Friday, April 3, 2020

Who Caused the Death by Daas Torah?

It's horrific. A top health official estimated that nearly 40 percent of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak - around seventy-five thousand people - have contracted coronavirus. Per capita, its infection numbers are four times higher than the next most infected city, Jerusalem. The government met last night to approve a full, military-enforced closure on Bnei Brak.

As I wrote in my post Understanding the Charedi Response to Coronavirus, there are several factors responsible for this, to which one can add the overcrowding of the city. But one significant factor is that Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Gershon Edelstein and other sources of "Daas Torah" told the yeshivos to stay open until just a few days ago, when they did an abrupt about-turn. Rav Chaim Kanievsky had infamously stated on March 12th that closing the yeshivos is more dangerous than coronavirus, since yeshivos actually protect against it.

It's a shocking thing for believers in Daas Torah to accept. It's not just that Torah turns out not to protect against coronavirus. It's that the mouthpieces of Torah, the living embodiments of Torah, the guiding lights of the community, gave utterly disastrous guidance, with fatal consequences. As I pointed out in my post "The Death Of Daas Torah," what is "Daas Torah" worth, when the average non-charedi, non ben-Torah, was correct, and Daas Torah was wrong, in a life-and-death matter?!

Unsurprisingly, my post made a number of people deeply uncomfortable. After all, it undermined their entire worldview. They attempted various counterarguments, which I would like to address here.

The first counterargument given is that it wasn't known to anyone at that stage that coronavirus was so dangerous. Yet this is simply false. True, it wasn't as scary as it later became, but at that point there were already countless cancelled events and municipalities petitioning for a national unity government in the face of a national emergency. And it's not as though he retracted it a few days later - when the entire national school system shut down, he still did not retract.

The second counterargument is that although others knew at that stage, Rav Chaim didn't, since he leads such a sheltered life, and so his response was understandable and legitimate. There are a number of responses to be made to this.

First is that he certainly knew it wasn't something utterly insignificant. He was being besieged by questions from important figures in the charedi world. And he didn't rescind it until long after the American Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah had already said that yeshivos should close.

Second is that not only did he know that it was a serious issue, he also knew (or certainly should have known) that it could potentially become even more serious. It is therefore grossly irresponsible to release a blanket statement, that it would be more dangerous to close the yeshivos, with no conditions in the statement, and no monitoring of the situation.

Third is that even if the extent of the danger of coronavirus was thought to be much less, his response was still wrong. No, yeshivah studies do not protect from any level of contagion. The nature of contagious diseases is that they are spread by crowded situations. Yeshivah studies do not - and did not - prevent the initial coronavirus scenario from developing into the much more serious situation that we have today; instead, they helped that to happen.

Finally, there are those people who, instead of commenting on whether this is true or not, say that it is Lashon Hara, that it is Wrong to talk about such things right now. To which I say, it is exactly at this time that there is an opportunity to get people to realize that they should be making sensible decisions with their lives in all areas and not abdicating responsibility to an utterly broken and lethal system of leadership.

It's important to keep in mind that all this is not necessarily Rav Chaim's personal responsibility. After all, he is very isolated, very old, and probably no longer entirely sound of mind. And he is certainly manipulated by his handlers, including his notorious grandson. But it's even more damning that the words of such an isolated and elderly figure, who is obviously constantly manipulated, could be taken so seriously! The fact is that his words had tremendous and terrible influence. It's an appalling demonstration of the utterly broken notion of authority that exists in the charedi world.

Who is responsible for the fact that the guidance of someone who was not fit to give guidance was taken so seriously? That's not Rav Chaim's fault. That's the fault of everyone who has promoted the status of Rav Chaim Kanievsky as being the "Sar HaTorah" and the "Gadol HaDor" whose guidance must be treated with great reverence.

Over a year ago, I wrote a post entitled "Mishpachah, Gedolim and Decisions." It's shocking to see how prescient were my concluding words: "There are countless people who make decisions that are, at best, ill-informed, and at worst, life-threatening, because they have been led to believe that Rav Chaim Kanievsky and others like him should be making the decisions for them. Anyone who contributes to the myth of his Daas Torah shares responsibility for that."

* * * * *

On a more positive note, this Chol HaMoed you can safely still have the traditional Chol HaMoed zoo experience - with Torah insights! Join the live online tours of the Biblical Museum of Natural History - see details at www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org/live

 

93 comments:

  1. This is concern trolling.

    People are dying. Not your people - the people your sect despises.

    It's despicable that your only response is a series of gleeful, exultant posts of a sectarian nature. It is breathtakingly immature. It shows what Rav Lichtenstein would have called a lack of da'as.

    If you've nothing useful to say (and don't you dare pretend this is actually a public health infomercial rather than rank sectarian carpetbagging at a moment of unprecedented destruction), how's about you don't say it, as we move towards the Omer period?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I disagree Mr Hat,

      This is not triumphalism. In the words of Stamford Hill Chareidi Blogger Ifyoutickleu, "This is the greatest failure of Chareidi leadership bar none since pre-WWII when Jews were told to remain in Europe. If the price we pay today isn't as high it's because coronavirus is kinder than our enemy in those days.

