Thursday, February 11, 2021

Daas Torah on Covid-19

The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel of America, has shared its wisdom and guidance regarding the Covid pandemic. And if there's ever been a situation in this generation which has called for such wisdom and guidance, it's this. The pandemic has already been devastating the world for a year, with a particularly distressing, disproportionately high rate of sickness and deaths in charedi communities worldwide. And as the Gedolim point out:

It is clear that there is upon our nation an appeal from Heaven to correct our ways. Every person must examine his behavior and strengthen whatever may be lacking. But, in addition to that, the public – as a tzibbur – must examine its collective actions and lifestyle. We therefore feel it important to bring up a fundamental and broad point on which the public should now focus.
Finally! Strong Torah leadership about how chareidi communities, to a disturbing degree, have not cared to prevent the mass crowded gatherings which drove up the infection rate. About how they have not cared to wear masks or to keep infected people in quarantine. About how despite the principle that "all Jews are responsible for each other," people have not cared about those in their communities who are especially vulnerable to Covid, or who suffer from the resultant lockdowns. About how they have not cared to follow laws about precautions, nor cared about the deaths and chillul Hashem they have caused. About how even now, the rate of vaccination among the charedi community is far less than in the general public. After a year of tepid responses by Torah leadership, we now have a Kol Korei making the declaration that has been so desperately needed!

Ha! Unfortunately, though perhaps all too predictably, that's not what they say at all. Instead, the "fundamental and broad point on which the public should now focus" is something else altogether:

Klal Yisroel is a “nation of princes and a holy people.” The dedication of our people to Torah learning and to raising thousands upon thousands of families on the foundations of Torah and service to Hashem should be proclaimed far and wide! It is only the nation of princes, the holy people, who can do this despite the influence of the culture surrounding us. How fortunate are we, and how good is our lot!

However, we must remember that the meaning of “a holy people” is a people who – as Ramban, Vayikra 19:2 explains – distance themselves from the pursuit of excess. It is greatly concerning to us that if one examines our community’s lifestyle we see that there is much to improve in this area, as reflected, for example, in the advertisements in periodicals.

There are amongst us people who, notwithstanding their care with mitzvos, pursue fine foods and expensive vacations; they boast of their clothing and furniture; they are swayed by the triviality and bad of unfiltered smartphones and internet. Those who are engaged in these pursuits have turned from the lifestyle that was always a characteristic sign of the chareidi Jew: a modest life centered around Torah, service to Hashem, and kindness to others; a life purposed on being close to Hashem. All Jews are responsible for one another; we must all repent on this direction.

Certainly, in this time of danger, we must act with great care for the health of our communities. It is, however, also a holy obligation on us to uproot this spiritual danger from amongst ourselves and to return to being a holy nation to Hashem.

We turn to the Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbanim – the eyes of the community – and to all leaders in every community: Seek ways to inspire your yeshivos and shuls to return to what was; not to allow the Jewish nation to descend into the trap of a life of materialism. Through this we will remain a nation of princes and holy people, in the full meaning of the words.


Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of calling for people to cut down on excessive materialism. But to make this the focus of a Covid-19 Kol Korei?! This is what examining the collective actions and lifestyle of the charedi community calls for in light of all the sickness and deaths?

As I said to Rav Aharon Feldman many years ago, when he complained to me that I had "successfully made the Gedolim look like fools": It's not me or anyone else. They do it all by themselves.

If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you. And if you live in Israel and haven't been vaccinated yet, then for Heaven's sake (and for the sake of the rest of the country) go and get it done - ubelieveably, there is more supply than demand.


  1. The Gedolim are convinced that Covid-19 is a result of Jews not keeping Shabbat or not being observant enough. Coronavirus is G-d’s Warning and the charedi Gedolim knows this. The pandemic is divine punishment on a global scale, the sin is global. G-d's message is for the earth to do teshuva. The Charedi Jews are suffering because we are not keeping Shabbat and spreading G-d's Torah. We should be more concerned about keeping Shabbat than Covid-19 because not keeping Shabbat is the source of the pandemic.

    "But if they do not cry out, but instead they say, “What has
    happened to us is mere nature,” it is surely the way of cruelty, and it causes them to stick to their bad deeds. And to this trouble (G-d) will add other troubles. About this is it written in the Torah, “But walk arbitrarily (dismiss) Me, then I will (also) walk arbitrarily with you in fury.” That is to say, “When I will bring upon you troubles — if you will say that it is mere nature and not a sign from G-d, I will increase the fury of this arbitrariness” (Lev . 26:27-28). (Ibid. 1:3)

    Rabbi Slifkin, is COIVD a natural event or a Divine punishment from G-d?

