Friday, January 22, 2021

Scientific Ignorance or Anti-Influence?

This morning I had decided to write a post modifying some of what I wrote two days ago in my post "So, Why DO Chassidim Disregard Covid?" One person had pointed out the following salient points:

You didn't mention that chasidim are primed and prepared for accepting misinformation such as "anti-mask science" and the idea that covid regulations are specifically targeting religious groups. Magical thinking, conspiratorial thinking, scapegoating, blamelessness--these are woven in to the fabric of the stories and teachings that form these cultures.

In addition, I was speaking to a cousin who in turn has cousins in deep Israel chassidic society, who are suffering greatly through countless levayos, and shiva visits that bring on even more levayos. It seems that they are in such an utterly pre-modern society that they genuinely do not see any connection between ignoring precautions and contracting Covid.

On the other hand, from the Litvishe side of things, a disturbing comment came in that further confirmed the thrust of my post:

I am an Avreich who learns in a big Charedi Yeshivah in Yerushalayim. I was diagnosed with Corona this week and am currently in Bidud. The Yeshivah I belong to continued throughout this current lockdown as if usual, with busloads of Avreichim coming in everyday and no efforts as social distancing enforced or encouraged in the Yeshivah. At the moment there are very few Avreichim who have not contracted Covid over the past couple of months - I was one of the last, meaning that there is very little incentive for the Yeshivah to close anyways even if they wanted to. I was very reluctant to go into the Yeshivah last week due to the situation and the lockdown, however the fact that my Chavrusas and Chaburah were functioning as normal meant that I felt like I was missing out and bucking the trend to stay at home when everyone else was continuing as usual. In retrospect the situation is crazy and almost unbelievable, in the Yeshiva Covid is non-existent asides from the odd missing Avreich who is recovering from Covid and the signs on displayed on the notice boards asking us to daven. I am embarrassed and ashamed to be even considered part of such an institution and I wish I had the courage to stay home and buck the trend. Indeed, I can testify that everything written in this article (my Yeshivah is in Meah Shearim) is 100% true https://www.jpost.com/opinion/haredi-autonomy-is-killing-israel-with-covid-19-656279.
I have thought long and hard as to the rationale and justification behind ignoring Covid - and whilst on the surface the people around me justify it because of the price of Torah learning that clearly isn't the real reasoning, or at least for 99% of the community, rather I also came to the same conclusion along the lines of Rabbi Slifkin that it is a general attitude of ignoring all attempts to influence their way of life. The insular Charedi community has morphed into a crazy and sick almost idol-worshipping habitat which values insularity over anything else. It will cling on to its way of life all the stronger if threatened by something like Covid - what drives them is not the desire to do G-d's Will but rather the desire to push back against any attempts to influence their way of life - that is idol worship. Whilst on an individual basis I value the community greatly there is so much good and the insularity is fantastic in building a true Torah lifestyle. However, on a community level it has led to these types of terrible atrocities and Chillul Hashem.

The Jerusalem Post editorial that he links to, Haredi autonomy needs to stop so Israel can beat COVID-19, is a must-read.

I must add that there are undoubtedly many people in charedi society who are just as upset about all this as is this avreich. The question is whether they are a small minority, a significant minority, or even a silent majority.


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53 comments:

  1. The whole situation is really sad.

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  2. Being part of the community, I believe it's a significant minority, but still far from the majority.

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  3. There is still something missing in the analysis (I wish I knew what). Look at the vaccination data by city: https://datadashboard.health.gov.il/COVID-19/general?utm_source=go.gov.il&utm_medium=referral
    see chart התחסנות לפי ישובים
    If most residents of Haredi cities were scared by the situation, they would be running to get the vaccine (which was at least publicly endorsed by the big-name rabbis). The non-Arab cities with the highest COVID rates tend to have a very low percentage of people vaccinated. That cannot only be attributed to a young population. Yes, there are many young people who are not eligible, but a whole lot more than 5% of the population is over age 35-40.
    I just don't get it, and frankly, it's scary
    Shabbat Shalom

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  4. Unfortunately, the ones most likely to believe a conspiracy theory are ones who already believe in another. And almost all chareidim believe the government is out to get them, priming them to believe in other more ridiculous conspiracies.

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    1. @ash, Chassidim feel that the government are encroaching their rights and their way of life. Nothing more.
      Shabbat Shalom.

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    2. It goes further than that. They thing this "encroaching [of] their way of life" is meant to annihilate Torah values in order to reign on supposedly more docile hilonim. They literally think that the media being hostile to them has nothing to do with them not contributing, economically and militarily, and everything with them being influenced by evil spirits because of their sins. Shavua tov.