      I would add that this is worse. Rabbonim before WW2 only knew of sporadic killings. There was no Final Solution in 1939-40. Here infections were already speeding around the world and deaths were beginning to mount up as the faithful were being told that this was a disease for the Goyim. That a hair dryer could kill the vius (blow it down your throat - this was a Yosef Mizrachi special) or - as published in the London Jewish Tribune THIS WEEK, a tablespoon of garlic would do the trick. What next? Wooden stakes for the sufferers?

      There are many innocent victims here. The rabbinic leadership is not among them. Triumphalism? No. Grief. Exasperation. Fury. Resignation.

      Klal Yisrael needs a refuah sheleima, as does the world. What it doesnt need is a whitewash.

      Delete
    2. Yes. About a ban on your books from two decades ago. Get over yourself.

      Delete
    3. Typical. Plug your fingers in your ears and don't talk about it. Good luck with that plan.

      Delete
    4. The timing does appear to be quite in bad taste. Is there nothing our rationalist camp has to work on in these difficult times that all you can write about is how silly the chareidim are? I (used to) come here for inspiration from a rationalist perspective. I think you'd accomplish a lot more if you strove to come through on that end

      Delete
    5. The Hat should be renamed The Ostrich.

      Delete
    6. Mr. Hat -

      This is a typical Hareidi response: when your position is proven to be completely untenable through clear and convincing evidence and you can't possibly defend it even through twisted logic, just divert attention by attacking the speaker!

      Delete
    7. The real ostriches are those who think snide sectarianism is the answer while voting time and again for the politically expedient sacrifice of Charedi education. If you voted for the unholy Netanyahu - Lizman alliance, maybe take a look at yourselves. Kanievsky's power is derived from deliberate state neglect of the education of generations of children.

      I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about Charedi irresponsibility - I'm saying we should give a platform to the many voices of Charedi responsibility, and not irresponsibly push out unscientific guesstimates of 70,000 as fact with no acknowledgment of the uncertainty.

      Delete
    8. I clearly see an admonition to prevent future reliance on dangerous unsubstantiated advice by non-experts (like R' Kanievsky). I don't notice any gleeful exultation.

      Delete
    9. "People are dying. Not your people - the people your sect despises." Not his people? The people his "sect" despises? If he despises them, why would he write this article? Instead he could have simply said stay away from the despicable...

      Delete
    10. This is the third blog criticising the Charedi response to Coronavirus. The only other blog on the virus was a declaration of disbelief that the shutdown would last to Pesach. Maybe Da'ati Le'umi Anglo Jews (the choir this blog peaches to) should have a more coherent and comprehensive response than pointless, obsessive hatred?

      Delete
    11. It's a travesty that the beauty and strength of limud Torah so strong in the Charedi world are obscured and undermined by the one-answer-fits-all approach being pushed on the Charedi masses today. This current crisis of over-infection among the Charedi communities is due to (a) lack of information and (b) refusal to gather information when available - (b) should not be happening when the head of the MOH is Charedi himself. It doesn't matter how much "outsiders" do or don't say there is a problem - there is a problem. The only leave-us-alone answer I could hear today would go something like, "You are right this is a terrible crisis. But writing something like this now does nothing for us. We are working on solutions to further get the word out on how to limit exposure, but attacks on systemic issues won't get us anywhere at this time. That will have to be dealt with later."

      Delete
    12. "The real obstacles are those who think snide sectarianism..."
      Excuse me, people are dying because of a psak to continue life as usual - no matter who the "outsiders" are, and whether they are speaking lashon hara vs. trying to help - they didn't cause a problem here.

      "we should give a platform to the many voices of Charedi responsibility..."
      That "we" is an internal, Charedi "we" - the best an outsider can do is point out the voices that they do hear from the outside, which are irresponsible.

      "unscientific guesstimates of 70,000...."
      Agreed - the US is also putting out some crazy guesstimate of projected deaths, these are all based on certain models that we hope in reality won't be. BUT DON"T POINT TO THE 70k TO HIDE THE FACT THAT BNEI BRAK HAS THE HIGHEST SICKNESS RATE IN THE COUNTRY. This is a frightening and serious issue, that needs to be addressed, not debated by shooting down scientific models.

      Delete
    13. "admonishment" - like there's a shortage of Charedi voices who are trying to save lives. They are being held back by by making this a sectarian rather than humanitarian issue. Bnei Beraq residents can't read English. it's not credible that this is anything other than, if not gloating, then mindlessly furious ranting.

      Delete
    14. No Miriam, people are dying because of the pandemic spread of novel Coronavirus. That is the single most salient cause, by far. Even if everyone in Israel wore chinos, sandals and a kippa srugga, and sang Halell with a brocha on Yom ha'atzmaut twice over, this would be a desperately sad and deadly situation. Don't succumb to unseemly and unwarranted anger and finger pointing.