    1. Maybe it's a punishment from God for the sins of charedim? After all, that would explain why they are suffering the most.
      Isn't it a sin to act dangerously?

    2. How about it could be both and we have a two front war?

    3. Well, we have clear evidence to identify negligence as the cause of excess deaths in the charedi sector. What exactly is the evidence that materialism is responsible?

    4. Indeed, if one were to take the idea of Covid-19 as divine punishment at face value, one would have to conclude that Charedi society has specifically incurred G-d's wrath.

    5. "What exactly is the evidence that materialism is responsible?"

      What kind of question is this? The Torah says that sins cause sufferings, and materialism is a sin. What further evidence does a Torah believing Jew need? This is an appropriate question for a kiruv seminar, not for somebody who calls himself "Rabbi".

    6. In the case of the Charedi community their greater suffering is a punishment for not wearing masks, holding large gatherings, and preaching universal kollel which causes them to live in cramped quarters.

      It seems like the Gedolim didn't just miss the boat, they got it exactly wrong. Its the *lack* of attention to gashmiyus that's caused COVID to hit them worse.


    7. It's debatable whether materialism should be classified a sin, and how it's defined and what are its healthy limits. But it is indisputably a sin to ignore danger, especially when your negligence harms others, even causing death! What further evidence does a Torah believing Jew need?

    8. I think from the beginning that Covid was sent by God to the world to make them understand the urgency of protecting the earth.
      And to religious jews in particular (it seems we have been hit especially hard by all standards) to make them understand they too are part of the society they live in, and how silly their wars against science and the internet are.

      Right now, both those lessons do not seem to be learnt by the people who most need them, but we might see fruits in the near future.

    9. You're right, one can debate the parameters of the sin(s) of materialism. And ignoring danger is a sin as well (and of course those parameters can also be debated).

      But we don't ask "What's the evidence that punishments come from Hashem?" This is a question of non-believers.

    10. No matter what the Roshei Yeshivos would have written, this blog would find a way to respond condescendingly.

      I hate to be the bearer of bad news but plenty of people died DESPITE taking precautions. The Roshei Yeshiva are suggesting methods for bettering our ways that MAY reflect why COVID was sent by Hashem in THE FIRST PLACE.

      It is obvious that casualties were unavoidable. Not taking precautions seriously enough does not negate the general question of why it happened in the first place.

      If one ignores universally accepted medical advice and they get harmed, they have themselves to blame. But many COVID causalities were not negligent.

      Bad people NEVER like to think about spiritual reasons for events - according to the opinion of King Shlomo.

      Mishlei 28,5. "Men of evil do not understand judgment, but those who seek Hashem understand everything."
      See meforshim there.

      Its also comical because RMBM the rationalist says that suffering is a result of bad deeds. While Slifkin has many reasons for why he was wronged by others, and he is very vocal about those, he never suggests any reasons for why Hashem caused it to happen to him, as per RMBM. Considering he hasn't used an even hand there, I highly suspect that his critique here as well isn't particularly even handed.

    11. Did anyone ask what's the evidence that punishments come from Hashem? It seems to me the question is how do we know what it's a punishment FOR. (Furthermore, one might ask (although I haven't seen it raised here): how do we know what exactly is a "punishment?" I assume you'll consider that a question for non-believers as well, but there is a clear tzad among the Rishonim that there's such a thing as "mikrah." Of course plenty of Rishonim write "everything that happens is exactly from God," and yet they'll also write about mikrah. Don't pretend the yishuv is poshut.)

    12. shlomo,

      "there is a clear tzad among the Rishonim that there's such a thing as "mikrah"

      what's wrong with the classical yishuv (which also seems to be an explicit passuk in the tochacha) that hashgacha pratis refers to that which hashem brings upon a person within the framework of schar/onesh, ie you get what you deserve, vs mikrah (sometimes called hashgacha klalis) refers to that which hashem brings upon a person (and all of the rest of creation) not because they deserve it but because it serves some other purpose for maintaining the world as hashem wants it.

    13. "What kind of question is this? The Torah says that sins cause sufferings, and materialism is a sin. What further evidence does a Torah believing Jew need?"

      The evidence that materialism is the *particular* sin involved. And not, say, covering up child abuse.

