Tuesday, December 15, 2020

And Here We Go

Many years ago my wife and I adopted a beautiful custom from one of her teachers. Every Shabbos, we go around the table, and people take turns to relate their highlights of the week. Last Shabbos, everyone thought that my biggest highlight would be that the government finally gave permission for museums to open, albeit with restrictions on the number of visitors. But, while that was obviously a tremendous highlight for me, I was surprised that nobody had mentioned something vastly more amazing: the approval and import of the vaccine! Finally, the end to this horrible pandemic is in sight. We should be dancing from the rooftops!

Many people are, of course, very happy. But many people are also scared, or fired up in anger. They believe that the vaccine is dangerous, and that it is being pushed by Bill Gates and Big Pharma who want to make money at the expense of peoples' lives. Recently there was a car making the rounds in my home town of Ramat Beit Shemesh, with a loudspeaker blaring about how the vaccine is terribly dangerous and must not be taken. Ministry of Health officials met with community leaders in Bnei Brak to convince them to back the national vaccination program, but were unsuccessful.

To what extent is this anti-vaccination a characteristic of the charedi community? Actually, you can find opposition to the vaccine in every sector of the population. You don't have to be charedi to be against the vaccine - but it helps.

There's been a much-publicized pashkevil declaring that the vaccine is highly dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. This Daas Torah is proclaimed in the name of Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Rav Malkiel Kotler and others.

Now, it turns out that this pashkevil appears to be a hoax. A yeshivishe friend of mine pointed to all kinds of indications which reveal that it is not genuine. But do you know what does not reveal it to be a hoax? The notion of these rabbis opposing a vaccine!

As my friend Aqibha Weisinger noted, if such a letter was posted in the name of Rav Hershel Schechter, everyone would know instantly that it was a hoax, because Rav Shechter would never, ever say such a foolish thing. But the same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the charedi Gedolim named in this letter.

Nearly four years ago I wrote a post titled "When Rabbis Quack." In that post I critiqued an anti-rationalist, anti-scientific, anti-medicine book on alternative medicine by Rabbi Rafoel Szmerla, which received glowing approbations from various charedi Gedolim. I warned that such a mindset could lead to people opposing MMR vaccinations. Subsequently I was proved correct when several Gedolim backed a group called "The Vaccine Coalition" which was actually an anti-vaccine coalition. (You can see my coverage of that in a post titled "The Lakewood Suicide Squad.")

It comes as absolutely no surprise to learn that the charedi Gedolim who endorsed Szmerla's book are the same charedi Gedolim who backed the anti-MMR-vaccine coalition, and they are the exact same charedi Gedolim listed in the pashkevil against the coronavirus vaccine.

So the fact that these charedi Gedolim supposedly did not actually write this letter is not so relevant. Even the fact that Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky issued a letter stating that he never said any such thing, and that he recommends that people consult their doctors, is not as effective as it should be. Because the fact is that all these charedi Gedolim have spent years laying the groundwork for their communities to be opposed to vaccinations.

Israel has had 3000 deaths from Covid; the US has had 300,000. (There has also been the incalculable harm to physical and mental health, and the economic loss.) We finally have a chance to bring this to a halt. It is a tragedy that there are renowned charedi Gedolei Torah who are responsible for dragging out this pandemic, resulting in additional harm and deaths. I'm generally quite tolerant of non-rationalism, but there are times when its consequences are just too horrible to bear.

UPDATE: It was just announced that Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Edelstein have announced that people should take the vaccine. But meanwhile, Rav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, one of the leading chassidishe poskim, stated that people should not take it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out; let's hope that this is a case in which the authority wielded by Rav Chaim Kanievsky will have a positive effect.

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  1. COVID-related deaths in the US are likely nearer 400k. There has, in the last few decades, been a significant nexus between (US) Christian and Jewish Haredi/Orthodox 'conservatives' and a swing away from rationalist notions to conspiracy and outright quackery. This seems to stem from an idea that with political power & influence (see also the Chabad connection to the current US regime - one that peddled Hydroxchloroquine via Zelenko as a cure), these movements are willing to flex their muscles and ideas. They share a disdain (though selectively) for 'mainstream' media but are willing to be swayed by other - unvouched - media 'sources' and the results are frankly chilling . COVID has triggered a messianic fervour around certain xtian and Jewish groups - identifying and vilifying certain groups (Dems, Antifa) as evil opponents in a battle of G-d. We have seen this all before - it NEVER ends well (for the Jews) and hysteria gripping these groups would be almost laughable if it wasn't so tragic.

    1. I've always understood this religious alliance against modern science to be defensive against secular society, which uses Darwin and cosmology to say "See? The Bible isn't right!!"

      To a lesser extent, the more "simple faith" folk who are unschooled in modern science simply do not feel that they need evolution or whatnot taught in schools when the Bible already tells them what happened.

      UNfortunately, this defensiveness has taken on a life of its own, an Us vs Them (or more precisely, Then vs Us), and therefore it has led to a refusal to cooperate with anything that smells scientific.

      Of course, this is beyond the general politics as usual situation where if one side said we should [insert reasonable rational thing] the other side would promptly argue.

    2. @Meir Moses, Actually the 'mainstream' media, as well as most Dems (politicians) and Antifa (a domestic terrorist organization) do not look after your best interest. The crazy lockdowns were revealed to be anti-scientific, which caused dozens of suicide. Children were shown to not be infected with Covid. When they closed schools, the Dems knew this was harming kids but didn't care because they needed to make Trump look bad.

  2. So you are taking issue with gedolim signing this thing against vaccines, even though they didn't actually sign it, but they could have, so they are acting irresponsibly?
    Makes perfect sense to me

    1. I'm not saying you're an idiot, but you might be, and you don't make perfect sense.
      It helps in an argument to address what is actually advanced, rather than to advance something novel and then make fun of your own creation.