      Yes Charedim could and should do far more by cutting out communal prayer and gatherings. The only route to compliance is with and through their societies, not imposed from the outside by scorn or police action. The problem is respectively too deep and too widespread.

      Putting up Yiddish and Rabbinic Hebrew language posters with pictures of Charedi coffins may change behaviours. I think we need to carefully consider whether more lives would be saved in parts of NYC ,Israel and parts of New Jersey permitting regulated outdoor minyanim with 2 metre intervals marked and masks provided them the current situation where people pack into private homes. Stopping chareidim davenning may be as futile as the abstinence strategy to sexually transmitted diseases.

      Delete
  2. This is the heart of the matter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? Nothing else at the heart of Covid 19 other than Chareidim? It's an instinct to lash out and blame someone for what is materially a force majeure.

      Delete
  3. Bravo. This is exactly the situation.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You missed the big one. If Torah study really gives him insight into such matters then how did he not know and understand the severity of the situation.

    Because it's obvious and it's always been obvious. Gemara study makes you good at gemara and at nothing else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, just off the top of my head, I can think of stories of the Noda B'Yehudah or Rav Shmuel Salant that illustrate incisive reasoning that they displayed in a דין תורה. The Torah also gives (or should give) insight into human nature. I don't think it's foolish to consult a rabbi for advice in shalom bayis, or how to control urges, or to have a better self-image.

      But the problem is that people have come to idolize Rav Chaim Kanievsky as a sort of prophet. Like the post that Rabbi Slifkin provided about the time Rav Chaim Kanievsky made a berachah on a "king", who was nothing more than a charlatan. He believed what his secretaries told him--that this guy was a king of some African tribe or nation.

      Torah knowledge alone doesn't endow a person with the power of prophecy.

      Delete
  5. And yet the official death count in Israel stands at 36. Is this accurate? If so how come with 75,000 infections in one city (your number) the death rate is so low?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes a while for the infections to kill people.

      Delete
    2. Lol! Natan what a stupid and dumb response. I was about to point out that very same point. Almost zero chareidim have died from this virus B'H.

      Delete
    3. @yoni2 what do you mean "your number"? Rabbi DR. Slifkin posted a link to the times of Israel.

      @David maybe zero chareidim in Israel have died so far, but in America there have been many many deaths (including many Rabbis). A week or two ago people in America were saying the same thing. Frum people weren't yet dying and medical care was available for everyone that needed it.

      Delete
    4. David,
      You're kidding right?

      Delete
    5. The reality is the 95 percent certainty range in the number of infected people in B'nei Beraq covers three orders of magnitude. Nobody really knows. It can't be more than the number of residents, and it can't be much less than the number who have tested positive.

      Delete
    6. You can B"H all you want. Wait a month and see what's happening. If the death toll among Haredim is disproportionately low (which it won't be), we can all celebrate G-d's hashgaha pratis for true students of Torah. But don't count on it. Grisly times await because of stupidity.

      Delete
    7. You know when you notice someone has bad breath? That's the situation that is likely to be a transmission. It is sadly more contagious than anything we've seen in our lifetimes.

      Delete
    8. @RDNS I get that, but the numbers still don’t add up. Nowhere else has seen anywhere near 50% infection rate with such few deaths, and the bnei brak situation did not start yesterday or last week. I’m genuinely not suggesting an answer, the Israel numbers in general are suspicious to me but then so are many of the numbers and facts about this virus.

      @David - I never said no charedim. I personally know a few already. Just the israel / bnei brak numbers.

      @Unknown “your number” as in not a number I made up.

      @anonymous - “more contagious than anything we’ve seen in our lifetime”? I presume you mean new diseases otherwise you really should google measles. Either way it’s not the contagion alone that’s worrying it’s the combination of contagion and mortality rates, however this is still unknown. I personally suspect that when all is said and done many mutations we have seen in our lifetime and pretty much not noticed will outweigh but I may be wrong. We’ll see. (I believe the infection rate to date is way higher than anything almost anyone has talked about, into high double digits percentage in most countries hence actual mortality rate is tiny. But admittedly this is based on a combination of speculation and very sporadic armchair diagnoses of a non randomised sample of people I happened to talk to about it). Until an effective antibody test is produced I definitely agree that the better safe than sorry route is the one to take.

      Delete
    9. Rabbi Slifkin said:
      "It takes a while for infections to kill people."
      Riiight, And you rush to condemn Daas Torah for being wrong in a life-and death situation--before any mass deaths were reported in Bnei Brak because...?
      Yoni2 and David are right. This post is entirely premature.
      You can't declare Daas Torah was mistaken in a life-and-death matter until this whole thing has blown over. Then we can compare death rates in Bnei Brak vis-a-vis other cities which followed all the precautions and see if Rav Kanievsky's directives actually cost additional lives.

      Delete
    10. @the fedora
      Please don’t put words into my mouth. I didn’t comment directly on the prematurity or otherwise of the post. I withhold judgment on that.

