Thursday, October 1, 2020

Who By Suicide

"On Yom Kippur it is sealed... Who by water... who by fire... who by plague..."

Why doesn't this famous prayer mention "who by suicide"? Perhaps because, like murder, suicide is subsumed within the other categories. Perhaps because it is dependent on personal choice, rather than Divine decree. And perhaps because it is extremely rare.

Most of us don't want to suffer, and certainly not to die. When suicide does happen (and there have been several such terrible tragedies in my home city this year), it is something that is obviously related to serious psychological difficulties. The natural inclination of all living things is for self-preservation.

How, then, can we explain the attitude of many people to coronavirus?

I'm not necessarily talking about the issue of refraining from important economic or other activities. There are certainly good arguments to be made in both directions regarding the long-term effect of various restrictions on human welfare. (And human welfare is far more complex that just counting how many people could die from Covid-19.) I'm talking about even very simple things, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, which are likely to prevent the virus, and which come at virtually no cost. And yet, there are countless people who don't bother with it. 

At an individual level, it can perhaps be explained by laziness or foolishness. But how do we explain it at a communal level? There are entire communities, particularly in the chassidic and wider charedi sectors, in which there is little or no sense of any need to take preventative action. (The picture here is from the notorious Belz wedding.) Why is that the case?

As I've written on several previous occasions, when people act in a certain way, it's not enough to just dismiss it as "crazy" or "evil." There is a reason why people act that way, even if it's a bad reason, and it's important to understand what it is.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, I wrote a post titled "Understanding the Charedi Response to Coronavirus." I suggested three reasons as to the lack of concern in the charedi community. 

The first was that as a relatively isolated community, they are less in tune with the news and mood of the wider world, and their reactions to events lag behind the rest of us. Clearly, this is no longer applicable.

Another suggested reason was that as an anti-rationalist community, they are suspicious of scientific authority. In light of the countless deaths from coronavirus, this is certainly less applicable (though I have heard of Jews in the US, even people who have lost family members, who still believe that it is some sort of hoax).

The third reason that I gave was that as a community based around a siege mentality, charedim are unreceptive and suspicious of guidance and regulations coming from the government. I think that this is more true than ever before.

There's a lot of well-earned distrust of the government, in Israel as well as other countries. But for some people, it takes on an additional dimension. In the United States, where there a strong (and largely anti-Torah) emphasis on personal rights, this affects how some people react to mask-wearing and other such enactments. In the charedi community, it strengthens the siege mentality and tribalist tendencies.

An article in Ha-Aretz seeks to relate the charedi community's coronavirus response to its general approach. Somewhat misleadingly titled "Why Haredi Willingness to Contract COVID Could Bankrupt Israel," the subtitle more accurately states "The coronavirus is the latest example of a long-term act of self-destruction." The article details the depressing reports about how elements of the charedi community frequently try to reduce or ignore coronavirus restrictions, and the even more depressing reports about how the charedi community is causing economic ruin by their low participation in the professional workforce. The linkage that it draws between the two is that both reflect a willingness to engage in self-destruction.

No community wants to engage in self-harm. But the charedi community nevertheless engages on such a path, with both coronavirus and economic functioning. Unfortunately, the more that they are pressured to break out of such behavior, the more likely it is that they will see it as a challenge to their identity, triggering a siege mentality which causes them to actively find tribal meaning in it. Many people won't die for nothing, but they will die for a cause, even if that cause is only standing up for one's own identity in face of opposition. This makes efforts to solve the problem particularly difficult.


  • In addition, there has been an uptick in people sharing Dennis Rancourt's pseudoscientific paper titled "Masks Don't Work." Here is a detailed rebuttal that I found, which exposes Rancourt's distortions

76 comments:

  1. I think part of the problem is that the religious community is raised on stories of wicked governments (Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Spanish etc) who banned Jewish practices, and brave Heroes like Rabbi Akiva, Shimon Bar Yochai, etc who resisted them.

    As soon as certain communities here that the government wants to close shuls, Mikvas, Yeshivot, or trips to Uman, many people have been raised to see themselves as a modern day Rabbi Akiva or Moshe Rabbainu and have a religious obligation to fight against the wicked decree.