    2. No, that wasn't my point at all. Try reading it again.

    3. More that they're knows as the kind of people who would sign something like that making that point credible.

    4. You make it sound like the chareidi gedolim are against the vaccine because of the conspiracy-type theories related in the prior post and in the fake pashkevil. That's not what the article that you quote says. It says, "While the rabbis backed the overall idea of vaccination they also expressed some concerns, in particular that the trial period for available vaccines was too short to rule out long-term effects and any future problems that may arise."
      That sounds like a rational concern to me. So saying, "It is a tragedy that there are renowned charedi Gedolei Torah who are responsible for dragging out this pandemic, resulting in additional harm and deaths" and also bringing in the whole fake pashkevil is misrepresenting what's really happening here.
      To which gedolim were you referring when you said they are dragging this out using a non-rational approach?

    5. By lending credence to the conspiracies in the past they have created a situation that cannot be undone, it contributes to the pandemic lengthening and people dying.

  3. It is heartwarming, the selfless concern that you show for all those additional deaths that can possibly be attributed to the chareidi gedolei Torah. It is just too horrible to bear, even one death is too horrible to bear. But in their defense, maybe the anti-rationalist approach is a calculated risk? That they are willing to accept some additional death for the sake of their values. Is that so unreasonable? Is it any different, for example, than a parent encouraging his child to join the army because of his great regard for the value of national service, even though he knows it places his child at increased risk of death?

    1. What values are being preserved by not taking a vaccine?

    2. What values are being preserved by not taking a vaccine?

      You make this point constantly, that there is a pretty deep divide between the rationalist outlook and the anti-rationalist one. It's rare to find people who straddle both worlds. So is it any surprise that some anti-rationalist rabbis, in the interests of preserving the anti-rationalist approach (which they think is Torah true), would oppose blanket acceptance of medical science? In their minds, there is no difference between blanket acceptance of medical science and blanket acceptance of evolutionary science. And in your mind too, as you make clear in many times.

      From "When Rabbis Quack" - This is a community that is taught to believe that the scientific establishment is the enemy. If the scientists are wrong about dinosaurs and about global warming and about spontaneous generation, they are probably wrong about vaccinations too. If the scientists are wrong about dinosaurs and about global warming and about spontaneous generation, they are probably wrong about vaccinations too.

    3. @happy You are trying a classic tactic; "they made all the cheshbonos that you've made but אפילו הכי they went a different route."

      Please. It's very obvious that their worldview causes them to be unreasonably suspicious and harmful.

      Let me guess there's a cheshbon in suppressing sex abuse too?

    4. @Big Mouth, exactly, you said it better than me! Chareidi society has a worldview that is fundamentally unscientific. They believe as matter of faith that the world is 6000 years old, against science. They reject evolution. They believe homosexuality is a perversion, against science. They believe prayer works or Torah protects, against all empirical evidence.

      So this worldview has a bad side of effect of being unreasonably suspicious of vaccines. And so then you are really asking them to discard their entire worldview, including everything I mentioned above, for the benefit of being less suspicious of vaccines. Or I would ask like this: Given that to them, such a worldview is a major tenet of their Judaism up to the point of יהרג ואל יעבור, is there any reason they should treat vaccines differently?

    5. @Happy, Your criticism assumes that the anti-scientific worldview is practically inseparable from religious devotion, something I do not grant for a moment. In fact, this entire blog is dedicated to the idea that they can be separated.

      You asked: "Given that to them, such a worldview is a major tenet of their Judaism up to the point of יהרג ואל יעבור, is there any reason they should treat vaccines differently?"

      My answer is that obviously, לשׁיטתם, of course not. The real question here is הא גופא, how did they derive this שׁיטה? If their stance doesn't transcend anything more than cultural attitudes then the emperor truly has no clothes.

    6. Are vaccines any more scientific than any other practice of medicine?

    7. @Rabbi Slifkin

      What values are being preserved by not taking a vaccine???

      The only value worth protecting, apparently: authority.

    8. @BM, So we agree that the only way to get Chareidim to be completely uncritical of all science is to completely destroy Chareidi Judaism. Good. And therefore, the handwringing about one death too much is really handwringing that Chareidim exist at all, which you would rather they not. Because for Chareidim themselves, they will willingly sacrifice many lives to sustain their Judaism, the same way DL will gladly sacrifice many lives for national service.

      You ask, how did they derive this שׁיטה? That prayer works, that the world is 6000 years old, that homosexuality is a perversion? With the consequence that science shouldn't always be followed? This cannot be a serious question.

    9. Happy, I think most of us see your points, but we disagree with the fact that this should be binding. Everyone has a principle that can be pushed aside in times of crisis. (Sneaking a look toward another's exam, "borrowing" a pen, or white-lying might be low-key ones for ordinary people). Should not a magefah that has not been seen kamohu in modern times be a reason to allow for modern medicine?

    10. And another, more cynical comment:

      Let's be real. When it comes to ANY OTHER area of medicine, Chareidim are like everyone else, only more so: "I'm going to the BEST doctor around!" Why are vaccines any different? Before the autism nonsense became big, was there a movement within Chareidishe Judaism to avoid vaccines? I would put forward the idea that no, there was not. But this would require people to remember back into the 1980's, and That's Too Hard.

      So, Chareidim choose to eschew modern science because it Goes Against Traditional Values in that it brings us closer to the Outside World, only in areas where others in the Outside World have already done so!

      [I suppose this fits with Meir Moses' comment at the top.)