      To be clear, whether the extra deaths do or don’t come (and I of course hope and pray they don’t) I believe the not closing the shuls and school’s earlier was a big mistake. The fact is that not enough was known at that point to *not* close them. If by luck mortality rates are just far lower than was feared or if the same but due to good hospital care etc that does not retrospectively mean that not closing the schools was a good idea, it means it was a lucky escape. As I said above, better safe than sorry. There was a realistic scientific case for huge numbers of deaths based on the data available at the time. This needed to be heeded. Had R’ Chaim written a teshuva including a cogent argument based on the data and an understanding of virus epidemics that the death rate was unlikely to be effected by closing the institutions (or better, quoting such an opinion by someone qualified to give it) then that could have been a valid reason not to close them. The system is broke (although I have no doubt it will continue to bumble on for quite a while yet and whatever takes over from it will do so slowly and claiming that nothing has changed).

      Delete
    11. The fact remains that Rabbi SLifkin staked his claim of the failure of Daas Torah on the presumption that it has cost people's actual lives. Look at the title of this post!

      Rabbi Slifkin and his chareidi bashing ilk are in the most unenviable position. In order to confirm this alleged utter failure of Daas Torah, they require disproportionate deaths in Chareidi neighborhoods in Israel. Rabbi Slifkin is EFFECTIVELY rooting for Jews to die.
      If these many deaths don't materialize and Daas Torah will vindicate itself (at least in the eyes of CHareidim), Rabbi SLifkin will completely lose face and be sorely disappointed.

      Can you imagine a more soul-sucking hatred for Chareidim than this? I have no words to describe my disgust for this type of sinas Yisroel.

      Sure he will claim he harbors no such eagerness for Jews to die. But seeing Rabbi Slifkin's deep malice and obsessive denigration of Chareidim and their leadership on this blog--going on for over TEN YEARS now-- those word will be completely hollow. It is absolutely ghoulishly evil to put yourself in a position when you have much to gain on a personal level from many Chareidim dying and seeing Daas Torah receive a spectacular blow.

      Delete
    12. So people who rail against so-called "Peace Deals" with the Palestinians are effectively rooting for Jews to be killed, in order to be vindicated?!

      Delete
    13. Dovid, as Yoni2 pointed out above, it doesn't make a difference if there is some miracle and charedim don't die. The point is that the "psak" was terrible. Do you think otherwise?!

      Delete
    14. Imagine if Dovid Kornreich was in Germany in 1938:
      Chassidishe Rebbe: Jews, stay here, don't go to America!
      Rationalist Rabbi: The Chassidishe Rebbe is wrong! His advice will lead to countless Jewish deaths!
      Rabbi Kornreich: It's ghoulishly evil, the Rationalist Rabbi is rooting for Jews to die!

      Delete
    15. @DK (or is it RDK?)

      That really is quite a bizarre take! So anyone who ever predicts that a certain action or policy taken will lead to death is now "effectively rooting" for them to die?

      The point remains that the high infection rate is already more than enough to show that the policy taken in charedi areas was wrong. Blame it on daas torah or on some other issue, ultimately the shools and chedarim should have been shut earlier and fewer would now be ill. I really am very happy that the Israeli death figures have been so low and have zero desire (effective or otherwise!) to see them climb. I am merely very curious as to why they are in fact so low when we haven't seen this elsewhere.

      By the way the death numbers in charedi areas outside of England are not as rosy. Here in the UK there have been dozens of charedi (and jewish in general) deaths from this with a jewish community that is a tiny fraction of the size of that in Israel. In fact a couple of weeks ago there was an article that 5% of UK deaths to that point were Jewish (with only 0.3% of the population being jewish): https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Jews-make-up-5-percent-of-coronavirus-deaths-in-the-UK-622385

      Delete
    16. It's one thing to warn that people might die if they followed Daas Torah, and the ideology might then prove to be disastrous to follow. Then at least there is nothing really at stake if nobody dies. People make mistaken predictions all the time based on the probable factors.
      But Rabbi Slifkin has ALREADY proclaimed the death of Daas Torah. He has already triumphantly declared it is worthless to follow because of the lives it has cost.
      That's no longer a dire warning or a prediction--it is a declaration of the complete rectitude his views.

      If it turns out that mass Chareidi death in Israel will not result from Daas Torah instructions, he will deservedly have egg all over his face.
      So of course he is EFFECTIVELY rooting for Jews to die simply to save face!
      (And let's see if Rabbi Slifkin has the "bravery" to comment in his own name.)

      Delete
    17. Right now the Maayanei Hayeshua hospital in Bnei Brak announced that they are so overloaded with coronavirus patients that they can't accept any more.

      Delete
    18. @yonifan

      What can I say. I’m blushing!

      Delete
    19. @RDK
      “ So of course he is EFFECTIVELY rooting for Jews to die simply to save face!”

      Um no, that simply does not follow. Maybe (just maybe) he’d rather have some egg on his face than a dozen or so people dead. I would. Happily. (Not that the logic up until there is exactly robust, but that’s a pretty clear bit of poor reasoning right there).

      Secondly it already *has* cost many lives. I fail to see how the location of those lives makes a difference.