    14. Mr. Anonymous,
      Regarding the "classical yishuv:" how would one go about recognizing which is which? For example, perhaps a pandemic of sorts "serves some other purpose for maintaining the world as Hashem wants it?"

    15. Evidence is the wrong thing to ask for. We don't have prophets, so we don't know for certain. But I would prefer daas Torah to inform me the sins of the Jewish people, rather than Failed Messiah, Rationalist Judaism, or The Daily Stormer.

      Shlomo, in which context do Rishonim say that there is mikrah? You think when a disaster befalls the Jewish people, they would call it mikrah? From what I recall, they say there is mikrah for non-Jews. They also say there is mikrah for Jews who have strayed so far from Hashem that He treats them with mikrah.

    16. Mr happy
      As I pointed out in the next post we should davka assume the sins are those committed by the דייני ישראל as the Gemara in Shabbos (139a) makes clear. I'll take that over "daas Torah" any day.

      The Ramban (for example, I think to iyov 36:7 me a few places Al hatorah) says that mikrah applies to those who are not tzaddikim, and he is NOT specifically talking about non-Jews.

    17. And the acharonim raise the stirah in the Ramban and, the alter of Kelm for one, confesses he's not really sure about how to resolve it. (AND the teretz he does give wouldn't satisfy the strong-form everything is from God take anyway.)

    18. Shlomo, thanks for the exact source. I knew it was a Ramban in Iyov somewhere. He says similar to what I said before, והרחוק מן הקל במחשבותיו ובמעשיו...יהיה משולח ונעתב למקרים. So if Covid is a mikra, and we are subject to the forces of mikrah, we ought to determine which sins make us רחוק מן הקל מחמשבותינו ובמעשינו. Materialism sounds like a good candidate!

  2. This is what examining the collective actions and lifestyle of the charedi community calls for in light of all the sickness and deaths?

    Yes Yes Yes, as your oh so rational Rishon says:

    מצות עשה מן התורה לזעוק ולהריע בחצוצרות על כל צרה שתבא על הצבור וכו
    ודבר זה מדרכי התשובה הוא,

    and then in his next piece he seems to have had you in mind...

    שבזמן שתבוא צרה ויזעקו עליה ויריעו ידעו הכל שבגלל מעשיהם הרעים הורע להן וזה הוא שיגרום להם להסיר הצרה מעליהם

    and he says furthermore...

    אבל אם לא יזעקו ולא יריעו אלא יאמרו דבר זה ממנהג העולם אירע לנו וצרה זו נקרה נקרית הרי זו דרך אכזריות וגורמת להם להדבק במעשיהם הרעים ותוסיף הצרה צרות אחרות הוא שכתוב בתורה והלכתם עמי בקרי והלכתי עמכם בחמת קרי, כלומר כשאביא עליכם צרה כדי שתשובו אם תאמרו שהוא קרי אוסיף לכם חמת אותו קרי.

    Yes I know that if the Charedim have with their own actions been the cause of each others death from a Torah perspective, then that would have to be the first area to try and rectify. However in this instance as so many people have already posted - correctly - that the Charedim do not feel they have for the most part acted out of line.

    In which case your new post is just another case of you showcasing your bigoted views in the public domain.

    1. That makes it even worse! They now have the evidence that Torah did not protect them, that attending large indoor events such as weddings had a profound cost in terms of lives lost and yet, in your view, they still refuse to consider that have gotten it disastrously wrong. It is one thing to make a bad decision; it is quite another to refuse to recognise when you've screwed up, especially when lots of people have died as a result.

  3. The actions looked at as being possible causes of punishment as per Rambam need to pre-date the punishment. The actions you would like the MGH to focus on cannot be the cause of the punishment, so while perhaps worthy of addressing, doing so does not fulfill the Rambam’s imperative to identify a cause.

    1. And how exactly did they identify materialism as the cause? Goral haGra? Spin the bottle?
      There's no way to identify a metaphysical cause. But the cause of the excess deaths in the chareidi sector is clear.

    2. R' Slifkin - I agree with you that the letter should have more of a focus on praCtical steps to prevent contagion. That being said, if the letter had said that and then also added that people should focus on toning down conspicuous consumption as a zechus to end the pandemic, or even gone so far as to say that such materialism is a likely cause Of G-d punishing the world with the pandemic, would you have been so condemnation? My point is that while you are correct in pointing out their ignoring the obvious, mocking their underlying message is incorrect.

