree on Sharyl Attkisson. I'm not here to defend her. It would however be a logical fallacy ( to have that impact your opinion on what I wrote or the information covered at

      I am more interested in specific critiques of the actual information.

      Furthermore, even if you find the evidence to be not compelling enough for you, the point is that there is a very large and apparently legitimate body of evidence that vaccines are more dangerous than claimed and the measles is less dangerous than claimed. And that people want to follow the doctor they are comfortable with to not vaccinate. And that this does not put anyone at risk.

      So why are we disparaging them?

    14. Rodefshalom613 is chock-full of casual errors, as per my brief glance. Most likely, a deeper dive would reveal more serious ones. What a waste of time.

    15. Shlomo,

      I have emailed with a correction and it was corrected withing a day. Why not do the same.

      Why would you say that trying to resolve this increasing Machlokes is a waste of time? If a corrected version can increase the understanding of the other side, would that not be helpful?

    16. Using VAERS database to determine the safety of vaccines is not a scientifically valid method, just as using the FAERS database to determine the safety of any medicine is not. Medical doctors and researchers are well aware that this is not scientifically valid, so the charlatans in our midst who are spreading this nonsense are really deceiving people and showing off their lack of knowledge. Randomized, double-blind placebo controlled trials are the best available method to determine the safety and efficacy of medicines, and provide the strongest form of evidence we can gather. Most other forms of "evidence" such as observational studies etc, are extremely flimsy.

      The field of nutritional science (you know, the guys who change their mind every other week about whether you should eat eggs?) is an epidemic of relying on flimsy forms of evidence to make proclamations and recommendations. The touting of VAERS to besmirch vaccines is on a level BELOW that.

  14. But when a "gadol" makes a misteak, at least he should acknowledge it, and or publicize the opposite, if he still considers himself infallible.

  15. .
    I just remember what happened to Dr. Ignatz Semmelweiss who discovered that if doctors washed their hands before delivering babies the mothers wouldn't die of childbed fever. All the other doctors disagreed with him and humiliated him. He couldn't practice medicine anymore. It destroyed him and he died in a mental institution. 20 years later they adopted hand washing. I guess we can forgive all those doctors because they were in the majority.

    I guess we can also forgive all the Rabbanim who told people not to leave Europe right before the Shoah. They were probably the majority, too.

  16. But when the errors are linked to a flawed system that tends to make Jews estranged from the real world by rejecting scientific knowledge there is a serious problem, even if I can imagine their pastoral dilemmas, is a reactionary attitude the right one, I'm not so sure.

  17. There is a difference between saying that there is a health danger to some from the vaccinations and claiming that vaccination is just a hoax and a big bussiness money making machine. One making the latter claim loses all credibility in my eyes.

    Also, what us thus shtick of not naming the godol? He is open about his views and isn't requesting secrecy?

  18. Let's get down to tachless here. Rabbis, like other clerical leaders, have had their influence decreased over the centuries by advances in science. What this means,in the context of health, is that laypeople need not turn to their Rabbis for help with medical problems via emunah, bitachon, etc. The first line of defense is now scientific medicine. Those Rabbis opposing vaccination are merely trying to take back power that they lost. Their machinations are "sincere" only in that they sincerely want more power over their followers. They are implicitly saying, "come to us for help, not the medical establishment." When self-interest unnecessarily puts other people's lives in danger, there can be no greater aveira (think pikuach nefesh). Such glaring self-interest clearly demonstrates that such individuals cannot be trusted with anything. Their statements and actions will be dictated by what benefits them, not those they allegedly serve. They are also committing a chillul Hashem of unbelievable magnitude. Finally, they are endangering the non-Jewish population as well. Keep it up and you will see Jew-Hatred of the type that occured during the days of the Bubonic Plague in Europe- only this time it will be justified.

  19. Also there was a Godol , that recommended JONAH

    Three strikes

  20. When you attack so called "Gedolim" you accomplish the same thing that Democrats do when they attack Trump. And that is; galvanizing the base supporters of the 'victim' to rally in support of their leader.

    All those who attack Rabbi Slifkin accomplish the same scenario. And certainly the book bans accomplished just that.

    "Mahtzah min es mino"
    Seems that like minded people deserve each other.....

  21. What are the criteria to become a Godol?
    Open a Yeshiva and live to a ripe old age?
    Write Shu"t and people can judge your knowledge?

  22. Since you claim to be pro science please provide one proper safety study on any vaccine as Dr. Gil Yosef Shachar challenged anyone to do.


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