      Also, for someone who spent - i don’t know how many years - writing a blog dedicated to sniping him it’s a bit rich to come out with “let’s se if he has the bravery” to respond.

      Ps, I think you once called me RNS’ “lackey”. While in general I reject the accusation (it’s really too absurd for words, RNS’ views and mine diverge about as far as yours and his do!), in this case I’m happy to accept the unofficial title.

      Delete
  6. Rabbi Natan, you are a brave man, speaking truth to power...yashar koach.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Preaching to the choir more like. What risk exactly is Rabbi Slifkin taking?

      Delete
    2. Agreed. Judaism requires obedience in order to keep the yetzer harah at bay but there are exceptions. I think Hashem agrees that this is life vs. death situation. Of course we need our leaders to get it done for us in such situations.

      Delete
    3. Yes he is brave. And as seen from the comments, he is not "speaking to the choir" as someone commented. Thanks Rav Natan for stating and explaining what others are too afraid, or unwilling for whatever reason, to say.

      Delete
    4. Bravery?? ROTFL!!
      Unknown's ridiculous comment shows how pathetically adoring and coddling Rabbi Slifkin's fans are of him.
      Attacking Rav Kanievsky's position on this was such low hanging fruit for any mediocre critic to jump on. But I'm sure Rabbi Slifkin is gonna milk this one for years to come.

      Delete
  7. Think about R'Akiva who kept teaching people Torah even when it was mortal danger. With regard to current events, the isolation will not change the fact that the pandemic will not end until most of population will contract the virus- it can only flatten the curve. So, the options basically are get virus while sitting home and doing nothing vs. praying in minyan and learning Torah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How can you conmpare the two??

      1)At the time, Rabbi Akiva was grappling with Torah being forgotten from Judaism. Here we just need to wait it out for a few months
      2)During Rabbi Akivas time there were no seforim written down and the average person probably didnt even have a chumash (sefer torah). Today everyone can still continue learning with seforim or even directly with their rabbi via zoom.
      3)Please do a bit more research and understand why we need to flatten the curve (I'll give you a hint. It involves not overwhelming our healthcare system).

      Delete
    2. This is the same R. Akiva that anointed Bar Kochba moshiach and facilitated the expulsion of the Jews?

      Delete
    3. Also, R Akiva put *himself* in mortal danger - it was a capital crime to TEACH Torah. Rabbi Akiva, who lost 24,000 students to a magefah, in all likelihood would have been aghast at continuation of gatherings during this time.

      Delete
    4. Rabbi Akiva, who was convinced that Bar Kokhba was the messiah did lose 24,000 students. The Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 62b, says differently, that, “Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of disciples,... and all of them died during the same time because they didn’t treat each other with respect.” A plague? Perhaps.

      Interestingly, this was not due to his support of Bar Kokhba. Rather, they died because they did not respect one another. But Bar Kokhba lost the war and thousands of his soldiers died. This is the meaning of the deaths of twelve or twenty-four thousand students. This occurred because some Jews told the Romans about small breaches in their fortifications. Interestingly, most of the time a city surrendered not because of siege warfare but rather it was a traitor who opened the gates of the city to the Romans. This is hinted in the words “because they differed with each other” and “because they didn’t treat each other with respect.” Then a plague might have killed the rest of R. Akiva's students and soldiers. The plague ceased when it reached the semi-holiday of Lag B’omer.

      Delete
  8. This is easy to say retroactively! (while 0 were dead in Israel it was easy to make such Daas Torah)
    If you don't listen to people who see the world with utmost clarity but are sometimes misinformed by others, who will you go to when you have questions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who does every non-charedi go to when they have questions? If it's not a matter of particular expertise, they grow up and make decisions on their own.

      Delete
    2. Then explain to me please the phenomenon that is Bibi Netanyahu? Sociological needs for a leader figure are not the exclusive domain of any group in society. We have far more in common then that which divides us.

      Delete
  9. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    And that post did not even touch on the dubious Tzedaka collections which his handlers practice to perfection, reportedly lining their pockets with astronomical sums.

    ReplyDelete
  10. What I took away was I told you so. The truth is that some people believe that the Torah protect them no matter what, when in fact that same Torah tells them life is more important than just about anything else. Many here in the USA didn't and are still not taking this seriously. It is easy to judge a quarterbacks decision on Monday. What I'm trying to say is we can point fingers today, but there's a judge and he didn't appoint you or me. I hope everybody is judged a little bit of mercy. What's important now is that we all get through this together. Will be plenty of time to point fingers. Let's just hope we don't have to pay for it with too much blood.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Fantastic and accurate analysis. Bravo Rabbi Slifkin!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I saw the video in which Rabbi Kanievesky was asked whether the cheiderim should close because the government says it is a "sakanah."
    Did he ask what the sakanah was? He did not.
    Did he ask whether people were dying? He did not.
    Did he ask how closing cheiderim will help prevent the sakanah? He did not.
    Did he ask what doctors are saying? He did not.
    He just said that the cheiderim should not close. Full stop.
    In a life and death matter, he did not ask the most basic questions. Without knowledge of the facts, without even bothering to ask, he immediately issued a quick psak.
    No doubt his followers will say that this itself is proof of his greatness. But then he changed his mind a few weeks later. How do they explain that?
    [PS I heard a rather ingenious explanation for his switch, which would be funny were it not so misguided. Somehow, when Rabbi K. issued his first psak, he knew that no one in Israel had died. Only goyim had succumbed. Rabbi K. believes that goyim are physically different from Jews (e.g. they have a different number of teeth). Therefore, that first psak was legit. It was only after Jews began to die that he changed his mind.]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This outrageous, racist notion that Jews are biologically superior to non-Jews can be traced to Yehuda Halevi’s Kuzari.