    3. Perhaps they noted that Covid is stopping excessive weddings. So they thought that was the problem

    4. Mr. Slifkin, you say that there is no way to identify the cause as materialism. Remember that RMBM for reflecting on causes of punishment? We are supposed to look at our lives and reflect. They did not say they know for sure. Ideas and suggestions are not statements of fact. Your supposed rationalism is so far to the left of RMBM and frankly it is more anti-Torah driven than rationalist.

  4. May G-d have mercy upon your family....

  5. Wait - now I'm confused, I thought was caused by Tzniyt and Wigs from Human Hair. Now you told me it's being caused by Materialism? No wonder we haven't been able to stop this disease, we were working on the wrong Middot.

  6. I usually agree with your analysis, but here I think you got it wrong. If you read the message carefully (note I couldn't read the picture, so I only saw the part you quoted), they are not blaming materialism for Covid or its devastating effects. They are saying that 'in this terrible time, let's think about materialism'.

    That still might not be a good message, and it would certainly be better if they said 'in this terrible time, let's think about wearing masks and social distancing', but it's not the same as you are claiming, that materialism is the cause of the devastation.

    1. This is one of those times when I really miss Rabbi Sacks z"l. There could have been a great Kiddush Hashem here. He (and a few others) could have led a public call along the following lines.

      "As religious Jews, we call on everyone in the world to follow the scientifically recommended guidelines in keeping with that fundamental Jewish value, the sanctity of human life. Nothing can be more important than that - both religiously and morally.
      Once we have done that primary task, we note that a traditional Jewish response to suffering is to take the opportunity to examine ones own moral behavior. Judaism asks each of us to ask 'what of our flaws might this pandemic be asking us to correct?' So we urge everyone to use the time, in between the first and the second dose of the vaccine, or while staying at home in compliance with lockdown regulations, to take the time to introspect and ask what each of us are doing to make a more just, fair and kind world. This is the contribution of the Jewish religion to the global community. Let us first do all we can to stop the pandemic. Then let us ask if perhaps we could be better people."

      I don't think many people could have done this. Rabbi Sacks could have done it. This would have been a significantly better response than the one given by the Moetzes.

  7. @RNS, Although all your criticisms are correct, I really think your approach is counter productive. Bashing the majority of Charedi rabbonim, especially coming from you, just fortifies the siege mentality that causes the Charedi attitude. How about making a series of posts promoting Charedi voices that have taken it seriously? For example:

    Rabbi Lopiansky:

    Long beach Rosh Yeshiva:

    These are far more likely to advance your cause.

  8. Mr. Big Mouth: apparently you do not recognize what Rabbi Dr. Slifkin's cause is. It is to make all Haredim look as bad and foolish as possible. Though all the Rabbanim who have signed this letter find a lack of adherence to health directives to be appalling, and have said so, the facts make no difference, and Rabbi Dr. Slifkin will find a way to mock and ridicule any statement they make. This has been going on for sixteen years now, so the particular subject is irrelevant, so long as it serves the greater cause. If the Rabbanim and Yeshivos (whoever they may be) are still respected by the public, this somehow reflects upon his own books. For an analysis of the psychological process that leads people to publicly discredit Rabbanim and Talmidei Chachamim, see Michtav MeiEliyahu vol. 4 (or maybe vol 5) - 'מהלך עוזבי תורה' pg. 158. This was edited by the man R. Slifkin calls his rebbe, but as it goes, he picks and chooses what he wants to present publicly.

    1. "Though all the Rabbanim who have signed this letter find a lack of adherence to health directives to be appalling, and have said so"
      This is a lie. R' Kotler (to choose just one example) finds the lack of adherence to health directives to be appalling and has said so?

  9. So, basically, we have two approaches to pandemic. One is to do tshuva and increase Torah involvement. The other one is to close synagogues, warship facemasks and rely on orders of mechalel Shabbos politicians who got dreamed opportunity to suppress our religious activity.

    1. How dare you mock Rav Chaim Kanievsky! He ordered all to wear masks and listen to the government.
      By the way, have you recently checked to see what percent of the gov't observes שבת publicly? It's pretty high.

    2. In what world is going to shul without a mask, in violation of halacha, a "religious activity"?

    3. The Charedi community wearing masks!? Why wasn't I informed about this!?

  10. I find the historical revisionism interesting -- *as Charedi Jews have always done...* -- arguably there were not "Charedim" more than 200 years ago. (And that the Moetzes explicitly went with the brand of "Charedim", rather than something like "kosher and Torah-true Jews" or the like.)

