Thursday, September 3, 2020

"How Dare He?!" How Dare You!

A number of people asked me to comment on the recent headline about Rav Chaim Kanievsky instructing yeshivah students not to be tested for Covid-19, so as to avoid having to go into isolation if they test positive. I wasn't interested in writing about this; I've already written several posts about how his claim that yeshivah study protects against coronavirus was wrong, dangerous, and led to sickness and death. And I also wrote about how the whole thing is a farce anyway, since Rav Chaim, notwithstanding his unmatched dedication to Torah, is old, cloistered, cognitively impaired, and completely manipulated by his devious family.

But the latest developments contain something new - not about Rav Chaim, but about prominent people in the charedi community. Professor Roni Gamzu, Israel's "coronavirus czar," naturally and correctly criticized Rav Chaim's directive as endangering the public. In response, the chareidi politicians and press were in uproar. How dare he criticize Rav Chaim?!

MK Meir Porush condemned Gamzu for his audacity in speaking out against the leadership of the chareidi community. The Israel edition of Yated Neeman had its headline story about rabbis protesting Gamzu's disgraceful criticism of the Sar HaTorah. "Dust in his mouth!" declared the HaMevaser newspaper.

The utter perversion of Torah here, on so many levels, is truly shocking. Beyond the problem with trying to avoid isolating contagious people, and the resultant sickness and death and economic hardship, and beyond the fact that the charedi community has a disproportionately high rate of infection, the idea that nobody is allowed to disagree with Rav Chaim's decision is completely absurd and has absolutely no basis in traditional Judaism. Since when is everyone obligated to defer to one particular rabbi, who was not appointed by any formal process?! 

And, of course, even more outrageous is that it's not even as though this is a proper decision by Rav Chaim. He is completely out of touch with reality and it's his disgusting grandson Yanky, the most powerful man in the charedi Litvishe world, who is pulling the strings. This is a system of leadership that charedi MKs and newspapers demand that everyone respects?!

I'm particularly angry about this because my own city of Beit Shemesh is facing imminent lockdown due to the high rate of Covid-19 cases - primarily due to yeshivos. And so aside from the sickness and death, there is also the economic harm. And then, of course, the charedi community will be even more desperate in begging the non-charedi community to support it financially - despite the fact that it is the charedi community which is a primary cause not only of its own poverty, but also of the economic harm to everyone else, as a result of the system of "Torah leadership" which they support. 

How dare they!


A Mishpacha article claims that Rav Chaim's position was taken out of context, and that he was only referring to students who had already finished a quarantine period. Whether or not this is actually true is impossible to know; the system of rabbinic authority in the charedi world is so unprofessional and broken that it's impossible to ever be sure what Daas Torah actually says. It is also not particularly relevant to the question of Rav Chaim's general approach to coronavirus (since he is already on video as saying that one should ignore Health Ministry recommendations and not interrupt yeshiva studies). And it is certainly not relevant to the point of this post, which is not about Rav Chaim, but rather about how the charedi community reacts to criticism of Rav Chaim. In fact, the Mishpacha article supports my point, as I shall now explain. 

Mishpacha condemns the non-charedi media for their disrespect in how they reported the story. Yet Mishpacha acknowledges that the charedi press reported Rav Chaim's position as stated - and it was the charedi press which was the original source of the story! Why on earth should non-charedim not disrespect a ruling which was being championed by the charedi press, which they had every reason to believe was true (and was consistent with earlier rulings that disregarded health risks), and which Mishpacha agrees would indeed be a terrible ruling if it was true?! In fact, it's only because of the scorn being poured by non-charedim that Mishpacha went to the bother of "clarifying" the ruling! So the non-charedi criticism of a "ruling" by Rav Chaim should be applauded, not condemned!

See too:

Daas Torah on How to Avoid Getting Coronavirus

"If They Only Knew How Much Torah Protects From Coronavirus..."

Who Caused the Death by Daas Torah?

The Corona-Kollel Connection


  1. The modern mystical Daas Tora is equivalent to papal infallibility! Another Christin notion that tragically crept into Judaism. The Charedi community suffers as a result. And how dare they disparage Dr. Gamzu's criticism. Since yeshivah study DOES NOT protect against coronavirus they should retract their condemnation. The sheer arrogance of the chareidi politicians is an outrage!