      Delete
    2. I am a dentist, for more than 30 years BH. I can state that Jews and non-Jews have the same number of teeth. They do not differ in that regard.

      Delete
    3. Yehudah Halevi's Kuzari? How so?

      Delete
    4. I heard a rather ingenious explanation for his switch...
      Don't listen fake news let lone spread them.

      Delete
    5. Because Yehuda Halevi held that Jews are biologically superior to non-Jews.

      Delete
    6. Biologically superior? Where does RYH say that?

      Delete
  13. Did r’ Chaim’s psak only apply to yeshivos in bnei Brak? Why aren’t other charedi cities as hard hit?

    ReplyDelete
  14. The journal Tzarich Iyun, dedicated to assessing haredi life from within, has an important essay on this. And Rav Michael Avraham has a YouTube video and a column.

    https://iyun.org.il/article/haredi-rabbis-stance-on-corona/dealing-with-the-corona-crisis/

    https://youtu.be/H8K4Jf7o4sI

    ReplyDelete
  15. The Israeli Government and the Heredi Leaders allowed this, while selling out the simple stam Jew on the street. SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT DOWN COMPLETELY! GAME OVER.

    ReplyDelete
  16. What if the rabbi is right? What if it is more dangerous to close the yeshivas to avoid infection than it is to have mass infection with a few more days of yeshiva? What that means is the people would morally decline as a result of the yeshiva being closed. Learning at home, using phones, using internet zoom, is worse than the mass infection, imagine that. So it means the people associated with the yeshiva are already very morally fragile, on the verge of apicorsis, etc. If that is the case, then Hashem has sent a brutal punishment targeting the yeshivas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What if all minority arguments were right? What if there really are UFOs, Elders of Zion, and members of the Skull and Bones society running the world?

      If staying at home and using a phone and internet chats for learning is dangerous to the yeshivish world, then perhaps what we are being taught is that the yeshivish world needs to train its youth better.

      If a sect feels that mass infection - killing older people, learned rabbis and wise rebbetzins included, babies, and random people in between - is preferable to closing the Beis Medrash, then we are describing a sect that is looking for extra seats in that Beis Medrash for next Rosh Hashanah. Then we are looking at a sect that values adherence over life. I don't think, when push comes to shove, the yeshivish world actually identifies that way. V'ha ra'aya: they DID close when it was made clear to them. (Not detracting from R' Slifkin's point.)

      We live in a world of reality. We get on airplanes because invisible physics makes the wings rise. We take medicine because studies have shown it works. We do not walk in the middle of the street during rush hour and expect to be fine, we are careful with fire, and we don't stick paperclips into electric outlets. Sure, we can* believe that there is a spiritual reality also (kosher food means something, this day is special, having the tefillin knot just so makes it OK), one that may be perplexing to those not trained about it, but it should not so grievously contradict the physical one.

      [*I say CAN believe as this might not be a rationalist direction, but it seems to fit with Gavriel's hypothesis.]

      Delete
  17. What happened to the Charedi community is not the fault of the rabbinic leadership, nor can we really blame their democracy of electing [older but wiser] leaders. The real problems are inherent in their belief systems (a conversation preferably avoided by most). It might be what we refer to today as superstition. We can apply the same to Iranians who kiss shrines with coronavirus because they wrongly believe that G-d will protect them since they are kissing the Qur'an. Does G-d not help his loyal subjects? Because superstitious people (mostly charedi in Jewish circles) feel that the Torah, or Yeshivah studies, protects and prevents them from contacting coronavirus, they said: "closing the yeshivos is more dangerous than coronavirus." This is not true. People should not sit back passively awaiting G-d to cloth the sick. G-d will not amend the laws of nature for any sake, no matter how passionately one requests G-d to alter nature. Natural law is fixed and needs no change. The Encyclopedia Talmudit (talmudic encyclopedia); Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:4, based on Deuteronomy 6:16, says, “You should not try the L-rd your G-d,” meaning do not rely on miracles.

    The superstitious belief, that G-d aids people, spread from the mistaken belief that G-d is constantly involved in human affairs. Maimonides, who felt that G-d is transcendent, felt that when "a certain leaf falls [from a tree] or when a certain spider catches a certain fly" it was due to chance, "as taught by Aristotle." Thus, a scratch on your car is not meaningful and leaves falling in general is G-d's plan. People get sick from improper eating habits, not because G-d made them ill (Guide, 3:17-18). Rambam writes that G-d does not cause evil, G-d only does good. The law of nature is, as the Bible says, "Very good." Thus, most evil is self-inflicting, when, for example, people harm others (second cause). The world is like a whirlwind (Job), the world functions according to the laws of nature.