    If you tell me that frum Jews have never been materialistic, then please explain why the rishonim kept making communal enactments limiting the size and scope of simchas, and why the Sforno keeps complaining about pursuit of luxuries, or why Chafetz Chaim complains about people wearing fancy embroidered clothes?

    I think the Moetzes can safely say "in time-honored tradition, we will attempt to complain about materialism."


    The contemporary R' Chaim Soloveichik in RBS actually said (it's a yutorah mp3) "if Rambam says it's cruel to dismiss *metaphysical* causes of crises and say eh it just happens, then it is certainly wrong to ignore *direct physical* causes."

  11. You watch!
    The chareidim are ahead of the curve. They have accepted Covid is here to stay and we must live with it. As individuals we make decisions that impact our own safety. You can lock yourself away for the next five years, isolate completely and you will be fine.
    Quit your job, find a new one, enroll your kids in an online school etc.
    Or just get on with it and accept you have a higher chance of death.
    You will see. by September it will be clear, the chareidim were ahead of us

    1. "They have accepted Covid is here to stay and we must live with it."
      You made this up. You have not polled the Charedim, nor have you consulted with the leadership.
      "As individuals we make decisions that impact our own safety."
      This is solipsism. As individuals we make decisions that impact our and others' safety.
      "by September it will be clear"
      Funny. That's exactly what the 1942 Farmer's Almanac said. If you're going to plagiarize, use an accurate source.

    2. @anon, any attempt to credit the charedi response to an alternative calculation/ strategy is futile. Even if it were to be shown that the charedi response was better (the opposite is true) it would be a mere coincidence. There is no charedi calculation regarding corona.

    3. Ephraim, your response that adds nothing substantive, and neglects to relate to even one of Anonymous's points. You really raise the level of the idea marketplace here. But what can be expected from someone whose relevant source is "the 1942 Farmer's Almanac"?

    4. "and neglects to relate to even one of Anonymous's points."
      Read again & skip the joke. Big Mouth echoes my sentiments- Anonymous claims that the Charedi response was a prescient realization that "Covid is here to stay and we must live with it." This is simply not true. If there were some prognostications prevalent among Charedim, they were predictions that the pandemic would very soon blow over.
      Then Anonymous made the point that people are responsible for their own safely but neglected to mention responsibility for the safety of others (which is a Torah obligation.)

      You are correct that I didn't respond to the other points. What level of danger we're willing to tolerate as a society is a good question. That question, to be relevant, assumes that covid will remain a pandemic and not recede into becoming endemic. And it's a baseless assumption.

  12. What has been the lesson(s) learned from the Holocaust or from our history of numerous holocausts, albeit on a lesser scale? We don't learn, nations don't learn, people generally dont learn. Why? Because the behaviour is genetic. Nothing will change, ever. We are, who we are. This is very simple. Conspicuous consumptions and the ways to obtain the means for it have been a part of our DNA since forever and our own and gentile sources amply attest to it.

    1. What does it mean to save “us” and the “entire Jewish people” ? If “us” includes just the religious as they define it why not just write write entire Jewish people ? The latter would include the “us”. If “us” is meant to be all humans why not just write all people ? ACJA

  13. More Jews in Poland died during the Holocaust than in Germany.
    Dai b’Rmizah

  14. At least they haven't blamed Covid 19 on the lack of tznius in their communities. But let's wait and see!

  15. Their particular advice notwithstanding, your implication that this is the first time the Moetzes has spoken out is unfair. These have popped up here and there, and indeed the first one at the very beginning of the pandemic called on people to follow medical advice/expertise.

    I do absolutely agree with you that that message should have been included here, along with any metaphysical remedies being promoted.

  16. "About how they have not cared to wear masks..."

    Even if universal masks are proven to control the pandemic, which they are not, a policy of universal masks puts the at-risk population on an equal playing field with the rest of the healthy population. If we allowed the healthy to get herd immunity, we would give the at-risk population a significant advantage. If we prevent spread among the entire healthy population, we simply prolong the virus, and take away an advantage that could have been provided to the at-risk population.