    To counter this, the government needs to work with the Haredi leadership as much as possible. This was the big failure of the government at the beginning, and they are trying to rectify it now, but may be too late.

    A Psak halacha from a "Gadol" that walking outside without a mask, or davening inside a shul gives you the status of Rodef would be far more effective than the government threatening to send in the army or issuing fines.

    The big lost opportunity was when we had a Haredi Minister of Health - had he been able to convince the Rabbinic leadership of the seriousness of this disease, Israel may be in a very different place today. Unfortunately it looks like the former minister of Health did not understand or support the lockdown that was being implemented by his own government.

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    1. You are spot on. Excellent points

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    2. but the Gedolim and Poskim won't say that, because they don't believe it themselves.

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  2. Was i the only one struck by the irony (if that is the right word) of Mispalelim shouting Menah Magefah MiNachalosecha ten times over Yom Kippur, while not wearing masks which doctors and govt say help prevent the spread of the current Magefah?

    My Shul was full of 95% of such idiots. I wore a mask the whole day.

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    1. I hope you were not in the shul, particularly if it it was crowded.

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    2. While I applaud your resolve, I'm wondering why you went to shul in the first place?

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    3. @ApikoresJew, I commented on your essay "The So-Called "Rationalist" Jews."

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  3. Its pointless to debate this with you. It's not merely akin to debating politics - it IS, in fact, debating politics. Pointless. Suffice to say there are millions of people who don't share your opinion, and who have written articles of their own wondering why people who espouse YOUR opinion are committing suicide.

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    1. And, once again, you manage to misread my article.

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    2. People espousing mask policies and social distancing (NOT closing business) are committing suicide? Do tell.

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    3. Have to say I agree with DF over here. For the first few months of the pandemic, I was among those who had faith that the virus could be contained through first ONE lockdown, and then testing and tracing, and I was frustrated by the failure of the US to do what Israel, Italy, Spain, etc did. But over the past few months, it has become apparent that many of these countries have tried this (case in point, Israel), only to see a resurgence in cases after opening back up. So how many lockdowns is enough? Lockdowns every time cases go up? That could EASILY continue forever. This is no way to live, and is extremely destructive, especially for frum Jews. Which is why they don't trust the public health guidance that keeps on pushing for an end to life as they know it, indefinitely.

      That said, wearing masks isn't so hard. If public health authorities could agree that just wearing masks is good enough, and to not push for lockdowns or closing shuls and schools and yeshivas every time there's an outbreak, it would definitely go a long way in bringing the public on board.

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    4. Like DF, you are misreading my article. I specifically said that I am NOT giving an opinion on whether lockdown is the correct approach.

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    5. Why is this so hard for you guys to understand? Setting aside lockdowns - take steps like masking, partitions etc. that can minimize spread while keeping things open. Why is the frum community by and large ignoring that? "It's inconvenient" "It's authoritarian" "I have my rights" Very Torah based arguments.

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    6. You realize, RNS, that you do this literally all the time? Anyone who disagrees with you has "misread" your article. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe we didn't "misread" your article, we just disagree with you?

      Like I said, its a waste of time to debate it. You're entitled to your opinions. Just don't pretend your view is the only view. There are tens of millions, in the US alone, who think you're dead wrong, and believe its YOUR point of view that is suicidal.

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    7. Perhaps I shouldn't have been dan lekaf zechut. Are you seriously claiming that taking any kind of precautions against coronavirus, even something as simple as wearing masks and social distancing, is committing suicide?!

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    8. @RNS, you mention "simple things" like masks and.... social distancing. But distancing is THE problem, the main problem, the great problem, the intractable problem, and isn't simple at all. In most real life situations distancing is impossible, because geometry, and requiring this is equivalent to a shut-down. For example, schools in my city are being forced to shut down, despite wearing masks all day.

      Maybe the solution is to build many, many, many new buildings to accommodate social distancing, but how many years will that take, and who knows if it's even possible?

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    9. RNS, I love you and respect you, which is why I've been here so long. But what's with the lawyer games of trying to reduce large issues to simple yes-or-no questions, or juvenile "are you seriously claiming" rhetorical devices? Come on man, that was old in Cicero's time. Likewise, sleights of hand like combining "any kind of precaution" (one thing) with "wearing masks and social distancing" (two different things) and ignoring the mass of details that surrounds them.