    Thus, the rationalist said that there is no proof that G-d helps people, other than the biblical stories which themselves should be understood mostly as allegories, emphasizing the idea that people should help themselves. For example, where was G-d when the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the diaspora, hurricane Katrina, or when millions of Jews died at the hands of Hitler in the holocaust? The Hungarian scholar Orthodox Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits answered this well. He said that during the Holocaust G-d “hid his face,” hester panim, because G-d wants humans to use their free will even in harmful situations. For example, when G-d says that He will “conceal My face,” it means that the Israelites will use their free will according to G-d’s law of nature. For example, G-d did not harden the hearts of Pharaoh, it was Pharaoh using his own free will (Guide, 2:48). Thus, “concealing Himself” denotes something the Israelites, not G-d, will do.

    R. Eliezer felt that the answer “because of our sins,” was not satisfactory anymore, writing that G-d is only seemingly indifferent because G-d wants people to use their free will. If G-d were clearly present people would not activate their free will, and hence, undimmed the very purpose of free will. “G-d’s silence” allows humanity to play an active role in history; G-d does not move history forward, “history is man’s responsibility.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So do you daven at all?

      Delete
  18. Devarim 30:19
    This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live

    ReplyDelete
  19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHi-sf1LE0Q&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3nbuWf9ZZJBdvf3DekiAZZ2Ce4I80E-i2v6u3tZofroJinXcdNS75qGD8

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An absolutely terrifying video.
      (One comment: At 4:27 of the video, it shows R. Yosef Neiman, who was killed in Monsey by the nutjob with a machete--not connected with COVID-19.)
      But, otherwise, a terrifying video.

      Delete
  20. Talking to us outsiders about this bad advice of the rabbis does nothing to help save those people from continued harm. Are you conducting any campaign inside this community to educate and to help protect them? That would be a better use of your time and talents.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Completely disagree with the article. Daas Torah was right but there are many reasons it responded the way it did none of which are in the articles. 1) our leaders responded the same way in other plagues giving us a mesorah. 2) many Jews have risked and even given their lives to daven with minyan and to learn torah and those that died did so Al Kiddush hashem. Three many believe moshaich is at the door step and surely now is not to the time to stop learning or storming he heavens. Four sometimes when you pray the answer is no.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except that your model makes Hashem look, chas ve'shalom, like an Aztec god demanding human sacrifices.

      Delete
    2. Now is not the time to stop following the halacha. If the halacha is not to learn and not to daven with a minyan, then those who do so anyway are ovdei avodah zarah. If they die, it's al chilul Hashem, and if they cause others to die they're murderers.

      Delete
  22. This post is predicated on the notion that government action must be right (and therefore, any advice that goes against it must perforce be wrong.) Thus, in the 90s, when the Israeli government was arming Arabs and giving away land, and in the 2000s when the Israeli govt was giving away Aza to be used as a rocket launchpad - those who opposed it, Rabbis or otherwise, were obviously wrong. Intresante...

    Leave aside daas torah (which I don't believe in myself) - has it not occurred to you, RNS, that the government response might NOT be the right course of action? You're not aware of countless books showing, in retrospect, that govt actions were ill-advised and counter-productive? Come on. We have no idea how this will end up, nor will we realize the full after-effects of stopping society in its tracks for at least another year or two.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why are you still going on this way? Even if the strategy of flattening the curve through shutting down the economy is completely wrong and the economic damage outweighs the lives saved, it is still the case (indeed even more so) that all forms of social isolation that don't harm the economy should be employed. Instructing kollel yungermen and yeshiva bochurim to stay home, closing men's mikvehs and banning minyanim was the most no-brainer decision in the history of decisions and they flubbed it.

      But, as you say, wait and see. It is entirely possible that 4 months from now there will be a safe and effective treatment. Even if not, by then we should have enough masks and it is not impossible that the hot weather will help out until a vaccine is ready. If so, those communities that let the virus run loose will, rightly, look upon their leaders with hatred.

      Delete
    2. To Gavriel M - I don't agree that social isolation that doesn't harm the economy (as you phrase it) is necessarily the right thing, I don't even know if its possible to isolate such moves from economy-harming moves as though they were distinct, and I certainly don't think anything in this crisis is a no-brainer. The news coming out of Israel of gestapo tactics to terrorize people into house arrest further solidifies my doubts. However, having said as much - my point above was chiefly directed at RNS's assumption that the overall strategy is correct, and not on the small subset of the strategy that pertains to our orthodox Jewish community.

      Delete
    3. I don't even know if its possible to isolate such moves from economy-harming moves as though they were distinct

      I'll give you some examples where it is not only possible but easy: kollels, yeshivot, minyanim, mikvehs. Done. Some things are complicated, some things are not.

