Monday, April 13, 2020

Daas Torah on How to Avoid Getting Coronavirus

I had held off on writing about this topic for a few days. But now I think that I had made a mistake about Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

The economic situation of charedi society, always in bad shape because of the low rate of employment, has gotten much worse with coronavirus. In an effort to raise larger donations, the Vaad HaRabbonim has launched a new campaign. They are enticing people to donate substantial sums with an incredible lure: A promise from the Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, that they will not get sick from coronavirus! As the ad says, "In a short video clip, after being asked what donors to Vaad HaRabbanim’s cholim fund should merit in return, Rav Chaim answers succinctly: 'He will not be sick!' A straightforward answer in a time of uncertainty."

Not to be outdone, the Kupat HaIr of Bnei Brak launched a campaign that was even bolder. They provided a letter by Rav Chaim's son, Rav Yitzchak Shaul Kanievsky, attesting to his father saying that you and your family can be saved from coronavirus, provided that you donate a "substantial sum" to Kupat HaIr, which they defined as three thousand shekels. The donation will get you a "protection contract," signed by Rav Chaim, to be hung on your wall.

Now, I originally saw these as simply further examples of charities manipulating a Gadol B'Torah in order to raise money. Obviously Rav Chaim had not meant that donors will not contract coronavirus; what he meant was to express a wish/hope/blessing that they should not contract coronavirus.

But now I think I may have been wrong.

In a fascinating and deeply disturbing interview with Rav Yitzchak Shaul Kanievsky, Kikar Shabbos posed the natural question, of whether Rav Chaim can actually guarantee that someone will not contract coronavirus. Rav Yitzchak explains his father's position in detail, and is insistent that yes, his father meant that donors will not contract coronavirus, "just as on Rosh Hashanah we all cry out 'And repentance, and prayer and charity shall remove the evil decree' - it is not written 'perhaps', it is not written 'he will merit', there are no conditions mentioned at all, rather 'shall remove', explicitly."

So how does Rav Yitzchak translate this absolute guarantee into those who donate to Kupat HaIr? He first explains that those who are Divinely decreed to contract coronavirus will find themselves divinely prevented from being able to donate to Kupat HaIr - as that would prevent the Divine decree from being imposed:
"Hakadosh Baruch Hu runs the world and knows what to put in the heart of each and every person, and as an example, if it has been decreed that a person should become sick, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu does not desire him to possess the merit of "one measure corresponding to another", Hakadosh Baruch Hu sets up blockages for him so that he will not donate to this fund for all sorts of reasons, either he forgets or he doesn't understand or (Hashem) causes that it will not be possible for him to do so etc."
So, if you're lucky enough to be spared the Divine prevention from being able to donate, you'd better take advantage! That means that God has decided that you can merit protection.

But Kikar does not leave it at that. They ask that there are those called "rationalists" who find Rav Chaim's guarantee difficult to accept. After all, there are so many people in Bnei Brak who donate to Kupat HaIr. Surely it should be possible to shut down the hospitals and cemetries!