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    3. Not only Chasidim think that the 'government' is encroaching - plenty of goyim do too. In fact the notions of encroachment and other arguments around 'freedoms' are not dissimilar between both groups. This is where the focus is and should be, not the 'oy vey'z mir' self-pity of communities who deliberately push against social norms of shared burden - there is actually a nexus between conspiratorial gentiles and those in the 'resistant' Haredi/Hasidic sector - they share MANY commonalities, one of them being egotism and inwardlookingness to 'sustain' their own sectarian worlds. What's interesting is that the argument should be INVERTED - what UNITES these haredim and the gentile communities is what I find fascinating and weakens the Haredi arguments! If Haredi currents cannot withstand these ruptures then THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG with those societies - an inflexible immaturity that they see as a 'lifeline' to sustain their sects, but really they operate outside the boundaries of common humanity and society.

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  5. There really needs to be a balance struck. For many chareidim, we need to keep shuls, schools, yeshivas, and mikvas open, so let's throw all caution to the wind. For secularists, we need to control this pandemic, so let's shutter those useless mikvas, shuls, schools, and yeshivos indefinitely.

    In some American chareidi communities such as Baltimore, they have managed to keep shuls, schools, yeshivas, and mikvas open while still masking and distancing where possible, and as a result their numbers are quite good.

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    1. "For secularists, we need to control this pandemic, so let's shutter those useless mikvas, shuls, schools, and yeshivos indefinitely." And bars and sports & cultural events and family gatherings and schools and friendships....come on - this a completely false comparison. The response is in your last sentence.....only today I found out of a well known Dutch Jew who travelled to London for a family simcha a few weeks ago in London and now is in ICU....just this past day...the Chilul Hashem of a 400 person wedding in Stamford Hill broken up by the police while the goyim are in Lockdown....it's ridiculous. Enough excuses.

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    2. Secularists are full of excuses for things they consider "essential" -liquor stores, restaurants, acupuncturists, BLM protests...

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    3. "Secularists are full of excuses for things they consider "essential" -liquor stores, restaurants, acupuncturists, BLM protests..." - except this is not true at all. Your examples are ridiculous because of course the majority of secular people are controlling their behaviours. Furthermore, many of these examples are subject to strict guidelines. One does not spend hours maskless in a liquor store or share an acupuncturist with others. Furthermore - not only did an absolute minority of people attend BLM protests - it is known that those that did, believed in and adhered to many of the health requirements. They were not protests AGAINST the covid measures....STOP MOVING THE GOALPOSTS.

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    4. The majority of secular people are NOT controlling their behavior, at least not enough. That's why there's 400,000 people dead in the US and counting. And people in fact *do* spend hours in liquor stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and acupuncturists...the people who work there. Often in cramped, unventilated spaces. No surprise that there's higher spread among "essential" workers. Who then spread it to their families and others. This is not "controlling their behaviors". At least not enough.

      For some reason, Western societies have decided it's worth it to keep "essential" businesses open, even at the expense of spreading the virus. But secularist want to shut down mikvas, shuls, schools, and yeshivos indefinitely, even if they DO adhere to many of the health requirements. Because they don't consider them essential.

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  6. You make a valid point, the reason you give is correct, but it is not the only reason. I believe the dismissal of other equally valid reasons is simply your bias, the reason you chose as being the correct one is the one that fits into your longtime narrative that everything chareidim do (that you disagree on) is simply because they don’t want to change their lifestyle (and not because they simply disagree with you on the facts or the interpretation of the facts).
    I believe you can agree that a person can have many reasons at once for doing something, e.g. I bike to work instead of using a car for a few reasons: Cheaper, faster, don’t have to look for parking, punctual, healthier and better for the environment, each one individually would’ve not been a compelling reason (for me) to bike instead of driving, neither do I need all reasons to compel me to bike, but it is a combination of all of them. (the reasons not to bike in New York is; it’s dangerous, it’s harder, I can’t bring along stuff, I need to have an exact plan before the trip, etc.)