      It's a little hard to believe that you're entirely unaware of a point of view held by millions.

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    10. I specifically wrote that i am only referring to things which do not come at significant cost. So which things are you referring to?!

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    11. As I explained, distancing is an ENORMOUS cost, and makes school and many other activities impossible in most cases.

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    12. No one disagrees with things that don't come at significant cost. How one defines "significant cost" is clearly the heart of the issue.

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    13. Wearing masks does not come at significant cost.
      Encouraging people to davven outside does not come at significant cost.

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    14. How is social distancing an enormous cost? Please explain that to me. In the interim, you know what is an enormous cost? Mingling with crowds and catching Coronavirus. Oh, you probably think Covid-19 is a hoax. That explains it.

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    15. Davening outside, especially on yomim noro'im, is a significant cost. If you don't understand, that is fine. Not everyone understands other people's cultures. But the cost is extremely significant. The secular world was shocked when sports events were closed, considering that a watershed moment. I don't understand that either. But that is other people's cultures, and I don't need to understand it.
      Jason from Jersey

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    16. If Dr. Slifkin would be in charge of the Health Ministry/NY Health Department and all he asked for was masks and davening outside when the weather allows, I'm sure the frum community would be much more receptive. But that is NOT all they're asking for, they are demanding much, much more. Things that cause TREMENDOUS harm to frum society.

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    17. You do not know what you're talking about. What "tremendous" harm is done when Jews wear masks? This is ridiculous. All your doing is ranting without substantiating your rants with evidence. This is a colossal waste of time.

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    18. Nu, so you think masks isn't a significant cost, I say it is. Same with "social distancing." You know what that's called? A disagreement. Plenty of commenters on this post alone disagree with you, and plenty with me. It's part of life. A disagreement is not a reason for you to make wild accusations, call people names, hurl charges of advocating suicide, etc. We both think the other is wrong, and worse, we both think the other side's view is harmful. Guess what? It's still a disagreement.

      The overwhelming majority of issues you make breathless accusations about are similarly founded, at bottom, upon simple disagreements, in which both sides think the other is profoundly wrong.

      Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach.

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    19. TH, looks like you are trying to respond to my comments but haven't read them at all. This seems to a be habit of yours, and it's hard to tell if you're just trolling. Poe's law in effect.

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    20. The burden is on those who think wearing masks and keeping distant from people isn't a burden (which I use as shorthand here for "a significant cost") to explain why. These are not normal behaviors. It is self-understood why acting abnormally is a burden. I have yet to hear any reasonable explanation of how these entirely abnormal behaviors could possibly NOT be burdensome. Even most of the maskers make no such claim - they concede that its burdensome, they just think its worth the burden because they believe they are stopping the virus. [How they can possibly think this is a separate issue.] But to assert that wearing masks everywhere and interrupting the entire social fabric isn't a burden at all? - Please explain.

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    21. @DF, Again, how is wearing a mask dangerous? Isn't donning a kippah target us as Jews for anti-semites? And if you ever talk to hilonim, they will say that all the mitzvot are a "burden." Just as following G-d's commandments are not burdensome to us, so it is with following the doctor's orders. In fact, G-d wants us to be healthy. If we are not healthy, how can we perform the mitzvot?

      Or, to look at it from another angle, when a woman is going through menstruation she cannot have sex during this period. Science today explains this law was instituted so that she is not contaminated by germs. The process of menstruation in general is entirely abnormal and burdensome, yet this is a natural cycle. The law requires her to go through many burdensome regulations. Furthermore, if she gives birth she is prohibited from entering the temple for 33 or 66 days! Of course, this law also protects her from contaminants. Males think these laws are such a burden that they say, "Blessed are You, Our L-rd, Our G-d, who has not made me a woman." 

      Now you may say that these laws are necessary, and they are, but so is wearing a mask. Masks, although not convenient, also protect people from contaminants.