Rav Yitzchak first responds by expressing his dislike of the term "rationalists":
"I wouldn't call them "rationalists", rather these are people to whom a stain of heresy and enlightenment has become attached. This was the way of the maskilim in every locale, to mock and render ridiculous the words of our rabbis, the Gedolei haDor, may their merit protect us."
Did you get that? If you question this promise, you're an apikores. But the interviewer still presses the point and asks how there can be such a promise. So Rav Yitzchak answers as follows:
"My father, master and teacher shlita, frequently points to the explicit words of the Mishnah Berurah 158:38 regarding the saying of Chazal that “one who is careful about netilat yadayim with an abundance of water, is given handfuls of goodness”, regarding which the Mishnah Berurah writes “and one who is careful about this and does not become wealthy, it is because his deeds prevent this”. And so it is regarding ma'aser.
"And my father, master and teacher shlita regularly says (apparently in the name of the Chazon Ish and perhaps this is the intent of the aforementioned Mishnah Berurah), that sometimes a person deserves wealth as a result of being particular about ma’aser etc., and subsequently he deserves to be punished, and if he would not have the promise and the merit for wealth he would have received a different punishment, and now he is punished by not receiving the promised wealth. So he did, in some sense, receive the wealth, but afterwards he was punished and it was taken away. If he would not have had the merit for wealth, his not being wealthy would not be considered a punishment, and he would receive another punishment, and only because he deserves wealth is the lack of wealth considered a punishment.
"And so too can be said regarding the words of my father, master and teacher shlita, when a person has a merit through which, measure for measure, he will not become sick. If afterwards perhaps he deserves a punishment, he would become ill, Heaven forfend, if he did not have the merit that there should be no ill people in his home, and there would only be the punishment of the sickness itself. Now that there is the greater punishment in (also) losing the merit that there should be no ill people, and thus in the calculus of punishments he has gained (by one sickness fulfilling two punishments). My uncle Maran HaGaon R. Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita has already said that there are those who lose the merit afterwards, like the aforementioned Mishnah Berurah."
Here we have a contrived explanation as to how although your donation has totally earned your protection from coronavirus, as promised, you nevertheless can still receive coronavirus due to other sins that you have committed. But, look on the bright side - by also losing the merit for your donation, you thereby also received punishment for other sins, and thus without coronavirus and your donation, you would otherwise have received even more punishments! (Confused? You're not the only one. No wonder that Rav Chaim is still having daily minyanim in his home.)

And thus, says Rav Yitzchak, it's totally accurate for Rav Chaim to guarantee that donating to Kupat HaIr will save you from coronavirus. Because it will! Unless you have a sin. In which case you're still better off having a merit that can be traded against that sin's punishment.

So really, giving to Kupat HaIr is no different than having any other merit. And everyone has sins. And so giving to Kupat HaIr is actually no protection whatsoever against coronavirus. Except that it's heretical to say that! Rav Chaim said it is guaranteed to save you!

This is, of course, the perfect recipe for taking advantage of people with false promises. In fact, it's eerily like the description of the false prophets who brought about the corruption of the Jewish People and the Destruction of the Temple. They would make prophesies to people, and when the prophesies did not come true, they would contrive an explanation to account for it. There are countless people who are taken advantage of by such deceptions. And, of course, on a national level, it's essentially the same as the deception that the Torah study of charedi yeshivos (and nobody else!) brings critical protection from military threats.

It doesn't really make a difference if Rav Yitzchak is accurately reporting his father's position. Rav Yitzchak himself, as the son of Rav Chaim, is certainly part of the Daas Torah system, the system that is trumpeted as the Ultimate Authority by Mishpacha and Ami and Agudas Yisrael and ArtScroll. And here we have the system preying upon people's fear of corona to offer false promises of safety, with the threat of stigmatization and delegitimization if anyone questions these promises - despite the fact that the "saints" offering these promises are the very people whose badly mistaken promises caused the broad spread of coronavirus in the first place! אלה אלהיך ישראל.

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54 comments:

  1. Sounds like the Catholic church indulgences all over again.

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    1. It is no different. Indulgences pose two equally dangerous theological challenges. First, if you can purchase salvation then why bother being a good person, and second that salvation is only available to those who can afford it.

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    2. Very true. It's interesting to note that indulgences don't pose any further problems for Catholics more than Christianity already suffers from due to theological/philosophical issues such Christian particularism and the concept of atonement.
      For us however, it opens an unopened can of worms.

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    3. A personal note to Rav Chaim: Plz don't support Jesus's accusation: "You have turned my house into a den of thieves,” because your indulgences do just that.

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  2. Is there something in the Israeli legal system which would allow the government to force them to pull these ads as fraudulent? And can victims who donate and get sick sue for fraud and damages? Because that's how it should be.

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    1. The Israeli legal system is under constant assault by the collusion of this ferkakter government that contrives to ensure anti-zionist and annexationist parties remain in power to provide the PM with cover to retain power and ensure he never gets to trial - the only victims who would likely seek damages would never go to the 'gentile' courts

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    2. Lol, Meir Moses, why don't you tell us what you really think? You forgot to mention that Bibi eats babies for breakfast, maintains a secret slush fund in Norway to fund his dalliances in Tahiti, and has bad taste in shoes.

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    3. Not true, Unknown! His shoes are just fine.