    1. "which they are not"
      Mask are not a complete solution but the best evidence shows them effective to at slow the rate of infection.
      "If we allowed the healthy to get herd immunity..."
      Ah, the herd immunity trope.
      1) Let a = percent needed to reach herd immunity. Let b = percent of vulnerable population. Now, a + b > 100%. If you're not convinced let's include c = percent of non-vulnerable population who refuse to participate & insist on protecting themselves. Then certainly, a + b + c > 100%.
      Therefore: herd immunity can't be achieved without vaccines or infecting the vulnerable.
      2) Name one locale with significant population that's reached herd immunity without vaccines
      3) Name one locale with significant population that's reached herd immunity without vaccines or a devastating death rate
      4) What percentage of the vulnerable population do not live alone? How are they to be protected? (Especially, if as you believe masks don't work) Do you have a plan, or do you have a notion?
      5) Your comment is a non-sequitor. The blog-post is about the דעת תורה response. What you describe has nothing to do with the Charedi response. The Charedi response has not been a deliberate (and deliberated) plan to protect the vulnerable by achieving herd immunity through mass infection of the non-vulnerable. It's your notion, not the plan of the Moetzes or any other group of Charedi leadership.

    2. 1) In fact the (suppressed) Danish mask study showed no significant benefit from masks to the rates of transmission. And that was, my dear Ephraim, a randomised control trial. The RCT you said wasn't possible or ethical. It was. It just didn't say what you wanted it to say.

      2) Define herd immunity. R has been less than 1 for the majority of 2020 in most countries on average.

      3) Define herd immunity. R has been less than 1 for the majority of 2020 in most countries on average.

      4) Quite a high proportion. But 100% protection being unachievable is not an argument for not trying to obtain 90% achievement. See the first few lines of *your own comments* about masks for details.

    3. Incidentally, I would encourage mask wearing of an FFP3/2 / N95 type which might actually work.

      My advice would be that if you are over 55 you should get yourself a £20 mask every week. There's good evidence from the UK ONS mortality rates broken down by career that the low rates of doctor mortality versus high rates of care home worker mortality shows that the protective equipment hoarded in March and April 2020 by the former at the expense of the latter actually works.

    4. "The RCT you said wasn't possible or ethical."
      Here's what the authors say: "The study did not receive ethical approval..."
      1) One major problem: Nearly 20% of participants did not complete the study. It could be a big problem when a study has such a dropout rate. (Consider if some of those dropouts did so because they became ill, died or found themselves close to infected people. This is just illustrative- in principal study conclusions may be severely weakened with such a high dropout rate. )
      2) Another possible problem: Study relied on participants self-testing results. (See study for full details)
      3) The study only addressed mask wearers' infection rate & not whether masks reduce infecting others. (See point 3 of the authors conclusions.)
      4) The study did not address whether masks reduce severity of illness
      5) The authors note that: "The findings were inconclusive and cannot definitively exclude a 46% reduction to a 23% increase in infection of mask wearers in such a setting"
      The largest section of the paper is titled "Weaknesses" which had some 15 points!
      In the section, titled "The Bottom Line" the authors write, "The multiple methodological flaws in this study mean that it should not guide public health policy"

      No evidence of suppression. The authors did have a hard time to find a journal but that's not suppression. Apparently they didn't provide a pre-print. The study was reported in the media- The Spectator, Reuters, i24, Wired,, BMJ, Yisrael HaYom, Daily Mail. So no, the study wasn't suppressed. Suspiciously, the samizdat news outlets didn't cover the paper.

      "rates of transmission"
      This is not what the study looked covered, it's not what the authors claimed AND it was something the authors EXPLICITLY said were excluded from their work!

      My conclusion: You cited a one-off study & probably didn't read it. Or you read it and didn't understand it. It would be interesting to see what other papers have concluded.

    5. "Define herd immunity. R has been less than 1 for the majority of 2020 in most countries on average."

      1) R<1 doesn't imply herd immunity. If one person in a country has the virus and is isolated, then R=1, and there's effectively no immunity at all!

      2) "R has been less than 1 for the majority of 2020 in most countries on average"
      (I know an effective diet- you lose weight three out of every four days.) Here's what happens when you have R<1 for most of the time.

      Your point 4 is pointless. This originated in the "protect the vulnerable + herd immunity" trope. That idea was that the non-vulnerable would be okay to get infected & it was only the vulnerable we really need to worry about. The idea rests on two pillars (1) there's minimal long term risks for the non-vulnerable & (2) we actually can isolate the vulnerable. But you now insist that we don't have to protect the vulnerable -only some of them. And that number is nowhere near the 90% figure you mentioned.
      Again, name one place with significant population that has reached herd immunity without a high death rate. (If there is such a place, it's probably an outlier with specific conditions/population that somehow favor natural immunity or other resistance to severe covid illness.)

    6. "1) R<1 doesn't imply herd immunity. If one person in a country has the virus and is isolated, then R=1, and there's effectively no immunity at all!"