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    22. @DF, Here's one last thing. During Sukkot, we may have to experience the weather, the elements. The weather is not always warm. Sometimes it is cold, wet, and rainy in the sukkah. But experiencing these hardships help refine and develop our appreciation for nature. Like Abraham who left his hometown at 75, we must learn to have self-reliance and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, the Torah does not mention Abraham's earlier life until he becomes comfortable with his new way of living. Yes, not learning in yeshivah or davening, or attending Shul, or even wearing a mask for that matter, is an inconvenience, but you must learn to live with it. 

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    23. Turk Hill - yes, there are those who say that, viz, that its an inconvenience but its important. Many others disagree about its importance, but I can understand that point of view, and we can respectfully disagree. RNS, however, made the wild claim that anyone who disagreed with him was "advocating suicide", which is of course absurd.

      Further, RNS not only claimed that "masks and social distancing are simple things that are likely to prevent the virus", but also that they "come at virtually no cost." Almost no one even makes that second claim, as it makes zero sense at all. No cost? Seriously? How can anyone possibly say such a thing???

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    24. DF - Yes, I agree with you. I would add that to wear masks properly when around crowds is important but not so much when we're alone. I'm not sure what RNS means by "no cost." Masks to cost money.

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  4. Roll out the usual suspects.....
    Some people blame women's wigs, because that is the issue that occupies them.
    Some people blame technology, because that is the issue that occupies them.
    Some people blame bochurim being thrown out of yeshiva, because that is the issue that occupies them.
    Some people blame the shonde of the community not helping older singles, because that is the issue that occupies them.
    And now someone connects it to their favorite topic; the Israeli Charedim who don't participate in the workplace.
    Everyone knows how to learn Mussar for yenem, the other guy needs to fix his life, I am fine.
    Jason from Jersey


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    1. I have yet to hear someone say that Hashem sent a maguefa to punish Haredim for not working, like some do regarding lack of tsniut. That's not the thesis the author is defending here. Although he could have easily established a connection between the low employment rate and covid cases, because poor people are more at risk than wealthy people to contract the illness. But the article focuses on what causes the apparent lack of care in some communities, not on the other factors of risk.

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    2. What is the issue that occupies you?

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  5. Chevra Kadishes in Israel have reported less overall deaths this year than in the previous year without covid 19.

    Ultimately, Hashem decides who shall live and who not. "Different" people are dying because so willed Hashem.

    As always both "camps" of dealing with covid 19 have taken it to an extreme.

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    1. Where did you see that Chevra Kadishas are seeing fewer deaths?

      There was recently an article about many Chevra Kadishas installing refrigerated containers at cemeteries capable of storing up to 100 bodies as they are unable to keep up with the massive increase in their workload.
      https://www.timesofisrael.com/burial-societies-gird-for-wave-of-coronavirus-deaths/

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    2. "Chevra Kadishes in Israel have reported less overall deaths this year than in the previous year without covid 19."

      I saw a paper, not yet through peer review, that confirmed that through the end of May. There was a dramatic reduction of mortality during the lockdown period. Denmark experienced the same thing.

      "Hashem decides who shall live and who not."

      That does not change the fact that halachah demands that we take care of our own health and not endanger the health of others.

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    3. Hm, I didn't know we Jews were like the Christian Scientists (the fringe Christian sect, not "Christian scientists") in rejecting medicine b/c "it's all in G-d's hands"... Oh wait, we're not, because that idea is not only asinine but also antithetical to 3,000 years of Jewish law and tradition.

      Re: your claim of "less overall deaths this year", please provide a legitimate citation to such statistics so that your claim can be critically evaluated.

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    4. That was true until September (the covid19 deaths were offset by fewer deaths from other causes, like road accidents, due to lockdown). That is no longer true. In recent years, on an average day in Israel ~120 people die. In March-April, covid deaths never went above 10 per day. But now, they are up to 35 per day and rising fast.

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    5. You have proof of this report from 'Chevra Kadishes'?