    11. Fozziebear - there is no consensus at all amongst Gedolim against vaccination. Reb Chaim and his late father in law are both strong proponents of vaccination. Rav Elyashiv even said that children may and should be vaccinated against their parents' will.
      Jason from Jersey

    12. Yosef I agree with you. And most Chareidi rabbis are pro-vaccine. But some aren't. And I don't think it's because of specific Torah objections to vaccines. I think RNS correctly diagnoses the issue elsewhere, that there is a sense of anti-science in general that permeates the Chareidi worldview. Which stems from the fact that modern science is in many cases very anti-traditional-Torah. So since they tend to be more suspicious of science, it shouldn't be surprising that antivax and other pseudoscience would be more prevalent among chareidim, EVEN WHEN there is no specific Torah reason.

      For me who sympathizes with the Chareidi attitude of suspicion towards science, antivax is an unfortunate byproduct of that attitude. But I don't the best response is viciously attacking Chareidim, as this blog does constantly, but rather showing how vaccination isn't against the Chareidi worldview at all.

    13. @Happy, I'm not asking you where they got into this worldview, that much is obvious.

      My question why is this worldview binding that it justifies downsides like this? The fact that they need to be super skeptical in order to ward off other things isn't a justification.

    14. @Happy, Chareidim don't have to surrender any traditional values. As I showed previously (see my comments below) vaccines are entirely kosher.

    15. @Happy, I don't think the anti science has anything to do with science being against their fundamentalist views. Firstly, an overwhelming majority of Charedi are probably clueless that much of their world view is anti scientific. More importantly, their style of anti intellectualism is found in other demographics like diehard trump people or people who commit to non science related conspiracies.

      Why can't you just admit the obvious? The Charedim have built walls around themselves as a means of protection. Now they need to learn to reach over the walls and strike a balance. Allowing people in your community to DIE so you can maintain you ghetto status when the outside world is trying to help is CRAZY! Should the Charedi holocaust survivors spurned their allied liberators to maintain the wall. You're being rediculous

    16. @Jason from Jersey
      I didn't say there weren't charedi rabbis advocating for vaccination.
      I said that the value that is being challenged is the value of authority (or in other words, how much can we allow our followers to accept any other authority?)

      The rabbis who are against vaccination are involved in a long-term battle against the authority of science. This is just one more battle in the war. Their communities have a value of absolute adherence to one authority. So listening to other authorities challenges that value.

      Suicidal as it may be.

    17. @Big Mouth, still not a question. Basically asking, why is the Torah binding even when there are downsides? For Chareidim, that worldview is a core, essential part or the Torah, as much or more so than the י"ג עיקרים.

      But maybe the question would be, what is the specific Chareidi Torah objection to vaccines? I don't know, it makes no sense to me. And most Chareidi Rabbis agree and are pro-vaccine.

    18. @Big Mouth, one doesn't need to know much science to be anti-science. It's enough to know that science believes that men came from apes, or that homosexuality is acceptable and normal.

      Chareidim, anti-intellectual? What are you smoking? That, or you have never spoken to Chareidim, seen the inside of a Beis Medrash, or looked in a sefer.

      As for the craziness of "ghetto status", most of the Torah is crazy from the modern viewpoint. You probably think it's CRAZY for Chana's seven sons to give up their lives. If we would be so concerned about that, we would have abandoned the Torah long ago, like the Reform Jews. I agree Chareidim should try to strike a balance, it may just not be the balance that YOU would like.

    19. Fozziebear - you are absolutely ignorant about the Charedi world. The non-chassidic Haredi world does not place such a premium on authority. Yet, the only pushback against vaccination in the Charedi world is from three non-Chassidic Rabbis. No mainstream Chassidic Rebbe has said a public word against vaccination, yet they are the ones who demand full deference from their people.
      If you think Reb Shmuel Kamenetzky's agenda is authority, you know nothing about him. He is the same anti-vaxxer as Jason I here on this blog, he has no argument with 'the value of science', he has his own science.
      Is he wrong? Of course! But he isn't claiming some super scientific authority, he does not even force his opinion on his own grandchildren.
      You are barking up the wrong tree.
      Jason from Jersey

    20. @jason

      credit where credit is due:

      but I think you are distorting my point.
      recap: @happy said that it's worth risking lives for values
      @ RNS asked what values are being preserved by not taking a vaccine
      @fozzie said that those rabbis who are against vaccinating are preserving the value of their central authority.

      the value of authority is very important in any insular community.

    21. @Happy, you wrote:

      "still not a question. Basically asking, why is the Torah binding even when there are downsides? For Chareidim, that worldview is a core, essential part or the Torah, as much or more so than the י"ג עיקרים."

      This is nonsense. If something can kill and is being justified as the "price of Torah" you'd darn better have proof that this is Torah indeed. Hu goofa, who said this should even be part of the ideology. Your reasoning is circular.

      You wrote: "Chareidim, anti-intellectual? What are you smoking? That, or you have never spoken to Chareidim, seen the inside of a Beis Medrash, or looked in a sefer."

      Brainsmarts doesn't not translate into critical thinking skills. That all.

      You wrote:"As for the craziness of "ghetto status", most of the Torah is crazy from the modern viewpoint."

      Where does the Torah advocate for ghettoness?

      P.s. I went to all Charedi Yeshivas, live in a black hat community and wear white shirts. Don't lecture me like a modernisher. I know the pros and cons of my community. Ghettoness to the point of physical death when not upholding anything other than unfounded social attitudes is a con.

    22. Fozzie - you are talking about real people as though they were abstracts. Reb Shmuel Kamenetzky is a real person, and he is not the leader of an insular community. He is not a Litvishe version of the Belzer Rebbe. He can give his opinion and people can ignore him with impunity. If you think that he is preserving authority by blowing nonsense about vaccines, you have no clue what is going on. You are building a thesis on your own biases, not facts.
      Jason from Jersey

    23. @Big Mouth, you say you grew up Chareidi, yet you demand proof that according to the Torah, prayer actually works, the world is 6000 years old, men do not come from apes, and homosexuality is a perversion? Ridiculous. You may as well demand proof that bris milah is required. And I already told you I agree about vaccines.