    1) I don’t know if you are aware but in America (I’m a chariedi living in Boro Park, USA) every single main-stream media article discussing covid, has the obligatory mention that systemic racism is was caused the higher percentage of covid and death cases in the Black community, no one dares blame the victims for it, the only victims that were and are blamed, are the Orthodox Jews, they were the only community singled out for school and Shul closers, governor Cuomo made the red zones explicitly according to the borders of the Jewish communities, the zones where all data driven. However, when all of New York reached the same positivity rate (and higher), nothing was closed down (except for a very short time in Staten island) and the singling out of the Jews was all but forgotten. (BTW the supreme court ruled against the Governor, showing that he was clearly discriminating against the practicing of Religion)

    Now, you are probably going to argue that Chassidim are entirely different than the black community, but you must realize that you also believe that Israel is being singled out as the only country with human rights violation, and you believe that the whole world is crazy for doing so, the Chassidim believe that they are unfairly singled out and the whole world is crazy for doing so.

    2) Chassidim believe in “B'shert” (call it determinism if you want), yes they believe in the contradicting concept of “hishtadlus” but ultimately they believe that people die when their time comes, the “B'shert” concept is spoken about all the time and commands a big part of the theological discussion by chassidim. Completely dismissing it out of hand because it makes no sense and it cannot be reconciled with “hishtadlus” and it can not be reconciled with the fact that when they get sick they go to the best doctors, does not mean that they don’t live by it (call it dialectical thinking, or whatever). Why did they choose specifically to go with B'shert regarding covid?
    The answer is:
    1. Most of the time the easiest way to reconcile B'shert with hishtadlus is differentiating between something seen and immediate, vs something that is just a statistic.
    2. It is extremely difficult to stay at home with a large family with no entertainment and no zoom, so the bias pushes people to the B'shert side
    3. Community is their life so obviously B'shert most play a role in their jewish life
    4. The great Barrington declaration, you may laugh at it but someone who has a bias to accept it will accept, obviously chassidim take it a bit further but that is how things work once the cat is out of the bag, once you don’t believe those evil leftists in regards to lockdowns you don’t believe them at all. (confirmation bias and all)

    Moshe from BP

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    1. "every single main-stream media article discussing covid, has the obligatory mention that systemic racism is was caused the higher percentage of covid and death cases in the Black community" - I challenge you to find a 'mainstream' news article asserting what you believe. What is probably more likely is that Black communities (like Haredi communities, but for different reasons) lack the social infrastructure and services network that have caused disproportionate suffering. Black communities have pooer health & educational outcomes and have a tendency to distrust vacc. & medical policies for both rational and conspiratorial reasons. Haredim need to be aware that compared to the Black communities historically in the US, they have it good. Reading your post it just sounds like the internal monologue typical of the Haredi community that always points fingers at the 'other'. The argument around 'B'shert' is ridiculous and of course simply an excuse to behave in a manner that puts others at risk. That is not B'shert, that is not 'community' that is not 'holiness' - it is lunacy.

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    2. Bill de blasio and Cuomo are anti-semites. They closed down a Jewish playground.

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    3. Nonsense - sick and tired of these falsehoods. Swathes of the observant Jewish community have not stepped up to the plate. Their rates of infection and deaths are statistically higher than the rest of the population and many have shown nothing but contempt for the goyim. If they are upset that they live with 12 children in an apartment and cannot control them THEN THAT IS THEIR PROBLEM. Stop complaining about the goyim and look at yourself. This COVID disaster has really shown which streams of Judaism can cope and which can't and I'm sick and tired of the excuses from a sector that seems more akin to spoiled children than mature people dealing with reality. Will they learn from this? I doubt it....

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    4. Meir

      It seems that you completely missed my point.

      In the last few posts Rabbi Slifkin tried to explain why the Chassidim do what they do regarding Covid, the only explanation he considers the real one is that they do not want to change their lifestyle, and they fight against anything that threatens their lifestyle, coincidently it fits into his long time narrative that everything Chassidim (I use the term Chassidm because the discussion partly started after calling the Bobover Chassidim ‘murders’) do that he tends to criticize is simply based on their unwillingness to change.

      I was merely pointing that in this case it is not so. and I gave a few examples of what the “internal monologue” is.

      You challenge me to find a Main-stream article that blames systemic racism, then you go ahead and give the exact explanation that all those articles give, so what is the challenge? My point was that no one blames the victims, the Chassidim claim the same, you should not blame them (the victim) for higher covid rates (if there is any) but rather blame any number other factors.

      You can call the concept of B’shert “lunacy”, fine, I’m sure there are many religious ideas that you believe in that others call “lunacy”. It does not change the fact that Chassidim believe in the concept of B’shert.