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  3. I mean this question seriously - after the ruling the Rav Chaim made after Purim that Yeshivot should remain open and Torah Study would protect, and the disastrous results in almost every Charedi community in the world, do people in the Charedi world still take Rav Chaim's bracha and pskei halcha as seriously as they did 2 months ago, or are there elements within Charedi society that are now questioning whether it is possible that he was wrong 4 weeks ago, and maybe is not as flawless as previously thought.

    Has there been any change in the Charedi mindset at all? I would have thought that using Rav Chaim as an advertising gimmick would no longer be as effective as it was last month and organizations like Kupat hair would come up with some other marketing tool.

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    1. There were some articles in כיכר השבת and even an article in יתד נאמו criticizing in very general terms decisions in the Haredi world. The carnage in the Haredi world in the Northeast US has been staggering. Will there be repercussions. I very much doubt it.

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    2. I disagree. Repercussions aren't immediate. Rather, it will sow gradual seeds of mistrust in Charedi leadership which is how all revolutions start.

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  4. Turning the Torah and the sages into shovels with which to dig with. Oy Lanu Uledoraynu.

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  5. Keep up the good work. I wouldn't have heard of this otherwise, and although some might consider it lashon hara, I think it safely falls outside that realm by protecting people from what essentially amounts to a bad business decision, in that giving to this particular charity is coming with a promise that is unfulfillable.

    The fact that these promises and denials of reality came around pesach is particularly ironic. The mizrim were not punished for being wrong about their "gods" but rather, for refusing to accept the truth of HKBK when it was right in front of their faces. Had they let the jewish people go after Moshe demonstrated that the Jewish G-d was the true G-d, and the egyptian G-ds false, nothing would have happened to them.

    In the same vein, if Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is true, and we deny reality around us, in essence we are denying HKBK because we are unwilling to humble ourselves and see our own misjudgment of the situation.

    From a rationalist perspective, I love the pesach story particularly, as basically it boils down to "if you reject truth, the truth will still be there, and such rejection will inevitably lead to consequences". Pretending education doesn't matter, ignoring science, etc, leads to worse outcomes, and ultimately punishment for those who ignore it.

    I mean, if people really want to be sure they are following the letter of the law, why not just be extra machmir and give directly to an actual ani? There are plenty of people struggling to pay rent right now, posting on Facebook every day.

    What a mess, lol.

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    1. “ From a rationalist perspective, I love the pesach story particularly...”

      I love how everyone boils these stories down to support their own view of things. I recently heard Eric Weinstein saying something like “for thousands of years hews get together once a year to repeat the message that ‘when it’s time to leave don’t wait for the dough to rise’”. Lovely sentiment, but not something I ever heard as a kid growing up. Neither did I hear your particular retelling.

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  6. Can these charities give money to a poor guy so that he can give it back as a donation?

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  7. Good post, however I dont see how a clip of two people turning a corner is a proof of a minyan taking place. You may want to remove it on second thought.

    Yakov.

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  8. Just like Eliezer Berland.
    Will promise anything for money!

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  9. Maybe as a sign of ecumenicism these vaunted Ravs and Kevin Copeland, Jimmy Swaggert and Franklin Graham can do a joint Telethon.

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  10. Not for nothing, but there's a time and place for everything. The "he will not be sick" video went live last August. This whole Corona mess was a world away. Theyeshivaworld article posted on March 20, and the Kikar piece was posted on April 2. So far, the video was the only thing coming out from R' Kanievsky's mouth, and how was he or anyone to know a) that this virus would come out, and b) that it would be this severe? We aren't prophets the sons of prophets, and the whole world was different as of a month ago. FWIW most of the world took this situation lightly, and I'd argue that in Muslim countries they made even more light of it. Case in point: in Iran religious leaders got Corona first because they had "first rights' to shrines, where lots of kissing on walls and doorposts was exhibited. The above said, I think that these funding websites should be more sensitive to this and either suspend the sites for the time being, or make the message more balanced so it doesn't fool gullible people or offend the ones with a bit of intelligence. When money is the main motivation though, it's likely not going to happen.

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    1. At least the Iranians will win the Darwin award.

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    2. " So far, the video was the only thing coming out from R' Kanievsky's mouth, and how was he or anyone to know a) that this virus would come out, and b) that it would be this severe? We aren't prophets the sons of prophets, and the whole world was different as of a month ago."