      First you say Chareidim are anti-intellectual, then you say they lack critical thinking skills. That's even more bizzare, and so obviously false. Maybe you are the one who is confusing scientific knowledge with critical thinking.

      And either way, critical thinking isn't the issue here. It doesn't demonstrate great critical thinking to listen to whatever scientists say. And conversely, those who dabble in pseudoscience are perhaps guilty of the opposite, too much critical thinking, overthinking while lacking common sense. (see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0738399116305432
      Also, see https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1659&context=utk_chanhonoproj)

    24. @Happy, please don't put words in my mouth, it's unsanitary.

  4. The difference being not taking the vaccine puts *others* at risk.

    1. Really? You think every vaccine is necessary, then? Flu shot every year, etc.?

    2. This was meant to be a reply to a previous comment, but in any case yes I do think that. Not sure what the opposing argument is.

  5. The only time a vaccine is permitted and maybe even obligated is if it’s necessary to prevent an illness to the person (and not to possibly prevent it from spreading to others).

    There are many vaccines that some Torah authorities have concluded to fall into these categories. However, in the case of the corona virus vaccine, the prohibition is absolute according to all opinions. There is no room for leniency. There are 2 distinct reasons for this ruling:

    1) There is no need for a vaccine. There are many ways to prevent and cure this virus naturally or with safe medications and vitamins. 2) The virus is not dangerous for the overwhelming majority of the population [US death rate is .26%]. For them the sin of inserting toxins into the body remains. For the minority of high risk patients who would otherwise be permitted to do a damaging procedure to possibly save their lives, there is no safe vaccine, as the trials to prove the vaccine to be safe are only being done on healthy people.

    1. 1) There are no effective ways to treat this disease, that is why thousands are dying every day in the US. To claim that there is a cure, but the medical profession is keeping it a secret while thy watch thousands of people die is a rather foolish thing to say.

      2) the exact death rate varies from place place, but even if the figure 0.26 was accurate, that would mean we can expect tens of thousands of deaths in Israel, and millions of deaths in the US - I am surprised that you think that is OK

      3) The ingredients of this vaccination have been published, and are easy to look up. They are all common natural ingredients. Which one did you think is a toxin which we should be concerned about putting into our body?

    2. "There are many ways to prevent and cure this virus naturally or with safe medications and vitamins."
      Exaggeration. There's good (but inconclusive) evidence for vitamin D, but even that evidence doesn't assume that infection rates would drop to zero. The ivermectin evidence is promising but also inconclusive & doesn't have a 100% cure rate.

      "For them the sin of inserting toxins into the body remains."
      There are more toxins in your kiddush wine & cholent.

    3. I know of 365 sins of Biblical origin, as well as some גדרים וסייגים of the Chachomim.
      None of them mention inserting toxins into the body.
      Additionally, what constitutes 'toxins'? Don't you dare say single malt scotch, but why is a vaccine 'toxins'?

      And why aren't vitamins included in 'toxins'?

    4. If we are talking about toxins, don't forget how many in the yeshivish world still smoke...

      And I really have to agree with the criticism of those who say "3000 Israel deaths - including a disproportionate number of chareidim - and 350,000 US and millions worldwide is "not too bad"!!! HOW MUCH IS TOO BAD???

    5. Wikipedia:
      In the context of quackery and alternative medicine, the term "toxin" is used to refer to any substance alleged to cause ill health. This could range from trace amounts of potentially dangerous pesticides, to supposedly harmful substances produced in the body by intestinal fermentation (auto-intoxication), to food ingredients such as table sugar, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and aspartame.

    6. @Jason, see my comment (below) where I explained that it is defiantly necessary to take the vaccine. No violation. If anything, to disregard the Trump vaccine is a violation of Torah law. Vaccines are kosher. Also, I bet you would happily take the vaccine if it would save your life. Why encourage others to disregard it?

  6. The US has a special vaccine court that reviews cases of vaccine injuries and deaths. Here are figures from 2016.

    Vaccines contain mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, polysorbate 80, cell lines from aborted fetuses, tissue from hamsters, dog kidneys, monkeys, peanut oil adjuvants and much more. Would you put this in your child’s orange juice? No! Allowing hazardous material injections into their children’s bloodstreams has caused untold grief for tens of thousands of parents.

    There is a vaccine court in the US that has paid over $4 billion to parents of children who were harmed/killed by vaccines since 1989 The US Supreme Court and Congress have said that vaccines are unavoidably unsafe. Vaccines have never been tested against a blind placebo (violating the scientific method), so even if one does not believe the evidence about the damages caused by vaccines, al pi halacha (Jewish law) is forbidden to use since they are untested treatments. To boot, the US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reported 432 deaths in 2016.Only 1% of vaccine injuries are reported to VAERS, so the number of vaccination death in America was close to 43,000 in 2016 alone.

    There are over 60 studies that show a link between autism and vaccines. I myself know two children who developed autism from vaccines.

    1. "Event Reporting System (VAERS) reported 432 deaths in 2016.Only 1% of vaccine injuries are reported to VAERS, so the number of vaccination death in America was close to 43,000 in 2016 alone." Not sure about your reasoning here. Maybe 1% of the injuries are reported, but those injuries are probably the most severe and also deadly types. You can not divide the 432 by 1% because you then get a bogus bloated death figure. ACJA

    2. "Would you put this in your child’s orange juice? No!"

      Would you put orange juice in a vaccine? No! Heck, I wouldn't put orange juice into orange juice!

      "Vaccines contain mercury".
      Not true. They contained thimerosal. Orange juice contains the same ingredients that blew up the Hindenburg.