    1. Turk Hill, you really are a 'yes man'. I find that 99% of your comments merely repeat what R Slifkin says but in different words.

    2. Wow, but what a large 1%.

  2. Yediot has reported that Charedim in Bnei Brak don't plan to heed RCK's alleged psak. A prominent RY & RCK's own son lauded the Gaon for knowing nothing but Torah. Volumes of RCK's "responsa", published by other hands come with the disclaimer that the responsa are theoretical off the cuff reactions not to be taken in any way as הלכה למעשה.

  3. I dont know, you're misconstruing what the mishpacha article said. They were condemming the chareidi press more than the non-chareidi. And your"is problematic on several counts" seems vague. Either dispute what he actually said or youre just doing what they do to you.

  4. If the bochurim not being checked remain inside the yeshivos I see nothing wrong with Rav Chaim's position. Most young people do not get serious complications from the disease. What's the problem?

    1. Seriously? Are they not leaving the walls of the yeshiva? Not walking the streets, entering stores, taking buses, going to shuls, coming home to their families. Just because these young people are not getting complications we shouldn't be concerned about the old people they are infecting? We're at 1,000 deaths in Israel already, and the numbers are starting to grow exponentially!

    2. What about the Rabbonin who teach them, if they get the virus it could kill them

    3. What about the Rabbonim who teach them, if they get the virus could kill them.

    4. Reb Gili,
      you seem to be out of touch with what is going on. in all of the big yeshivot (and many of the small ones) no one is allowed to go home, to the store, on the street, etc. they go only to their dormitories and their designated area in the bet medrash.

      you are correct, that is an issue. for that reason most shiurim given by older rabonim are given from behind a screen and at some distance from the talmidim. no close contact is allowed.

    5. And not only the rebbeim, or the people that the bochurim come in contact with. THEY may then infect someone who does not know who may then further spread to others who indeed ARE more susceptible.

      And - to repeat a point I made in these comments on one of the previous Covid postings - sure, they might not die, but Being Sick is not an ideal situation. There are health complications of all sorts that we are just learning about - this is not just a cold that some people die of but a wacky strange thing that causes respiratory problems, gastro problems, and blood clots, among other things. A person - a young person, too - might first discover the presence of a blood clot when it manifests as cutting off the circulation to his toe, finger, or internal organ. Or cause a stroke, pulmonary embolus, or heart attack.

      Oh yeah, and some do die.

      So, yup! Young people don't die from Covid so free-for-all!

    6. Anonymous: nobody leaves until when? Until a vaccine that everyone takes completely eradicates the virus? That could take months or years! Please correct me if I'm wrong but I have trouble believing everyone will stay in yeshiva during bein hazmanim

    7. Reb Gili
      The boys have committed to staying in yeshiva until after Yom Kippur. They are literally locked in no one in and no one out. They have no contact with anyone outside the yeshiva so cannot infect anyone. By the time they leave no one will possibly be contagious.

      You really should check your facts before attacking.

  5. On what counts is the mishpacha version problematic?

  6. "...the idea that nobody is allowed to disagree with Rav Chaim's decision is completely absurd..." The idea that nobody is allowed to disagree with a god is not absurd at all. Just idolatrous.

  7. Particularly interesting in light of R' Asher Weiss's thoughts on kappara needed by one who caused someone else to be infected. you can listen here for a summary:
    Rabbi Jonathan Ziring -Rav Asher Weiss: Teshuva for Causing Someone's Death from Corona

  8. R' Slifkin, I would like to hear from you how you can learn the gemara in Kesuvos daf 77b (with RYBL) to be saying anything other than learning Torah (even in dangerous circumstances) protects. It would seem to me that you aren't just arguing with RCK, you are arguing with Chazal

  9. RNS
    I think this topic is not as simple as it appears.
    As mentioned above (by Raymond) Chazal in Kesubos 77b say clearly that RYBL relied on Learning torah to save him from very infectious disease and he even went very close to them.
    Rashi understands this to be during learning only and Ritvo understands it to be even when he was not actually learning.
    Abarbanel (who you would call a rationalist) also understands the gemoro that way and he actually praises RYBL for relying on the Torah to save him.see Yeshuot Meshicho 2/2.You can find it in Hebrewbooks:

    1. Besides everything else, how many yeshivah/kollel people can claim to learn anywhere near the quality of RYBL. Did he take cofee breaks? Mobile phone breaks? A month off when his wife had a baby? Roll into shul after karbonos? Chodesh Nissan off? Tishri off? Summer holidays with the in-laws in some luxury holiday home somewhere? Regular Pizza with the wife/friends in Centre One (kashrus permitting? Run around always looking for a kollel paying more?