      That's not how R works.

      As to the argument here, it is now abundantly clear (although predictable very early on by those with common sense and any experience/knowledge of virology and epidemiology) that herd immunity is not achievable without vaccination, except with a huge number of deaths over a very long period of time that would come with freely allowing everyone to be infected. It takes a long time for this virus to run through a population, and it waxes and wanes, resulting in multiple outbreaks months apart. Look at Manaus as a simple example. Even getting a lot of people killed there, they thought they were done. And then it came back.

      The socialist idiots of Sweden said "Herd immunity by April" and the covid deniers jumped on the bandwagon of this laughable claim, marketing an abstract idea as reason to go about life as normal and let people be infected. It turned out by summer Sweden had only like 5% of the population infected by then and had genocided their elderly in the process.

      It's time to leave failed and disproven arguments behind. You were wrong. Move on.

      R has not been below 1 in any location at a time when cases increased in number each week. Because that is the definition of how R works.
      Both of you need to study the topic.

    7. Hi Ephraim, a list of articles, which, like you, prioritise political positions rather than facts, can be found in this article.

      The study was very big - bigger N than any previous study. If there was a large benefit to wearing surgical masks it would have shown.

      You conflated herd immunity with sterilising immunity, and the illustrative numbers are random numbers you picked. There are more numbers less than 1 which R could be than there are whole numbers between zero and infinity.

    8. The BMJ article listed several medical journals such refused to publish findings unsupportive of a particular policy position. It was left to the popular media. Facebook censored references to the spectator article.

      I don't know what you define herd immunity as - specifically what time period you are looking at for R less than 1 - so I'm not going to waste my time.

    9. 5) My point wasn't to defend Charedi דעת תורה. My point was to show that MO דעת תורה simply means following the institutional narrative, without giving any critical thought to the issue.

      Here is a defense of Charedi דעת תורה: We have a Halachic concept of "ein gozrin gezeirah al hatzibbur elah im kein rov hatzibbur yecholin la’amod bo." Given that there are still lockdowns worldwide, conveniently due to people not following your rules, I would think this would clearly apply here.

    10. "That's not how R works. "
      Please clarify. R reflects the amount of people the average infected person infects. In the extreme example I gave the R number is zero because there's only person infected & that person won't infect anyone else. But that doesn't mean there's herd immunity as implied by "The Hat".
      More fundamentally, the R number is useful but shouldn't be used alone to make public policy. It certainly makes for an easy to cite data point. But it's more complicated than that. The R number can vary from area to area with some areas having a dangerous high level of spread, and other places being well below one. Indeed there can be a scenario in which the overall R < 1, and there are locations where the infection rate is out of control. We saw something like that some weeks ago where ambulances from ירושלים were sent further to less "red" cities. You can have a "green" city where its hospitals are collapsing from admissions from other cities.

    11. "R has not been below 1 in any location at a time when cases increased in number each week. Because that is the definition of how R works. "
      Correct. I never said otherwise. (There may be some lag time to see that cases have decreased after R drops below 1 since it takes time for people to recover. But that's a minor quibble.)

      "The socialist idiots of Sweden said "Herd immunity by April"
      Actually, Swedish officials continually denied they were shooting for herd immunity. They said other things behind closed doors. This too, is a minor quibble, but in addition to whatever criticisms you throw at that gov't you can add duplicity and lack of transparency.

    12. "The study was very big"

      You haven't provide a link to the study. How you represented the DANMASK-19 study remains wrong.

    13. "You conflated herd immunity with sterilising immunity"

    14. "I don't know what you define herd immunity as.."
      I don't define herd immunity.

    15. "specifically what time period you are looking at for R less than 1"
      Someone mentioned that R < 1 for weeks in the UK. I checked it out. At that time, there were regions in the UK where R>1 just two weeks prior.

    16. "My point wasn't to defend Charedi דעת תורה."
      Hence it was a non-sequitor to this blog post.

      "My point was to show that MO דעת תורה simply means following the institutional narrative, without giving any critical thought to the issue."
      That wasn't your point. You never mentioned MO, nor did you mention דעת תורה. You mentioned herd immunity by infecting the non-vulnerable. (Halachically we generally follow the majority of health expects. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the "institutional narrative".)

      "Here is a defense of Charedi דעת תורה"
      No it isn't. You're not quoting Chareid leadership, you're expression your own opinion. RCK repeatedly has insisted that people follow health guidelines (i.e. follow "the institutional narrative")- which includes wearing mask. You argue against following such guidelines.