      So do apples, carrots & onions. Not sure about orange juice.
      So do fresh vegetables & grains. Not sure about orange juice.
      "cell lines from aborted fetuses"
      You are cell lines from a non-aborted fetus. What's the difference?
      "tissue from hamsters"
      According to the "U.S. Army Survival Manual" most mammals can be eaten in an emergency without concern for toxicity. Much safer than a random wild mushroom.
      "peanut oil adjuvants"
      Not true.

      "The US Supreme Court and Congress have said..."
      Please give the citation for these. Is the SC a scientific body?

      "Vaccines have never been tested against a blind placebo (violating the scientific method)"

      Two lies here:
      1) if my memory serves me correctly, the covid vaccine was tested in double-blind placebo trials.
      2) While double-blind placebo studies with a large sample are the gold standard, it's not necessarily so that a study which doesn't reach that standard is anti-science. When a treatment for a dangerous disease has been shown to be effective, it may become unethical to refrain from treating patients & give them placebos instead. That's why there's a current debate whether ongoing covid vaccine trials should continue not giving the vaccine to its placebo recipients.

      "There are over 60 studies that show a link between autism and vaccines."
      What 'link' do you mean?
      Last time someone linked to a list of studies & every one I checked out turned out to be incorrect or irrelevant in some way.
      "I myself know two children who developed autism from vaccines."
      No you don't.

      "VAERS reported 432 [vaccine] deaths in 2016"
      Not even false. VAERS does not report deaths caused by vaccine at all. They collect data on suspected adverse reactions from vaccines. That's different than reporting conclusive causes of such deaths.

      All lies, exaggerations or disinformation.
      Plus you shouldn't be giving your kids sugary orange juice. Have the kid eat an orange instead. Cheaper & healthier.

    3. Ephraim - Thank you very much.
      I do not buy orange juice at home, because it is unhealthy sugar packaged as 'wholesome'. And I will never voluntarily vaccinate my children. It would be quite ignorant and arrogant of me to commit such a violent act on my child, without knowing the side effects, accurately inspecting the schedule and understanding the potential downside. I have many children, and I did not vaccinate any of them. Not one.

      I left the vaccination job to my children's pediatrician. I recommend that for everyone, don't vaccinate your children, let the doctor do it.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. @zichron - thanks for the laugh - I was about to write a nasty response until I saw your last line.

      IY"H we'll all be able to receive the COVID vaccine over the coming weeks / months, and slowly our lives will get back to normal

    6. zichron devorim - that was hilarious. Well played. I know a few people who have circumcised their own children, though...

      And here we go with the autism nonsense again. DO NOT say "60 studies" or whatever. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in studies have shown that that link is bunk. The original paper that started this all (Lancet) was retracted! This is a DEAD ISSUE.

      Also, everyone knows that animal kidneys don't go into orange juice. That's what kishke and hot dogs are for. Seriously, we wouldn't eat anything if we saw it being processed.

      On an unrelated note, we also wouldn't eat anything off of any surface if we were to strap cameras on houseflies - do you know where they step? And then where they step?

    7. @Jason Please demonstrate how your epistemological standards differ from those of flat earthers or any other pseudo scientific movement.

    8. I actually wish there were Jewish flat earthers because it would be fun to argue with them. Or Jewish sovereign citizens. I'm noticing a convergence of all three in the world at large, just today I watched a video of a sovcit delivering legal (or perhaps pseudo-legal) papers against COVID-19 regulations to a police officer and over the last month or so I've been following the case of a flat-earther who violated quarantine and is using sovcit tactics in his court case.

    9. @jason - one more thing "432 deaths in 2016" lets grant that for sake of argument. You have to balance that against the millions of people who would have severe reactions and even death from not getting vaccinated. I have no problem getting vaccinated since the benefits to me and society far outweigh the risks of not getting vaccinated. ACJA

    10. @zichron devorim and Jason I
      What a foolish thing to say. I'm not even going to attempt to debunk you because others have already said what was necessary. In short, vaccines saved millions of lives. Ever wonder why you never see the doctor because you have smallpox? Vaccines solved that problem.

      Also, vaccines are healthy and reasonable, and the Trump vaccine was found to be safe. Why put others at risk because you weren't vaccinated? Be responsible. Be a responsible human being and get vaccinated. Do I have to quote what the sages have to say about people like you who refuse to protect the community? They don't speak kindly about those who jeopardize people's lives.

    11. Also, Chassidic Rabbi Nachman said that one “must be very careful about the health of children . . . (and) inoculate every baby against smallpox before the age of three months, for if he does not do so, he is like one who sheds blood.” As it turns out, a chassidic rabbis supported vaccines, and so should you.

    12. Turk hill - you should really read until the end.
      But now that you have shown you reading abilities, I know how you became a republican.
      Less knowledge = more confidence.

    13. Mr. ZD
      I find it very interesting that you have a negative view of Republicans - I get the impression you are very Charedi, and it's extremely rare (especially in the last few years) for a staunch Charedi to be in any way aligned against the Right.

    14. Shlomo - you write 'extremely rare'. How did you get to that conclusion? Did you commission a survey? Did you ask the guy on the bench next to you in the Mikva?
      Or is the idea of a monolithic monochromatic Charedi world central to your worldview?

      I can assure you that although the overwhelmingly popular view amongst Charedim is the right wing one, due to the type of literature consumed as well as other factors, I am still not alone in my views and my children are accepted into school and I am not shunned in Shul.

    15. Mr. ZD
      You challenge my characterization of "extremely rare" as without evidence, but then go on to characterize (the converse) as "the overwhelmingly popular view," without citing evidence. What were the results of your survey? Also, I'm not sure how much difference there is between "the extremely rare view" and the one precluded by "the overwhelming popular one."

      Anyway, I don't know if you took my comment as antagonistic, but it definitely wasn't intended as such. In my Charedi circles practically no one shares my views (literally close to zero, to my knowledge), but still my children are accepted into schools and I am not shunned in Shul. That's because I don't usually share my politics b'rabim (also, as passionate as our oilam is about these things, they're not really make it or break it for us on a personal level). (In any event, I suppose there may be other anti-right morranos in our ranks that I don't know about.)