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  6. Obviously, this is not the main thrust of your post but, tragically, suicide may be becoming less rare:

    Suicidality jumped in Israel during spring COVID-19 lockdown

    Hotline Reports Sharp Rise in Suicide Attempts Due to Financial Straits During Coronavirus Outbreak

    Israel Mental Health Experts Fear Rising Suicide Rate During Pandemic

    (Some people, of course, might try to use these data to attack the idea of "lockdowns" or other such aggressive public health measures, but that is the wrong conclusion to draw; it is just that there are no good answers... Except for universal mask-wearing, social distancing, and rigorous frequent hand-washing, whose benefits are indisputable.)

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  7. “Haredi stubbornness on this issue marks a deadly low point on a path of self-destruction that has been underway for many years. The path is being traveled by the Haredim, who insist on pursuing an unsustainable lifestyle, and Israeli society as a whole, which has allowed them to do so. For decades the ultra-Orthodox political parties have held the balance of political power, and they’ve used it to their unique lifestyle and values. That means no core curriculum of basic math, science and English skills, no army service and (for adult men) religious studies instead of working.”

    Charedim pose an existential threat the equal of Iran. The only way to limit the damage they pose is to enact laws to keep them out of the government and jail Rosh Yeshivas and yeshiva administrators that endanger the state.

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    1. Maybe jail all Charedim. And then all leftists/rightists and anyone who has a different opinion to you. And all redheads, lefties, blondes, people who eat sweet/peppery gefilte fish.

      You need to get your extremism under control, mate.

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    2. Zichron devorim,

      You seem to either have a medical problem with your vision or your reading comprehension has been seriously impaired by any of a number chareidi educational rot. Or perhaps both.
      I never said to jail all chareidim, only the leaders, the RY and yeshiva administrators who implore their puppets to break the law.
      And if Israeli society become bold enough to expunge chareidim from participating in the government because they have become, like Iran an existential threat, it will herald great things for the country.

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    3. I agree that chareidim is an issue that can be fixed. But to suggest they are anything remotely near the existential threat like Iran is absurd!

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    4. I didn't say you said it. I suggested, and I quote, 'Maybe jail all Charedim". That is how I stretched your argument.

      Let us teach you some Latin. Have you heard of reductio ad absurdum?
      I was trying to show you the absurdity of your argument. We don't jail people with different opinions, because then we achieve totalitarianism. Even if you really really don't like those people's opinions, even if you think they are dangerous. That has been tried, and it makes life worse for everyone.

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  8. I am not sure why you are yet again putting all Charedim together.
    There are some who flout the rules and some who don't. It is borderline racism and certainly not politically correct to do that.The Litvishe people appear to wear masks more than Chasidim altough some chasidim like Gur are very compliant with face masks and rules.Even within Belz for instance if someone keeps to the rules why does he need to feel bad that his friends dont. Are you also blaming all blacks for certain things their friends do? Or all chilonim for the people flouting the rules and going to beaches illegally? R Gershon Edelstein keeps to the rules and tells everyone to do the same. Why do I have to condemn anything just because I am charedi?

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    1. I am not sure why you think that i am making a blanket statement about Ll charedim.

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    2. RNS
      You mention Charedi or Charedim 8 times in your post!
      You also mention "Charedi Community" many times which sounds to me like a blanket statements.and what about these? :"haredim are unreceptive and suspicious of guidance" and "But the charedi community nevertheless engages on such a path, with both coronavirus and economic functioning".
      In fact it was reported on Israeli news that mask wearing is higher in Bnei Brak than Tel Aviv but of course you are not going to mention that.

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    3. "You mention Charedi or Charedim 8 times in your post!"

      Your point is???

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  10. "largely anti-Torah) emphasis on personal rights"

    That's really uncalled for, no matter what your socialist friends might tell you.

    And let's be honest, in the years to come, an emphasis on personal rights is all that the Torah-observant in the US and elsewhere will have to fall back on. It wasn't like the great persecutions of the Jews in the 20th Century were a result of too much emphasis on personal rights, and whatever comes won't either.

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    1. I have no idea what you are trying to say.

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    2. @Turk Hill: I do, and what he's saying is true.