      We have a Halachic concept of "ein gozrin gezeirah al hatzibbur elah im kein rov hatzibbur yecholin la’amod bo."
      Does this concept applies only to גזירות or does it apply to non-גזירה halacha? ונשמרתם and לא תעמד על דם רעך are not גזירות. And again, this "defense" argument is not דעת תורה by definition because it's not coming from the Torah leadership. It's coming from you.
      I reject your contention that social distancing, wearing masks & avoiding crowds is something most people can't handle. Just look at the dati leumi population.

    17. Give me an example of where R is below 1 for a period of time I refuse to define is a fool's errand.

      Also the upper confidence interval for a region is not the same as a likely R number.

      Facts matter, opinions not so much.

    18. “Halachically, we generally follow the majority of health experts”

      It isn’t clear that they are following the majority of “health experts” - they are following health experts and bureaucrats that the MSM and politicians have chosen to amplify, and other medical health professionals that have simply followed suit. In the US, the three health experts who set the tone for policy were not epidemiologists, but virologists or immunologists. The primary US “expert” has flip flopped on policy countless times, and continues to do so. The WHO has backtracked on their original lockdown proposals, and now condemns national lockdowns, and has flip flopped on masks. There are plenty of epidemiologists who were adamantly and consistently opposed to the policies, including universal masks, such as world class epidemiologists Knut Wittkowski and Sunetra Gupta, at great risk to their reputations and careers. The Great Barrington Declaration has tens of thousands of signatories from health experts and scientists disagreeing with the current measures. D.A. Henderson, the epidemiologist credited with eradicating smallpox, led a report in 2006 concluding that lockdowns were ineffective, harmful to society, and not an appropriate strategy to control a pandemic, as well as expressing doubt as to the effectiveness of universal masks. The truth is, universal lockdowns and masks were never before considered a legitimate and balanced method of fighting a pandemic until March 2020. It’s worth asking why that is. Furthermore, “experts” are not necessarily experts at public policy - see the current public policy measures for reference. “Because health experts said so” is not an excuse to do away with critical thought.

      “Just look at the dati leumi population”

      Just look at every country still undergoing lockdowns for the past year year, ostensibly because people can't follow the guidelines.

    19. "It isn’t clear that they are following the majority of health experts"
      It may not be clear to you, but it's clear to them.

      "There are plenty of epidemiologists..."
      Plenty doesn't make for a majority.

      "world class epidemiologists Knut Wittkowski and Sunetra Gupta..D.A. Henderson.."
      ...are not the majority. They are merely the "experts" that the crackpots "have chosen to amplify".

      "The Great Barrington Declaration has tens of thousands of signatories from health experts and scientists"
      No it doesn't. By their own count, as they report it on their website they have 13,618 "Medical & Public Health Scientists" (their term, not mine). You rounded up to the nearest exaggeration. (The other 40+k figure doesn't refer to "health experts and scientists").

      "Furthermore, “experts” are not necessarily experts at public policy"
      But you're responding to my comment about "halacha", not "public policy". Why did you change the topic?

  17. mi Saud tezeh torah

    אני קורא לכל הבחורים מבני ברק ללכת לקבל חיסון, תקבלו טשולנט, לצערי אין לי אוכל כזה בסעודיה, קדימה לכו להתחסן, תהיו בריאים שיהיה לכם כוח ללמוד תורה

  18. here we go
    Chareidim and Cambridge university both believe lockdown as a waste of time

  19. People are so tribal nowadays that they cannot adopt prejudices to fact if those facts don't fit preconceived notions. The world's biggest mask trial has been done. The facts are in. Masks have been measured as having no significantly effect on risk. It's not hard to see why, when you walk past someone smoking cannabis while wearing a surgical mask. They don't form a tight seal, so fluid flow will be dominated by the gaps.

    There follows a stream of obfuscation worthy of the "but you need to do it with Zinc" denialists who advocate HQC as a treatment because the leader of their tribe advocated it.

    Meanwhile, the opposite tribe is ignoring the evidence. Evidence that the efficacy of surgical masks has been vastly overstated. Evidence that Vitamin D is a material factor, despite it not being a standard pharmaceutical interventions.

    I beg you all: don't listen to your fears, and don't listen to the clownish politicians and their empirically inexpert experts. They don't have your best interests at heart.

    Listen to the facts.


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

A Different Kind of Chocolate

With Covid having prevented my wife and I from celebrating a significant anniversary milestone, we finally took a long-overdue vacation - to...