    16. ""Vaccines have never been tested against a blind placebo (violating the scientific method)""

      From a guy that never heard of the scientific method and certainly never used it in his life before he started "researching" vaccines while sitting on the toilet, suddenly he's going to lecture us all about what it is and how someone else violated it. LOLOLOL

      The Covid-19 Phase 3 vaccine trials that resulted in approvals for Pfizer's and Moderna's products respectively, were both Randomized, triple-blinded (participant, care provider, and investigator), PLACEBO-CONTROLLED, multicenter trials. Approximately 20,000 in the treatment group and 20,000 in the placebo group in each of these 2 separate trials (80,000 total participants). Out of the 80,000 or so participants, 40,000 received a SALINE PLACEBO.

      Antivaxxers literally just make up talking points and anything that "sounds convincing" to make you believe their fairytales

  7. UPDATE:

  8. @RNS Here's the problem. The change that needs to be made in the Charedi world needs to be done through evolution not revolution. You posting hit pieces like this, as justified and frustrating as they are, do not advance the cause. To the contrary, it will cause the charedim to retreat into their cocoon due to perceived foreign intrusion

    Your scope of influence is MO. The few charedim you interact with are antagonistic especially towards you. This job needs to be left to the more moderate rabbonim in the yeshiva world (Lopianski for example), who although they won't speak out in a matter that will satisfy you (revolution) they'll influence people by more subtle means (evolution). Be patient, the silent majority supports the moderates.

    1. This point is well made. Big things like this are not pivoted, they drift slowly. But something needs to start the push. And there are always individuals who will hear.

    2. I think r slifkin is ok with the idea of evolution. Womp womp.

    3. @Yosef R, Correct, and I'd add that Slifkin is literally the last person to get the ball rolling. This reminds me of Yair Lapid trying to force Charedim into the army. Hopeless.

    4. yeah, except that in the middle of a pandemic we don't wait around for slow social change. Haven't you heard of
      עת לעשות לה'? אם לא עכשיו אימתי

    5. @Reb Gili, You are correct that social change wont happen in a few weeks, but yelling אם לא עכשיו אימתי wont help if the social infrastructure isn't in place so that they realize this is an עת לעשות לה. I hope this made sense.

  9. RHS has his own conspiracy theories a la metzitzah b'peh kills thousands more times then even the CDC claims

    1. There is a recording of him saying that his daughter told him that 5 chasidish babies die a year from MBP in the hospital that she works at but the administration covers it up because they want chassidish business. He then said there are five major hospitals that serve chassidim so that means that 25 babies die a year. According to the CDC approximately 2 or 3 babies died over a 15 year period. I personally asked him if he was exaggerating in any way and he said no.

    2. https://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2013/03/15-babies-die-every-year-in-nyc-from-metzitzah-bpeh-herpes-hospitals-cover-up-deaths-leading-yu-rabbi-claims-567.html

    3. I do not know the data regarding the number of infants harmed by la metzitzah b'peh. It is NOT a medically recommended practice and has the potential for great harm. What right does anybody have to do perpetuate this action on an infant ? ACJA

    4. ACJA - that is not the issue here. Rabbi SHechter is peddling false info, even if it is for a good purpose.
      Yankel the comment writer

    5. How did you confirm that his info was false? Did you even bother to try?

  10. Didn't think this would come up again here so quickly lol, but, that book you recommended recently g the invisible gorilla) has a wonderful chapter on why people are so willing to believe anecdotal anti vaccine propaganda over scientific studies. So many areas of life from politics to religion to science to feelings are so enlightened by that book. And people aren't monsters is one of the best points, as was nicely conveyed by your article about the election biases and political polarity

  11. Adding to the many comments here, vaccines are kosher. Vaccines have saved millions of lives. It stopped small pox, for example. If you've ever wondered why small pox is no longer a thing, you could thank vaccines for that. Edward Jenner created this vaccine against smallpox in 1796. Also, the “CDC” recommends Trump’s vaccine.

    To support my claim that vaccines are kosher, Israeli Orthodox Rabbi David Samson said: “There is no prohibition in using medicines which contain forbidden ingredients if they are administered by injection, suppository, enema, medicated bandage, and the like, since they are not eaten.” Even Moses urged the Israelites to take the “utmost care,” and to be “most careful.” (See Deut. 4:9, 4:15.) Later, Moses reminds us of the obligation to make a parapet for a roof, so the owner is not “bring bloodguilt” should anyone fall. (See Deut. 22:8.) The Sages understood  Moses statement about G-d’s commandments to protect one’s health, to mean also to oneself guard against disease. For example, the Talmud teaches that we should teach our children how to swim (See BT Kiddushin 29a.) In his Mishneh Torah, Rambam said the duty to take protective measures was a positive commandment. One could only live a Torah life if one is healthy to do so. (See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot 4:1; Rotzei’ach 1:6, 14.) Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch, agreed. (See Shulchan Aruch, Chosen Mishpat 427:8.)

    Even if vaccines contain blood cells or pig cells, these should not prompt the person to decline the vaccination. They can be taken with injection. Not mouth pill though, as it is forbidden to swallow pig or blood according to the Jewish laws and would violate the laws of kashrut. However, as I said previously, injection is safe and responsible. You would not deny a blood transfusion, so we must not reject Trump’s vaccine. Every Jew needs to be safe from bacteria. We cannot afford to lose one more.