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  11. I think the Charedi lack of concern for Covid has a lot to do with growing up, and living, in a world devoid of responsibility and consequences.
    I don’t mean to sound condescending, although I know what I am saying is; almost definitionally. I apologize for that.
    Of course, charedim believe in responsibility and consequences in Olam Haba’ah. They believe in reward and punishment fervently when it comes to the next world, but in this world they do not live with a sense of responsibility and consequences.
    They do not grow up taking tests that are graded. They do not apply for College and University, the acceptance to which are dependent on the scores earned in High School. They do not have bosses evaluating their work, and they cannot be fired from Kollel for poor work. They don’t live with the fear of losing employment based on performance and the subsequent loss of income. They are not really even responsible for their income. That’s not to even speak about the army. Da’as Torah further takes away any responsibility for decision making in parenting, political decisions, etc…
    The point I am trying to make is that one of the outgrowths of this worldview and life experience is a lack of sensitivity to the idea of taking responsibility for actions and the subsequent consequences that result.
    Truthfully, this idea may explain a number of peculiarities of the Charedi community which are perplexing to an outsider, including things as simple as a lack of concern for littering, but this comment is too long already to go on…

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  12. I disagree with this analysis, because it ignores the fact that the very same phenomena are present in every community, at every level, in Israeli society. From the stall owners at the shuk, to the partiers and beachgoers in Tel Aviv, to the massive Arab weddings, to the teachers and rabbis at my children's dati leumi schools, to the left-wing protestors, to shoppers and workers at supermarkets, to people you pass by on the streets, to ministers and members of the Knesset - everybody is ignoring the lockdown rules. Everybody is refusing to socially distance. Everybody is wearing masks on their hands or chins or, at best, covering mouth-but-not-nose like Gantz. Everybody from Netanyahu and Rivlin on down has come up with excuses and lies to visit family or hold secret get-togethers and flaunt the law.

    It's gotten a little better over the last two weeks, but not by much. Not by much at all.

    So I don't think the siege-mentality explanation for charedi behavior is a good one. It doesn't explain why everyone else is acting the same way.

    Now, I can think of two ways to defend that explanation:
    A) There is one explanation that applies to the charedim, and another that applies to everyone else. But this doesn't seem logical; surely any explanation broad enough to apply to the entire rest of Israeli society in all its variety would be broad enough to explain charedi behavior as well. That renders the siege-mentality explanation superfluous - at most a local intensifier of a global phenomenon.
    B) Each sector of Israeli society has its own, unique reason for not complying. This is of course possible, but this is exactly the reasoning that Occam's razor was originally designed to discourage! The more unique excuses you have to come up with for each individual instance, the more likely it is that you're actually missing some general rule that applies to everyone (Cf. Chagigah 3b). That likelihood increases exponentially, in the mathematical sense of the word, with the number of different sectors requiring unique explanations.

    So if a broad explanation is the most likely, what is it? I can think of several. You even wrote:

    At an individual level, it can perhaps be explained by laziness or foolishness.

    But why are these not sufficient explanations for the communal level? A community is made up of individuals. If everyone in a community is lazy or foolish, surely that explains the behavior of the community as a whole as well.

    I myself am perfectly happy with these two explanations you came up with and rejected:
    when people act in a certain way, it's not enough to just dismiss it as "crazy" or "evil."

    I think it is enough:

    #1: "Crazy": People are too irrational to accurately judge the risks to themselves and to others. How else can you explain the enormous number of people who only put masks on their mouths?

    #2: "Evil": I have encountered numerous people who have refused, even when asked, to follow the rules. But don't trust my anecdote: it was recently reported that 41% of Israelis who were put in quarantine violated that quarantine!

    To these I will add two more adjectives:

    #3: "Stupid". This overlaps a certain amount with explanation #1. I honestly don't know whether it's stupidity or insanity that compels people to leave their phones at home so the Shabak can't send them the SMS that puts them into quarantine - as if it's the SMS that gives you the virus.

    #4: "Tired". There was definitely a lot more compliance with the rules in the first wave, even among charedim. This time around, it may just be that there is an unspoken feeling of "let's just all get the virus and get it over with". (I have no explicit evidence for this, which is why I leave it for last.)

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    1. I have not been to Israel during the pandemic, but here in the NY metro area, the ONLY groups doing regular mass spreading events, with neither masks nor social distancing, are charedi Jews. And as predictable, the highest rates of positive test results are in the zip codes with large charedi populations.