      I’m not trying to defend Chassidm, but this is part of the “internal monologue” and it is funny to watch outsiders trying to explain the “real” reason that Chassidim do what they do.
      Moshe from BP

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    5. The concept of "B'hsert" you refer may not be lunacy, but it's not Torah.
      וכענין שאמרו זכרונם לברכה (חולין ז ב), אין אדם נוקף אצבעו מלמטה אלא אם כן מכריזין עליו מלמעלה, אף על פי כן צריך האדם לשמר עצמו מן המקרים הנהוגים בעולם, כי האל ברא עולמו ובנאו על יסודות עמודי הטבע, וגזר שתהיה האש שורפת והמים מכבין הלהבה, וכמו כן יחייב הטבע, שאם תפל אבן גדולה על ראש איש שתרצץ את מחו, או אם יפל האדם מראש הגג הגבוה לארץ שימות
      (ספר החינוך: מעקה)
      The fact is that these people have been continuously & pervasively been violating לא תעמד על דם רעך. Not because they don't believe in that מצוה, but because they believe that partying at mass weddings & tishes is more important. There's a reason why חז"ל recorded שקשה עליהם טהרת כלים יותר משפיכות דמים for perpetuity. It's because that critique is eternally relevant. And it's obvious to what kind of Jews it refers too.

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    6. Yes, yes, we all know this Chinuch but how do you reconcile the two? if you really believe that a person does not hurt his finger without God first decreeing it (let’s call it determinism), how can you then say that putting your hand in fire is what caused it burn and if you would’ve not done it wouldn’t of happened?

      I don’t know of a satisfactory way to reconcile the two that will not be considered apologetics, but how can a person integrate both ideas into his life? One way I mentioned is by differentiating between statistics and things that are immediate and seen. The examples given in the chinuch are direct and immediate, you drop a stone on someone the guy will get hurt. The virus is a statistic, (as far as I know people who “know” they have the virus do not mingle), with a large crowed it is statistically probable that someone will spread the virus to someone and it will eventually reach someone who is vulnerable and die, in such cases they believe that it depends on Gods decree

      Again, I’m not trying to defend Chassidm, I’m just saying that the reasons given in the last few articles are not the complete reasons and it is a disingenuous attempt of trying to understand the “other side”, because it gives the author the opportunity to end ‘is it right to kill people just because you don’t want to change to your lifestyle?’

      Moshe from BP

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    7. "Yes, yes, we all know this Chinuch but how do you reconcile the two?" The חינוך doesn't reconcile, neither should we. That being the case, the laws of nature are Hashem's laws. When one sticks his hand in a fire, the flame dutifully obeys Hashem's command & burns the hand. So decreed Hashem.

      "One way I mentioned is by differentiating between statistics and things that are immediate and seen....The examples given in the chinuch are direct and immediate"
      That's a non starter. The מצוה of מעקה is not about an immediate danger- people don't just accidentally walk off roofs. It's a potential danger- or as you put it a statistical danger. To put it into perspective (USA), the chances a construction worker will die from a fall over the course of a lifetime is about 1/600. Compare that with the 1/785 chance (so far) than one will die of covid just this past year alone. The chances that any person (not just in construction) will die from a high fall is on the order of 1/400,000. So מעקה prevents far less deaths than properly following covid precautions with all the חומרות & הידורים.

      "with a large crowed it is statistically probable that someone will spread the virus to someone and it will eventually reach someone who is vulnerable and die,"
      Wrong. It's a certainty. What's statistical is who will die.

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    8. Great, it seems that you agree those two concepts cannot be reconciled if so, unlike your previous assertion (it seems that you now agree) the concept of B’shert is “Torah”, you just believe that the case of the wedding during a pandemic is similar to (or worse) the case of a fence on a roof vs Chassidim believe that the B’shert concept should be applied. At least we are getting somewhere, it is now simply a question of how to learn the sugya.

      Regarding a fence on a roof, you provided statistics for construction workers from modern day USA, with its many safety regulation in place. The Torah is talking about a roof in a time that it was used for all sorts of things from storing stuff to drying fruits and more. During the lifetime of the roof someone might fall from your roof during its normal use and when he falls the roof will be the direct and immediate death. But a wedding during a pandemic, no induvial can be said of him that he has coivd or that he will get it from someone and spread it further that will cause someone’s death (as far as I know people who “know” they have covid do not mingle). In other words, the roof itself for this individual, has a high probability that during the lifetime of the roof someone will fall and die. You cannot say that of a pandemic, the probability is not based on a single individual, but rather on many individuals so each individual alone does not have the high probability.

      (In my first post I had also given other reasons why they apply the concept of B’shert.)

      Of course, you can argue on how to learn the sugya, but my point was not to defend the Chassidim, my point was that the previous articles only discuss part of the reasons the chassidm do what they do.