    Chassidic Rabbi Nachman of Bratslov, who lived hundreds of years ago, wrote in his Kuntres Hanhagot Yesharot, that one “must be very careful about the health of children . . . (and) inoculate every baby against smallpox before the age of three months, for if he does not do so, he is like one who sheds blood.” Those who put the community in danger deserves a lashing or be excommunicated. (See Rabbi Prouser, at 22-25/31.) It is one thing to say that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. It is quite another for the charedi Gedolim to prevent vaccinations that are helpful. It plays with people’s lives.

    1. Not the focus, but:
      And if medicine derives from nonkosher animals... we ask a shaylah and see if the substance has been transformed enough, if the medicine is chewed (and therefore tasted) or is it swallowed, and of course how important and lifesaving is it. A dehydrated and powdered marrow extract in small quantities as part of a pill that is swallowed to cure meningitis is probably OK while literal jellied pig blood that needs to be swished about in the mouth in order to stop seasonal allergies is probably no good. Of course, no halacha l'maaseh here!!

    2. Not all vaccines are equal.

    3. Chaim Stern, true, but the Trump vaccine was proven to be safe. Therefore, we are obligated to take it.

  12. https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-vaccination-is-not-an-ultra-orthodox-jewish-hangup-20190515-jppvzaabqfcm3cku2erlp7piry-story.html
    "However, the New York State Health Department reports the average vaccination rate for measles among the nearly 200 Jewish K-12 schools in Brooklyn — mainly in Borough Park and Williamsburg — is 96%, six percentage points higher than the statewide average among private schools. In contrast, six other New York counties have a vaccination rate below 50%."

    1. OK. Most follow the guidelines. This is part of proper medical care for one's children. But is this number lower than in Modern Orthodox communities? Are Modern Orthodox subcommunities within those regions helping to inflate the numbers? (I admit that's a little bit conspiracy thinking...) But there are not 4% of children who have immune deficiencies to the point where they cannot be vaccinated. Maybe 0.4% The number should be 99%+.

      And Jews in Borough Park likely have more children than non-Jews in NY State - especially those that go to private schools (even those who go to Catholic schools I would presume), so there are more sources for problem when an outbreak hits. And we all know that in recent years there HAVE BEEN outbreaks.

  13. RDNS asked, "What values are being preserved by not taking a vaccine?" It's the frightening notion that anything comes from outside their community is of value.

  14. Ask yourself & ask the fence sitters the following:

    Why are GP’s not isolating? dying?

    Why are frontline staff not isolating? dying?

    Why are police officers not isolating? dying?

    Why are soldiers not isolating? dying?

    Why are bus drivers not isolating? dying?

    Why are most hospitals empty?

    Why are testing centres empty?

    Why is it that 96% of people testing positive are mask wearers?

    Why is bacterial pneumonia on the rise because of mask wearing?
    Yes, keep that one quiet 🤐 MSM!!!

    Why is it that large conglomerates can stay open whilst small businesses of the same industry are bullied into closing?

    Why is it the BBC was funded by Bill Gates to peddle pro Covid propaganda?

    Why is it that the biggest censorship campaign is now enforce?

    Why is it the “The Great Reset” is being openly advertised yet people still deny it?

    Why is it that Wuhan people were dropping dead in the streets but that’s not happening anywhere else in the world 🌎

    Why is it the mainstream media are using crisis actors & dummies to peddle fear?

    Why is it that our police force has undergone a huge militarisation?

    Why has police brutality sky rocketed?

    Why is it that fact check websites are funded by the same elites that are funding the media for pro Covid propaganda?

    Why is google blacklisting anything that questions the narrative?

    If the virus is so deadly, why would you need to take a test to tell you that you’ve got it?

    Why are graveyards & crematoriums not overflowing?

    Why are hospitals not overwhelmed to the point of everything else fully cancelled?

    Why do you need an app to tell you to isolate?

    Why has China gone back to normal without a vaccine?💉

    Why has Covid-19 never been isolated?

    Why are the government not answering these questions?

    1. What is your epistemology based on?

      Why do people fall prey to conspiratorial thinking?

      What is the psychological attraction to conspiracy theories?

      What empirical knowledge do you actually have?

      Why do your theories and all similar ones seem irrefutable in principle?

      Why do you lack critical thinking skills?


    2. 5G, Area 51, the grassy knoll, Shabbetai Zvi's conversion.
      Etcetra etcetra etcetra

    3. Much of this is easily refutable nonsense, against the basic facts that all of us know (e.g. why aren't graveyards overflowing???? There is room for another 300,000 graves in America's graveyards. What should that prove?)
      I just find the first questions repulsive. There are people who have a work ethic that would have them endure a slight risk to life and limb to help others, and this commenter uses that against them?! The virus is deadly, it does not kill everyone who contracts it, or even most of those who contract it. But it does kill some people, and 300,000 Americans have died already. Frontline workers are being as careful as they can, lowering their risk, but they are willing to help others against their own wellbeing. The basic decent thing to do is to say thank you and do your utmost to reciprocate by following the rules and guidelines as scrupulously as you can. In fact, if they say 6 feet, try 12 feet, to be machmir.
      Jason from Jersey

    4. Cherry picking here based on time and my personal knowledge:

      I work in a hospital. It ain't "empty." In fact, we keep adding new Covid units.

      Testing centers - some are full to the brim. Some institutions will not do testing for "I just wanna know" as this would overwhelm their abilities. Others might be less full as those who needed to know before already know.

      What bacterial pneumonia? WHAT??

      96% of people test positive are mask wearers? Is that true? Is that because 96% of the population is paying attention?? Anyway, the correct statistic to check is this: What is the percentage of positively testing non-wearers as compared to the percentage of positively testing mask-wearers. Also, nobody says that masks are impervious shields, but they LOWER THE RISK.

      Oh look! Bill Gates!

      Police brutality - if it HAS escalated, might have done so because everyone is a little stressed out at this time. But more likely it has not escalated, there have always been unfortunate incidents, just that some of them get turned into cause celebres once in a while.