      So where you are wrong you are very, very wrong. But where you are right you are not nearly right enough. It is not an open question whether western democracies are doing the right thing, we know for absolute sure they are doing the wrong thing. They are simultaneously destroying their economies and failing to stop the disease from running loose. They suck.

      We know it is perfectly possible to contain this epidemic without destroying the economy because South Korea and Taiwan are doing it right now as I type. Israel is a partial exception to the western story of catastrophic failure (thanks to being on a permanent war footing against the Arabs) but it's look like we're not enough of an exception. This isn't an excuse for what the Charedim did; if we screw this up it's them who pushed us over the line.

      Delete
  23. "A top health official estimated that nearly 40 percent of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak - around seventy-five thousand people - have contracted coronavirus": no, this estimation is completely wrong
    https://www.ch10.co.il/news/584455/

    ReplyDelete
  24. @Rabbi Slifkin, how could you not bring up the possible defense based on the Gemara in Gitten on 56b, where the Gemara itself asserts that the leader of the Jewish community at the time (Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai) was divinely misled at a critical moment of an ongoing crisis, in order to achieve some part of an inscrutable divine plan, based on a pasuk in Yeshayahu (44:25)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're overstating it. The Gemara (actually it was an individual, either R. Yosef of R. Akiva) said R. Yochanan Ben Zakai should have asked Vespasian to spare Jerusalem, but it also says RYBZ felt such a request would not be granted.

      Delete
    2. No, I don't believe I am. While it was stated by an individual, it is clearly the Gemara's conclusive assessment, as anyone familiar with the Bavli can tell you.

      Moreover, you are incorrect - the Gemara only offers a justification for RYBZ in the second instance when it invokes this pasuk; but earlier on the amud, when it first invoked this idea, no rejoinder whatsoever is proffered.

      Again, Rabbi Slifkin, what do you make of this Gemara? I'm genuinely curious how to try and disprove this sort of argument...

      Delete
    3. Actually, you are. And I'm "familiar with the Bavli", thank you. The statement earlier on the amud was from the same individual, in the same agadah, and adds nothing. And you don't divine entire "inscrutable divine plans" from Agadah unless you're Satmar, in which case you have other problems.

      Delete
    4. I'm sorry if you took the "anyone familiar" line as a dig; I merely meant it as a point that experience shows that this is how these type of lines are to be interpreted.

      Regarding the earlier statement - of course it adds! Why does it matter that it is the same individual? The point I was making is that there, the Gemara offers no response in defense of RYBZ, and therefore, clearly, the point of this individual was well-taken! It adds quite a lot, therefore.


      Moreover, regarding your line of argument in general: if it is an individual voicing his opinion, surely it is worthy of consideration, even if you argued (in my opinion, incorrectly) that this isn't the Gemara's conclusive view! In addition, and more importantly, the Gemara does not reject this line of thinking on philosophical or theological grounds; rather, it (in the second instance, I remind you) only offers a counter-perspective in defense of RYBZ. But fundamentally, the line of reasoning is accepted by ALL opinions in ALL stages of the Gemara!

      Accordingly, I think my points are still as cogent as they were before your comments. Thank you for your thoughts.

      As for your last paragraph, I am a rationalist, which is why I am commenting here. I'm curious as to how Rabbi Slifkin would respond to this type of argument, since I respect his opinion.

      Your last line appears to mix too many invalid arguments together (are you attacking this because its source is Aggadic? Where else should we derive Hashkafic insight from? Are you attacking it because it suggests that there are inscrutable divine plans? If you are a believing Jew, you believe that God's plans are ultimately inscrutable...) and I will therefore ignore it.

      I'm done responding, unless it is to Rabbi Slifkin. Thanks again for the attempt to downplay the significance of someone who subscribes to Daas Torah mustering this Gemara as a defense of Rav Chaim, but I don't think you've helped.

      Delete
  25. Apology accepted. Mishlei 15:1

    You're making too much of one line of Agaddah. Let it go.

    Good Yom Tov.

    ReplyDelete
  26. This estimated number is an outrageous, anti-religious accusation. I graduated in Math, have PhD in Physics, and it is a largely exaggerated number, that has nothing to do with reality, and has very clear political motives. I am very upset that Rabbi Slifkin is using this as a means to attack chareidi society, while ignoring the fact in the eyes of these people, the authors of this research, you are just as much a "religious enemy" as chareidi city Bnei Brak.

    Now it is almost 2 weeks (incubation time) and current numbers do not even come close. They also updated the Times of Israel article, essentialy they admit that it was a lie. But I wonder: why people do not speak so much about it?

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/health-official-says-75000-bnei-brak-residents-likely-have-coronavirus/

    Very, very sad that some people just love to attack the religious, whenever there is an opportunity. Instead of being proud that we have brothers who are so much committed to serve Hashem. Yeshaya 66:5 says: שמעו דבר ה', החרדים אל דברו: אמרו אחיכם שנאיכם.

    ReplyDelete

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.

Building Noah's Ark

The Biblical Museum of Natural History focuses on the identities and symbolism of the animals of the Bible. As such, the story of Noah'...