      Moshe from BP

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    9. Ephraim, I wanted to say I appreciate how you bring compelling Torah sources to these discussions. As well as impeccable logic.

      That said, I'm not sure if for every crowd we can say it's a statistical certainty it will cause a death somewhere. Shouldn't that depend on many factors? P(nobody in the crowd has covid) + P(those who have covid aren't standing in proximity to those who aren't yet immune) + P(those who catch covid don't end up passing it on to a vulnerable person) + P(those vulnerable people don't die). Can't say what that sum is, but it seems it should be non-zero?

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    10. Moshe from BP - I tried the same as you, to no avail. People cannot separate facts and judgement, and they cannot see what you are writing as true without judging it.

      The reason for a מעקה is not the chances of a person falling. The Torah's method of judging dangers is not through chances. Just like רוב, קרוב, חזקה and other methods of deciding ספקות are not chances. People are so used to dealing with chances, that they cannot fathom that another system exists. But the Torah's methodology is different, ואם ריק הוא מכם הוא ריק.

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    11. Moshe from BP, it seems your definition of bashert is "fate." While judaism recognizes the validity of "fate," it also believes that Jews can supersede fate via tefila. Hence, astrology may be valid for goyim but not for Jews. Rabbi Sacks z"l said one of the more disturbing aspects of fate-based religions is that they are devoid of the component of hope. If I misunderstood you, then I apologize in advance. My understanding of "hishtadlus" is taking action in conjunction with tefila. Bashert would be the result of hishtadlus, either because of the hishtadlus or in spite of it.

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    12. Not a problem, let's drop the numbers. What is clear is the Chinuch defines the מצוה as "להסיר המכשולים והנגפים מכל משכנותינו" .
      And the Rambam:
      "וכן כל מכשול שיש בו סכנת נפשות--מצות עשה להסירו ולהישמר ממנו ולהיזהר בדבר יפה יפה"
      The Rambam discusses several other types of dangerous- deaths caused by gravity, water, wildlife & infectious diseases (hgl- should apply his probability formula with the prohibition of putting coins in one's mouth) . All of them have to be avoided.
      The medical experts have defined crowds as dangerous, hence halachically they must be avoided. No need to discuss numbers.
      I brought up the Chinuch to show that the whole "B'shert" claim was irrelevant. Then "Anonymous" brought up statistics. So I showed him that covid was more deadly than falls. I didn't have to- once something has been determined as risky, it becomes halachically forbidden.

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    13. Ephraim, good points. I would add Gemara in Pesachim that says the reason why we dip in charoses is because of the dangerous "kapa" (a poisonous worm?). The Rosh explain, the reason why we are only careful at the Seder and not the whole years is because when doing a mitzvah, one must be *more* cautious than usual, even for the slightest risk. The Mor Uktziah says this is also the reason why we are more careful to do hesaiba on our left during the seder, as opposed to the rest of the year. So if Chassidim consider big Rebbishe weddings a mitzvah, they should be *more* careful than usual and at least wear masks and try to distance (also, why not have it outdoors?).

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    14. Since the intended purpose of my post was not to defend the Chassidm but rather to point out their ‘internal dialogue’ that anyone purporting to be explaining them should be discussing, I would try to be brief. (Also (as you might have noticed from the grammar of my posts) I’m am a Yiddish Speaker so articulating and writing ideas in English is not easy).

      Just a few points:

      1) I mentioned statistic in the negative, that when something is just a statistical danger, they sometimes ignore and really on B’shert

      2) The Rambam you mentioned which is in הלכות רוצח ושמירת הנפש פ' י"א doesn’t really mention diseases, the only thing he does mention is this:

      אסור לאדם ליתן מעות או דינרים לתוך פיו שמא יש עליהן רוק יבש של מוכי שחין או מצורעין או זיעה שכל זיעת אדם סם המות חוץ מזיעת הפנים:

      He provides a long list of possibilities of things that can kill the person, this takes it out of the realm of “statistic” and makes it ‘direct and immediate’

      3) This is all about protecting yourself, a מוכי שחין או מצורע is still allowed to live his life and use coins and does not have to be afraid that someone will put it into his mouth (I would assume that it is probable that people put coins in their mouth)

      4) The apparent contradiction between determinism and if humans are capable of changing anything in the world is not new, see here https://he.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/בחירה_חופשית the section of "תפיסת חכמי ימי הביניים והעת החדשה" , providing sources from the Rambam and Chinuch who were part of the rationalist camp will not help us understand the viewpoint of Chasidim.
      Moshe from BP

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    15. The previous comment with the wikipedia link was written by
      Moshe from BP
      (I might have forgotten to sign and the official policy of this blog is to reject anonymous comments)
      Moshe from BP

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  7. "At the moment there are very few Avreichim who have not contracted Covid over the past couple of months - I was one of the last, meaning that there is very little incentive for the Yeshivah to close anyways even if they wanted to . . . [I]n the Yeshiva Covid is non-existent asides from the odd missing Avreich who is recovering from Covid and the signs on displayed on the notice boards asking us to daven."