      The biggest censorship campaign? What does that even mean?

      If the virus is so deadly? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little...

      Don't let facts and education get in the way of being a complete ignorant conspiracy theorist.

    5. Does 12 feet now act as a "fence" for 6 feet?

    6. "Why has Covid-19 never been isolated?"

      Why do you lie? Your question doesn't even make sense. Covid-19 is a disease. SARS-CoV2 is the virus that causes the disease, and it has been isolated innumerable times.

      "Why are most hospitals empty?"

      Why do you lie? This isn't true.

      "If the virus is so deadly, why would you need to take a test to tell you that you’ve got it?"

      Why did Hashem punish you with such poor reasoning skills. It is unfair.

      And on and on...

  15. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.timesofisrael.com/less-than-20-of-israelis-willing-to-take-covid-vaccine-immediately-poll/amp/
    So less than 20% of Israelis are willing to take the coronavirus vaccine, but remind me again how this is a chareidi problem?

  16. See UN aggenda 21 and aggenda 2030
    Read "The Great Reset" by Klaus Schwab, head of the World Economic Forum

    It's not a conspiracy theory if they're telling you of their plans

  17. Last week's 'Der Yid' had an extremely pro-vaccination editorial on its main editorial page last week.
    That is the official Satmar position, nothing less would be allowed there.
    Jason from Jersey

  18. look up in last weeks FJJ page 25 what rav elya brudny had to say about that pashkevil.

  19. Most of the same people who oppose vaccinations would, if they got cancer, chas v'shalom, readily take a cancer drug from the same companies to treat their deadly disease. The fact that these companies are making money by providing efficacious treatments (and vaccines) for diseases is irrelevant. The food companies also make money. But we still buy food and line their pockets so that we eat and survive. Making money is not a bad thing. No frum person who makes money seems to think it's a bad thing when he himself makes money. But when someone else does, it has to be nefarious? This is such idiocy.

    In addition, a lot of the same people who oppose vaccinations would also readily advocate supplements and vitamins (in place of actual medicines that are proven to work) for all sorts of ailments because of how (supposedly) "natural" they are and because the "big pharma" boogeyman can't make profits on them.
    Guess what? The sellers in the supplements industry make BILLIONS from selling snake oil that, unlike pharmaceutical products, are not regulated and have no independent agency confirming efficacy and safety from clinical trial data (most of them don't even bother to run trials, as it might expose their product is a placebo). But you know what else?
    Big pharma DOES sell vitamins. They were the first to do it, and they still do!

  20. Rav Yitzchak Yosef also recommended everyone to get the vaccine. I think it was obvious that the rabbis would recommend everyone get the vaccine

    I never heard of a rabbi saying there is something wrong with vaccines (I would love to see a REAL source) every time they quote a rabbi as saying vaccines are not good for you it comes out to be a hoax.

    And btw vaccines don’t contain mercury they contain thimerosal in concentrations of 0.001%-0.004% and if that’s not good enough for you the fda has thimerosal free vaccines. Also formaldehyde is used as a preservative and pretty similar to your food preservatives and house hold cleaners and is used in many medical procedures

  21. Would the same "gadol" Rav Stern who urged against getting the Covid19 vaccine also urge cancer patients not to accept effective cancer treatments? Afterall, it's the very same companies, and the very same FDA, who are supposedly trying to poison and kill us all by protecting us from Covid with vaccines, that are also the ones who developed and approved novel (lifesaving) cancer treatments!

    So why the special categorization for "vaccines" as if they are an alien invasion completely divorced from all other reality of the drug industry? Stupid, moronic gutless "leaders" who have no knowledge whatsoever and just cater to the trends and wives tales floating around their community among the masses of ignorant loudmouths are getting their followers sick and killed.

    Will he make his case in a pamphlet that we can ridicule like R Shmerla before him?

  22. Pashkevils are a ridiculous way to communicate with the public. I wrote a related post a few years ago:

    Thursday, December 26, 2013
    He might have possibly maybe said what? I'm appalled!

    Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is now purported to have stated that anyone who uses an iPhone is invalid as a witness, or as a mesader kiddushin.

    But why does Haaretz report on this story with the words "Prominent rabbi reportedly declares marriages and divorces witnessed by those who have Internet access invalid."

    Why "reportedly"?

    Why does Harry Maryles write in The Jewish Press that he's sure R Kanievsky was either misquoted or misled?

    Why isn't there a clear process of communication for "gedolim" to communicate to the Jewish world they supposedly represent? Why is everything hearsay?

    I know that the Charedi world doesn't work this way, but I wish there was a publication and verification process, like there is in the academic and reputable journalistic worlds. Otherwise, we depend on rumor and hearsay about what these rabbinic statements.

    We should not be having endless conversations about whether a famous rav actually said what he is purported to have said or not. The conversation should be about agreement or disagreement with these statements. It's ridiculous that so much time is spent discussing who said what.

    If a well known rav makes a statement, it should be unambiguous and he can then be called upon to defend or explain himself. Vague statements from behind closed doors reported by followers with agendas should not be taken seriously.

    For those who adhere to the guidance of "Daas Torah", any directives of this sort should be disregarded unless there is a clear communication from the rabbi in question himself.

    And for those of us, like myself, who do not subscribe to the concept of "Daas Torah"? We should similarly demand a clear and unequivocal statement from the source before we attack the rabbi in question for statements he only may have said.

    1. I used to visit this blog often as an excessively opinionated teenager. Thankfully I've matured and have not been here for about 6 years. I finally return to see what's going on & Slifkin is writing about "things 'Chareidim' might have said but didn't actually say", and I'm just so happy I didn't grow up to be a bitter & divisive person. See you when I'm 50.

      Michoel B

  23. Warren Burstein - I actually know a Jewish flat earther - he wrote an article about that which I read recently. It is hard to believe.


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