      That said, not all charedim are being irresponsible. One of the few positives about this pandemic was that I took the opportunity to teach myself how to blow shofar and I blew for several neighbors who like me stayed home from shul. One was a charedi guy who expressed absolute outrage at the way people do not take this virus seriously.

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    2. @Yerushalmi Although I agree with RNS about the charedi, your post was very well put and convinced me. Many god points.

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  13. RNS, I've been following this blog for a while. I don't know what your end game is. Are you shedding light on things unknown? Bringing about change? I don't get it.

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  14. You are all missing the most important point - the very first thing kids learn is that Hashem runs every aspect of the world and He has "many agents" and its up to Him if you live or not,not up to you.

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    1. What a silly statement to make. Of course, Hashem runs the show but He is an impersonal G-d. Since G-d is perfect, he has no need for "many agents." To suggest that he needs them is almost insulting. Angels are the "natural forces" as explained by Rambam. Have you ever read the Guide for the Perplexed?

      PS And the only thing that decides whether you live or not is your own intelligence. G-d gave you a brain so you have to use it!

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    2. 100% irrelevant. You still have to deal with ונשמרתם & לא תעמדו על דם רעך. See החינוך on מעקה.
      These מצות have been neglected when they should be observed with all their חומרות & הידורים. They should be observed with joy & without whining... lest our children conclude that Torah is a burden that only interferes with our lifestyles.

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  15. 1) Virus Shmirus. Hashem is in control.
    2) Just make sure your mezzuah and tefillian are in good shape, give ztadukah, be shomer Shabbas, daven and keep the mitvahs, do not do the 'shall nots' and you have nothing to fear from the virus. The viris is being sent because of avirus. Sure is comforting information for the religious. I truly believe none of it has any force against the virus and those who think it does may die (chas vasholom) or end up in a hospital. Make sure your life insurance is in force and if if you do not have a policy get one.

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    1. ACJA, I agree with you that the mezzuah does not protect people. I do not even think G-d protects people except for giving people intelligence to fend for themselves.

      PS Is there a way to contact you on your blog via email? I saw that you no longer take comments. I ask because I want to share some information about your essay concerning King David's taking of the census. I believe you will like what I have to say since they are rational, not spiritual explanations.

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    2. @TH - thanks for reading my blog. I hope RNS would not mind your summary here, and or perhaps a link or reference. May modify my blog to reflect it. Thanks.

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    3. @ACJA, Here is a summary of what I wrote:

      In your essay about the census, you recall II Samuel, chapter 24, which says that King David took a census that resulted in a plague that killed seventy thousand Israelites. You also speculate that it is possible that the Israelites took a census before the plague and attributed their misfortunes to the sin of taking a census. I want to add one more possibility that I think is correct. I think that G-d did not cause the plague. I think King David took the census because he wanted to see how many troops he had available. King David was always participating in wars throughout his life. What ensued next was that the enemy heard about David's public census, quickly mobilized, and ambushed David's forces. Where there are dead bodies a plague erupts and kills seventy thousand men. David's mistake was not counting people (although this superstitious notion is in the Bible) but that he made the census a public announcement. Lastly, we have to ask why the Bible mentions G-d in the story. As Maimonides explained in Guide, 2:48, whenever the Bible says that G-d did or said something, it does not mean that G-d actually did it but attributes the event to G-d since G-d is the ultimate cause, since He created the laws of nature to make the event possible. Rambam also says that G-d does not become angry since G-d does not have emotions. Thus, G-d did not smite 70,000 Israelites.

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    4. @TH Thanks, but a careful reading of the Tenach (IMHO) does not jive well with the explanation you gave. Read the entire chapter 24,BUT you have provided a possible cause for the plague. ACJA