      So, a donation protects the donor against "normal" sickness, but not against corona virus? That's like cardboard armor, that protects against imitation weapons, but not against real weapons.

      This is, really, the Jewish version of the Evangelical Christian "Send me money, and God will make you rich!" And it's just as shameful.

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  11. Once again, disastrous lachon hara which doesn't lead anyone anywhere, and that's the main problem. Your whole life is directed to criticize everyone rather helping people who need. The whole world is now immersed in a whole humanist and ben adam lahavero operation, and there are still people who are wasting their time to write and read (yes i confess, i also should not waste time to read) such pytifull posts).
    Do you really think that someone who is ready to Kupat hair based on that advertising will be reading your post?? So it doesn't fit AT ALL hafetz haim Lachon hara rules (maybe rambam's one, yes ... :) ) and only leads to hatred and zilzoul hatorah, since most people reading that blog will for sure be more lenient about halacha and previous generation poskim after reading at long such posts, who repeat themselves every week.

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    1. Don't like what you, you're free to go. Unless, of course, you enjoy the post.

      whether you agree or not, R. slifkin does post interesting content.

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    2. When things are done by Jews, which don't represent authentic Judaism, we can call those people out to protect ourselves from harm. If an orthodox rabbi says "you can eat pork these days", me calling him out is not lashon hara. You can't yell lashon hara at someone and hide under that veil. I bet you would be one of those people defending Shabbetai Zvi. "Anyone saying bad things about him is guilty of lashon hara". Give me a break with the lashon hara garbage. Too many crooks and charlatans use the "lashon hara" thing as "protection" from people calling them out.

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    3. Shabbetai Zvi life story is interesting.

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    4. We clearly see each one here is more ignorant than the other, you surely never opened Hafetz haim sefer, that's why you say so much rubbish, and make foolish comparison.

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    5. Again, if you see something you don't like, you don't have to be here. Unless, of course, you really do like what you see.

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  12. And just a minor point. There is no way in .. that Kanievsky will sign the certificates.

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  13. Natan, I'm glad you provide a platform for R' Chaim and the Chareidi ideology, as I otherwise wouldn't have necessarily heard these veiws.

    I would venture that the truth as always is somewhere in the middle. The Talmud does assert that charity saves from death. Which charity you give to perhaps determines whether it falls under the category of charity. So for example if one donated to the biblical museum, I don't think that would fall under the category of charity. Likewise if one gave to a legitimate charity who's administrators where known to pilfer the funds. Perhaps, that as well would determine it being called charity or not. Perhaps also, if recipients of the funds were unworthy of receiving funds, for example they should have been working perhaps this as well would determine the validity of the charity?

    However, now that no one is working certainly giving to those previously not working would now be considered legitimate.

    As to whether the two charities you mentioned fall under legitimate charities, I have no idea. Suppose they do use false or manipulative strategies to collect money, would that discredit the whole charity? I don't think so, but it would suggest that those charities are in serious need of oversight.

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  14. Is their rabbinic leadership a joke? This reminds me of the well-known Catholic method of exploitation called the sales of indulgences. Most Catholics today are unaware of this ancient practice, which was used as a monetary payment that supposedly absolved the sins of your deceased loved ones and could even spare them from purgatory in which they were subjected to spend millions of years! In short, the selling of indulgences kept G-d off your back. Today, we are doing the very same thing. Don't worry, they have themselves covered. If you still manage to contract the virus, it was due to your "other" sins. Who would had thought? At least they could have said the donation money was going to patient with coronavirus.

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  15. Is your criticism of rabbi chaim also a criticism of Mishnah berurah?

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  16. Funny how none of the other gedolim seem to get caught up in these things; it's always RCK.

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  17. So please come up and build your tseaka fund, try helping those who have nothing to eat, instead of wasting time publishing "beautifull" academics TEHORIES. Let's get in to the field of real Maasseh. Maybe then you will feel self satisfaction, and have less need to write pityfull articles, which place everyone in the ranks of those who have no place to Olam Haba (Rambam Hilchot Tshuva).