    Their thinking is probably "Well, this doesn't seem to be affecting us too much, just the odd avreich here and there, and people aren't dropping dead left and right so what's the big deal?"

    I heard a news story from a town in rural America where they were reacting to COVID essentially the same way. Their basic attitude was "life is hard, stuff happens, we're not dropping dead, so we're not overturning the way we live because of this". It was very eye opening. I disagree, but in an odd sort of way, I respect that.

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    1. People are dying. it's a stupid brain-dead attitude no matter who espouses it.

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    2. Itis eye opening, in that the Haredim who think the goyim hate them, are so isolated in society they don't even realize that there are FAR MORE goyim who behave like them - egotistical, uneducated and sectarian. What is eye-opening is the shared stupidity and callousness between these two groups and yet the Haredim claim to be so different...well...all over America, church going Orthodox Christians are behaving and dying in the same manner...it is truly eye-opening how little difference there is.

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  8. I have no doubt this will be controversial but I think it is worth considering. As ashamed and embarrassed as I am to write this I wonder if the charedim can truly continue to be counted within normative Judaism. Much like the ascetic Essenes they seem to wish to remake Judaism in a way that is not connected with, and does not even seem to value, Jewish law and theology as practiced for millennium.

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  9. It starts with recognizing that religious Jews are just as smart as you are. Once you recognize that fact - and not just mouth it to appear open-minded but actually get it in your bones, such that readers might actually believe you've realized your mistake - then, and only then, might you be able to write something worth considering. Until that point, you have nothing to contribute.

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  10. "People should not be walking around with masks.... There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people ‘feel a little better’ and it might even block a droplet but it’s not providing the perfect protection the people think that it is. And often, there are unintended consequences. People keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face."

    - Faucci, on March 8, to 60 Minutes.

    And then all of a sudden it changed. You can try to to explain in away all you want. But people aren't stupid. If you actually believe that the Ds weren't salivating to "vote from home", and if you think a senile man legitimately got 10 million - ten million!!! - more votes than anyone in history, including the Holy Obama - then there's no hope for you. It's not the Chassidim who'll believe anything, it's you.

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    1. It changed BECAUSE HE GOT MORE INFORMATION. Note that that quote is from March. Once we understood the spread better, we adapted. DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THIS? You are THE PROBLEM parroting information culled from social media and fox.

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    2. Another trope. Let me paraphrase what Fauci actually said: "Don't wear a mask, you don't NEED it ... we really really, really NEED them for health workers"
      Anybody who was actually listening at the time heard the תרתי דסתרי - Fauci said that masks don't work & in the same interview said masks work. It was clear (though not obvious) that there was a major failure & un-readiness in the USA medical system in regards to the availability of protective masks.
      "But people aren't stupid."
      But they are. Fauci told them masks are very very important but in particular for medical workers who would be consistently be in contact with sick people all work day long. But the people heard what they wanted to hear because they didn't want to inconvenience themselves with wearing masks & so they focused on only one part of the interview.
      And what you've done is to cut & paste something you read or heard from the covid deniers & never bothered to read the whole interview or to put the interview in context of where we were back in March: unprepared & not yet deluged.

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    3. Ephraim -

      That Fauci said we need masks for hospital workers, and not healthy citizens is consistent with what we know about the effectiveness of masks. Hence, the rest of the quote you provided from Fauci is irrelevant. Masks have never before been recommended as a universal measure - indeed, DA Henderson, who is credited with eradicating smallpox, wrote about the lack of evidence of universal masks in a 2006 epidemiological report (as well as about the ineffectiveness and danger of much of the current lockdown measures that many countries have adopted). Hospitals are unique settings in that, -a- as you mentioned, sick patients are dealt with for periods of time sufficient to become infected -b- healthcare workers wear N95 masks (and properly), which are far more effective than surgical/cloth masks, which the public tends to wear because they allow for more breathability, and to reserve N95s for hospitals. Dr. Knut Wittkowski, a world class epidemiologist, has also mocked the notion of universal masks. Indeed, if anything, the evidence seems to be that universal masks don't work, as countless graphs show infection rates continuing to climb weeks after mask mandates were implemented. In any case, the burden of proof is upon the one claiming effectiveness.