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  16. Yisroel Kashkin:
    Gamzu is perpetuating a modern blood libel. He is portraying the Charedim as these animals who are carelessly and heartlessly infecting one another and the rest of society with a fatal disease. What kind of people would do such a thing? Only those crazy beard monsters, right? Are people dropping dead throughout Charedi society and even the rest of Israel? No, the death count is a big larger than seasonal flu and the average age of death is 80 and for people with other serious medical conditions. It's no higher for Charedim. There's no statistical connection between the deaths and Charedim wearing or not wearing masks and going to shul or not going to shul. What about the disease itself? Are people all over Charedi society sick? No, they are no sicker than anyone else. Gamzu's entire claim is based on the PCR test which is given much more frequently to Charedim. The test does not detect infection, it only detects DNA fragments that show a person to have been exposed at some point to some kind of coronavirus. 99% of exposed people don't get sick. The elderly are particularly vulnerable possibly because T cell immunity weakens with age. Gamzu might as well be saying that Jews poison the wells of gentles or put gentle baby blood in their matzah. He is creating this ridiculous portrayal based not even on pseudo science but literally on lies. No health administrator and professor can be so stupid as to spend his days and nights on this one topic and so completely misunderstand the data. Either he is being instructed to dish out this propaganda or he so completely despises religion and Charedim himself that he's doing it all on his own. This is anti-semitism and it generates anti-semitism. Gamza lo tova

    A spokesperson for Public Health England told Reuters why PCR tests are being used widely in England: “Molecular diagnostic tests, such as real-time PCR, are the gold standard methods for identifying individuals with an active viral infection, such as SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19 disease), in their respiratory tract. These tests are rapid and produce results in real-time.

    “It is important to note that detecting viral material by PCR does not indicate that the virus is fully intact and infectious, i.e. able to cause infection in other people. The isolation of infectious virus from positive individuals requires virus culture methods. These methods can only be conducted in laboratories with specialist containment facilities and are time consuming and complex.”

    Has such a thing ever happened in days past? Where indeed have you found such a custom in any of the books of the early or latter sages of Israel, that it should be the custom and established norm to ask for advice in mundane matters, as to what one ought to do in matters of the physical world?

    [Such questions were not asked] even of the greatest of the former sages of Israel, such as the tannaim and amoraim, the authors of the Mishnah and the Gemara,7 “from whom no secret was hidden,” and8 “for whom all the paths of heaven were clearly illuminated,”

    but only of actual prophets who used to live among the Jewish people, such as Samuel the Seer to whom Saul went to inquire of G‑d through him about the donkeys that his father had lost.

    For in fact all matters pertaining to man, except for words of Torah and the fear of heaven, are apprehended only by prophecy.

    Iggeret HaKodesh, beginning of Epistle 22

    Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812)

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  17. Not suicide, but risk, which we humans are notoriously bad at evaluating (a la Kahaneman.) Regarding the damage they cause to others - poppycock. The world continues to exist only because of their fervently holy lifestyle.

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  18. For those willing to explore scientific truth rather than pursue sectarian prejudices, the effects of 4) Poverty 5) (related) multi generational households and 6) more communal rather the individualistic culture need to be considered on a multi-variate basis with 1,2 and 3.

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  19. R Slifkin: You are a broken record. Everything you publish is chareidi-bashing. Seems to me that you are so insecure in your own view of yourself that you can only feel good if you attack the Chareidim. Very sad!

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  20. Yosef,
    Rav Slifkin isn’t bashing chareidim. However he is publicizing and criticizing their selfish society, even though he finds much commonality with them.
    I however find no such commonality with them. Many are societal parasites and present an existential threat to Eretz Yisroel. So for those reasons I bash them when the opportunity arises.

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  21. They want to believe that "masks don't work" simply because they don't want to wear a mask. And they don't want to believe the uncomfortable alternative.

    For the same reasons, they wanted to believe that a large proportion of the population is inherently immune the virus via pre-existing T cell immunity, based on nothing but speculation and hope, but now that proportion of the population not infected before, is being infected. They wanted to believe because they didn't want to believe the alternative.

    They want to believe the virus is a "Democrat hoax." Because they don't want to believe the alternative, which is that that's loony and the real virus threat requires modification of behaviors and routines.

    Their Personal Routine is their Religion. They are worshiping their routine, their feeling of comfort. They will believe what they prefer to believe, and only what further supports the continuation of that routine. A mere "inconvenience" is too much for the weak, emasculated, pathetic worms of men that our community has produced in recent generations, unlike the immense suffering that so many generations before them endured in order to stand for what's right and do God's will in the world. It is truly despicable.

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