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  18. They made the whole thing a protection racket. Pay up and you will be OK...no pay, well bad things can happen. Hashem is the godfather and Daas Torah is the good fellows. To the others stating that certain groups are selling indulgences are telling the truth, but no one wants to listen.

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  19. These promises of RCK have nothing to do with Daas Torah as an ideology. Plenty of Sephardic sages promise these kinds of things on a routine basis. Putting Daas Torah in the title of this post is a cheap and cynical ploy.
    I hope your readers can see through that.

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  20. A question for Rabbi Slifkin: could you please clarify why you are bothered by Rav Chaim's statement (as explained by his son) but not the Mishna Berurah he quoted? Is it simply the circumstances in which Rav Chaim's statement was made or is there a more fundamental distinction?

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    1. The Mishnah Berurah is doing his best to try to explain a problematic Maamar Chazal. Rav Chaim chose to make his own problematic statement.

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    2. So would you agree then that fundamentally the logic is the same?

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    3. You use the phrase " problematic Maamar Chazal". At the least there is the tone issue that your opponents challenged you with.

      There are no problematic Maamar Chazals. Only Chazals we have failed to understand due to our limited perceptions.

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    4. You gotta be kidding. Virtually every single scientific pronouncement by Chazal is problematic in light of modern science. Or have you been sleeping the past 20 years?

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  21. Does anyone think this, the Kanievsky charity, is a deliberate scam?

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  22. These promises are evil, witchcraft...

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  23. My advice is that everyone of every stripe should avoid approaching Rav Kanievsky for any type of halachic question, given the life-endangering nonsense we have been hearing. If one wishes to go specifically to a haredi rabbi, then go elsewhere. I am not saying this to belittle Rav Kanievsky's previous accomplishments or stature as a gadol batorah. But, as of now he is being used and abused in a fashion which hurts the public. As a local rabbi told me "sometimes people do not know when to leave a gadol alone".

    Enough is enough. Let us not alend a hand to this horrible, dangerous charade.

    Kol hakavod to Rabbi Slifkin for his work on this.

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  24. Deep truth to the following:

    Those who 'fight' the daas Torah narrative, are the ones who deep down hold reservations about it's truth. Not fully, but on a subconscious level I think Natan is one of it's most ardent believers..... Dok v'dishkach.....
    Only someone so obsessed with this notion, would repeatedly post about it.

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  25. The "Daas Torah" of today can be summed up very simply. "Heads I win, Tails you lose" How Jews who are supposed to be so smart fell for what every 8 year old understands is what I don't get.

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  26. My rabbi sent me this well-written essay. I think you will enjoy it: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/not-us-not-you-not-anything/

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    1. Making excuses for Arabs their hatred for us and the parties they vote for is disgusting, he should be ashamed of himself

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    2. I don't agree with everything he says. I just shared it because my rabbi shared it with me and because it talks about the charedi response (or lack of response) to coronavirus. I have mixed feelings about the Arabs. Obviously they are good Arabs who love Jews and Israel. Unfortunately, a lot of them join militant Islamic groups, who wish the full eradication of the modern state of Israel. Unfortunately, more Arabs are bad than good. Hopefully, when Messiah comes that will change for the better.

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    3. @ Just Jewcin

      the article is anti-Balad. what excuses?

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  27. The Gemara (Berachos 4a) says that even explicit promises from Hashem can be abrogated by sin, saying that Yaakov was afraid of Eisav even though he had been promised success, "shema yigarem hachet," "Lest sin caused" otherwise.
    It's obvious that Rav Chaim's promises cannot be greater than Hashem's. So one doesn't need the Mishnah Berurah to figure out what's going on.

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    1. I'm no fan of fooling and manipulating people, but let's admit these are trying times and Jews in Israel need serious help. Let's donate even though the organizations' leadership is not behaving well.

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  28. Let's examine his another promise: "Everyone who votes UTJ party, will not catch coronavirus"
    http://actualic.co.il/%D7%92%D7%93%D7%95%D7%9C-%D7%94%D7%93%D7%95%D7%A8-%D7%9E%D7%91%D7%98%D7%99%D7%97-%D7%9E%D7%99-%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%A6%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A2-%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%94%D7%93%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%AA%D7%95%D7%A8/

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