      Social/governmental mask mandates bring along their own issues as well, that proponents of masks don't take into account. E.g. setting up a moral hazard, and giving people false confidence in masks, when social distancing is far more effective (see for example, Democrat politicians hugging each other with masks on, at the Biden inauguration). E.g. The issue of freedom and tyranny, and how long is it okay to tell an entire population to cover their faces? E.g. The issue of loneliness and depression created by a society that can't properly socialize. E.g. The fear that it and other measures have created which has prevented people from getting screened and treated for other deadly diseases, thus unintentionally causing deaths, Etc. Etc.

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  11. a schreiber, how about beginning your own blog. Finally there's someone capable of articulating what so many of us already understand.
    Great work

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  12. As a fellow avreich fully entrenched in the mainstream litvish chareidi world, let me explain: Its simply a matter of priorities and weighing risk vs reward. We understand the science of the virus and that torah doesn't protect against getting it. We are not stupid and see what's going on around us and in our own communities. But to give up yeshivos, kollels and shuls is too catastrophic for our religion that it is worth the risk. Most of us do things such as wearing masks that don't have any real downside. For dati leumi these things just aren't as important. On the other hand I suspect that if theoretically because of covid we had to abandon settlements in the west bank (and if not everyone would be affected) we would see the opposite situation - dati leumi not listening and charedim being ok with it.
    Moshe

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    1. Moshe, sadly I believe you are correct in your comparison to the religious zionist world.
      What this shows however is that both camps have elevated their core values waaaayyyy too high and are now stupidly fundamentalist / extreme about their particular focus.
      two camps of idiots is what orthodox judaism has been reduced to in the 21st century.

      People are dying and you cry "Torah Torah" as if that isn't totally insane. For shame.

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    2. Moshe, thank you very much for weighing in with your perspective. I am fascinated that you describe a conscious awareness that this approach causes additional deaths, and yet it is worthwhile in order to maintain yeshiva life.

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    3. Again, we try our best to mitigate passing it on, we avoid visiting old people etc. , but we realize it won't help 100%.
      This is very simular to how many dati leumi are willing to live in and maintain settlements even though they know that people will die from it. they think its worth it. not everyone agrees (I actually suspect most of the country doesn't agree when you add up chilonim, charedim, and arabs).
      Chareidim view learning in yeshiva and kollel ask a top value. I don't see how that can be viewed as insane. There is no shortage of mekoros in chazal extoling the extreme importance of torah learing in general, of children, yeshivaos, etc.. you can argue that the risk here outweighs but to call it insane just shows your bias. Have you not been reading rabbi slifkin's articles warning about viewing "the other side" as insane?
      Moshe

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    4. Moshe, even if you think that following what the Torah says should be more important than common sense (i.e. if my rabbi says to put my head in a fire then I will...), then you (or your rabbi) still have to make a convincing Torah based argument that "Limmud Torah docheh Pikuach Nefesh".
      I absolutely defy you to that make argument based on solid sources.

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    5. In response to anonymous, I think that the difference is that someone who is dati leumi and lives in a yishuv is (arguably) endangering their own life. The Hareidi response to COVID is endangering the lives of others, both in terms of increasing the number of infected (and therefore infectious) people in the general population, and by increasing the burden on the medical system.
      You mention staying away from old people. Let me make it personal. I have 92 year old parents. I can't "avoid visitng" them; they need 24 hour care. Their caregivers sometimes need to take the bus, where they could be infected. I have some kids still living at home. They have at times during the past year stayed home from school, self quarantined, or eaten in a separate room on Shabbat (depending on the circumstances) to protect my parents.
      I realize that members of the Hareidi community are not the only ones flouting the rules, or even the worst offenders. However, they do seem to be the only community doing it as a group, and following the instructions of their rabbinic leadership.
      I also find it difficult to understand why vaccination rates are so low in some of the worst hit Hareidi cities. It would seem like you would be racing to get the vaccine (as we did) to save lives and resume community life.
      When years ago, there were demonstrations against people driving on shabbat (generally Rechov Bar Ilan in Jerusalem), the spokesmen of the demonstrators always gave a parable of a boat...they said that we are all on the same boat, and if the hilonim cause a [spiritual] hole to be made in the bottom of the boat by driving, we all drown together. How come now it is the Hareidim who are not considering their fellow passengers?

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    6. "But to give up yeshivos, kollels and shuls is too catastrophic for our religion that it is worth the risk."