      Come on.....

    2. @shimon B
      You are making a valid argument, but that is changing the entire dynamic of this discussion. You are essentially saying you agree Chazal hold that Torah does protect, but only under certain criteria, which will most likely not be met by our yeshiva system.
      At that point, the debate should be what level of quality did Chazal intend when they said Torah protects (since it's not spelled out in that gemara), and how we could apply that in general on a mass level. As opposed to what I have been seeing from this site - which is denying that there's any basis whatsoever to the concept that learning Torah protects.

    3. Eh no. Not agreeing. I started my comment with 'besides everything else'.

      How and when torah protects is dealt with at length elsewhere on this blog and available downloads. It didn't seem to protect Reb Elchonon Wasserman did it?

    4. @Shimon B
      I am not sure what you are referring to.(With besides everything else). I was referring to RNS saying that Torah does not protect ,we see clearly in Chazal and Rishonim that in fact it does at least in some circumstances. Of course it would depend on the level of learning and also the level of the danger etc.I dont think anyone can say when and where it would protect.Besides the fact that R Elchonon was not in danger from disease but from another human being (a baal Bechirah)which is a whole different topic altogether.Chazal explicitly refer to disease in the story of RYBL.

    5. Nothing is 'clear' in Chazal. The tanoim and amaroim saw demons CLEARLY - the one that lives in an empty house was seen by an amora and it gores like an ox.

      Have you seen it recently? Even in the best case scenario, that torah protected back then like an invisible force shield, how can you say confidentely its the same today? Maybe like demons, what once was is no longer.

    6. @Shimon B
      Not sure what Demons have to do with our discussion.
      There is a Machlokes Rishonim wether Demons existed or whether it has a deeper meaning i.e. allegorical. I am not aware of any Rishonim which say that on תורה מגנא ומצלא. For that reason I mentioned abarbanel as you would consider him a rationalist. I feel this discussion is now becoming counter productive so I will have to leave it there.

    7. You may not be aware of any rishonim that specifically discuss the protection of torah, but there are numerous rishonim and acharonim that discuss, at length, the general application of non halachik statements of chazal to both different time periods, and different places. This would include vague statements such as torah protects.

      Its a silly discussion anyway. Its clear that for whatever reason torah does not protect nowadays (numerous talmidei chachomim have fallen ill or died) so practically speaking the point is irrelevant.

    8. The fact that numerous talmidei chachomim have fallen sick and died is not such a good counterargument against "Torah protects". One may as well say the same about medical treatments, numerous people who have received them have nevertheless died. And if you argument is that there is no peer reviewed double blind randomized study about "Torah protects", you are misunderstanding the nature of the claim. It was never meant to be scientific and quantifiable in the first place, and was never expressed that way, rather it merely expresses a GREAT preference to having Talmud Torahs open, even in the midst of a pandemic.

      Rather, the counterargument against "Torah protects" is that all mitzvohs protect, sustain, and enrich, as is stated plainly in the Torah in numerous places. But nevertheless we are expected to do our hishtadlus. That hishtadlus would include keeping Talmud Torahs open with appropriate precautions. Shutting them down indefinitely is too much, and that is when we shift to "emunah", and "Torah and Mitzvos protect".

  10. The irresponsibility and ignorance of the extremist Haredi clans, along with the most ignorant Islamists, is exactly what's prolonging the whole Coronavirus crisis. If Kanievsky's ultra-Orthodox neighborhood is put on lockdown, I won't feel sorry for people like him if they have to contend with spending time confined to their neighborhoods.

  11. one quibble, how do you know that Reb CHaim is cognitively impaired? Who examined him?


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