      Lies. What about mass weddings? Tishim? Lag B'omer in Meron? What about charedi politicians promoting crowding in Uman? Why not daven outside? Once the Yeshivos (with dormitories) were show virus free, why did they allow the boys to come & go from Yeshiva grounds? Why did they let the RYs & other staff come into close contact with the boys? It was NEVER about תורה or תפילה per se. Adjustments could have been made that could have guaranteed uninterrupted learning. But it about the lifestyle with both the learning, the partying & other non-Torah elements.

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    7. "Chareidim view learning in yeshiva and kollel ask a top value."
      No they don't. If they did, they would have made sure that learning in yeshiva & kollel was done safely. In most cases, they didn't bother.

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    8. Actually, many would rightfully argue that the settlement enterprise encourages terrorism and endangers the entire country.

      I speak only for the mainstream litvish chareidim who follow Rav Gershon Eidlestein and Rav Chaim Kanievsky. They both have said it is a mitzva to vaccinate and although there is no data out on it, from my anacdotal experience it seems that their followers are listening on par with the general population.

      Places like beitar elite that have a 5% vax rate are full of chassidim, peleg, and other groups that have much more extreme and less practice views. Many of them seem to genuinely not be aware of the basic science behind viruses and vaccines, which I agree is a big problem.
      Moshe

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    9. Moshe - you would be right if the refusal to keep the rules was limited to essential matters like learning and davening.
      But it's not. It has been extended to many things that are not essential at all.
      The Chofetz Chaim has a beautiful vort on אם בטלת מן התורה יש לך בטלים הרבי כנגדך.

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  13. To Anonymous (Moshe). I appreciate the polite and respectful tone of this discussion. A few points, if I may, regarding your analogy.
    Even if you are correct regarding the "settlement enterprise" (something that can probably never be demonstrated one way or the other), in 2020- 3 died in terror attacks in israel, in 2019 10 died, and in 2018 16 died [https://news.walla.co.il/item/3412431]
    COVID has killed more than 4000 Israelis, and put unprecedented pressure on the health care system, not to speak of the economy. Since as you say, you acknowledge the science, and you understand that COVID is a highly contagious virus, I don't understand how you can support "business as usual". Even if your own rabbis are willing to be 'moser nefesh' to continue as ususal during Corona, how can they justify the effect on the public at large?

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    1. I appreciate your appreciation of the polite and respectful tone.
      I can argue that the costs (not just in deaths) of settlements are much greater than you imply but even without that - lets say there would be hundreds or even thousands of deaths because of it, do you see the dati leumi abandoning them because of it? I find it highly improbable. Every time someone is killed they come out with calls to build even more settlements to show the arabs that they'll never back down, no matter how many are killed. They view it as one of the highest priorities of the Jewish people that is worth dying for - even though many of us disagree. The charedim feel that way about yeshivos, shuls and kollels.
      As for supporting business as usual - the rabanim of the mainstream litvish really do encourage taking every reasonable precaution such as mask wearing. There are many who are relaxed about it and aren't careful enough (I personally am not sure how many, but the feel I get is that its definitely a minority), but you have that in every sect of Israeli society.
      Moshe

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    2. Moshe
      "mainstream litvish really do encourage taking every reasonable precaution such as mask wearing"
      but they dont encourage staying at home during the seger and not going to weddings, talmudei torah or whatever.
      so, no. they aren't being 'beseder' at all. they are condoning the public spread of the infection and thus more illness and death.
      how many deaths is a reasonable price for limmud torah berabim according to your shita? 5 deaths? 20 deaths?
      Or couldn't people just study at home?
      This isn't shmad. there are no gezeirot against limmud torah. Only gezeirot to promote the health of the tzibbur.

      you still have provided no explanation of why limmud torah (especially berabim) is doche pikuach nefesh

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  14. I think there is a fundamental issue which is ignored and I have not seen covered at all in all these discussions. The main reason for social distancing is a well founded fear that if you let Covid simply run its course the health services of many, if not all, countries will fail and run out of beds and ventilators etc. Hence you allow peaks of Covid while allowing the economy to grow and then have lockdowns to contain the numbers and allow peaks again until bh you have a vaccine. The Charedi perspective in general is not towards the good of the state, but rather towards the good for their own communities (the reasons for this are beyond the scope of this post). Most non Charedi people living in the UK/Israel etc would value saving the health service and act accordingly even if they themselves are not high risk and of limited risk when contracting Covid. The Charedi view is that the effort of a 'complete obliteration' to their fabric of life is not worth the goal of 'saving the health service' of either a secular Medina or their countries in the Diaspora.

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