"How Dare He?!" How Dare You!
A number of people asked me to comment on the recent headline about Rav Chaim Kanievsky instructing yeshivah students not to be tested for Covid-19, so as to avoid having to go into isolation if they test positive. I wasn't interested in writing about this; I've already written several posts about how his claim that yeshivah study protects against coronavirus was wrong, dangerous, and led to sickness and death. And I also wrote about how the whole thing is a farce anyway, since Rav Chaim, notwithstanding his unmatched dedication to Torah, is old, cloistered, cognitively impaired, and completely manipulated by his devious family.
But the latest developments contain something new - not about Rav Chaim, but about prominent people in the charedi community. Professor Roni Gamzu, Israel's "coronavirus czar," naturally and correctly criticized Rav Chaim's directive as endangering the public. In response, the chareidi politicians and press were in uproar. How dare he criticize Rav Chaim?!
MK Meir Porush condemned Gamzu for his audacity in speaking out against the leadership of the chareidi community. The Israel edition of Yated Neeman had its headline story about rabbis protesting Gamzu's disgraceful criticism of the Sar HaTorah. "Dust in his mouth!" declared the HaMevaser newspaper.
The utter perversion of Torah here, on so many levels, is truly shocking. Beyond the problem with trying to avoid isolating contagious people, and the resultant sickness and death and economic hardship, and beyond the fact that the charedi community has a disproportionately high rate of infection, the idea that nobody is allowed to disagree with Rav Chaim's decision is completely absurd and has absolutely no basis in traditional Judaism. Since when is everyone obligated to defer to one particular rabbi, who was not appointed by any formal process?!
And, of course, even more outrageous is that it's not even as though this is a proper decision by Rav Chaim. He is completely out of touch with reality and it's his disgusting grandson Yanky, the most powerful man in the charedi Litvishe world, who is pulling the strings. This is a system of leadership that charedi MKs and newspapers demand that everyone respects?!
I'm particularly angry about this because my own city of Beit Shemesh is facing imminent lockdown due to the high rate of Covid-19 cases - primarily due to yeshivos. And so aside from the sickness and death, there is also the economic harm. And then, of course, the charedi community will be even more desperate in begging the non-charedi community to support it financially - despite the fact that it is the charedi community which is a primary cause not only of its own poverty, but also of the economic harm to everyone else, as a result of the system of "Torah leadership" which they support.
How dare they!
A Mishpacha article claims that Rav Chaim's position was taken out of context, and that he was only referring to students who had already finished a quarantine period. Whether or not this is actually true is impossible to know; the system of rabbinic authority in the charedi world is so unprofessional and broken that it's impossible to ever be sure what Daas Torah actually says. It is also not particularly relevant to the question of Rav Chaim's general approach to coronavirus (since he is already on video as saying that one should ignore Health Ministry recommendations and not interrupt yeshiva studies). And it is certainly not relevant to the point of this post, which is not about Rav Chaim, but rather about how the charedi community reacts to criticism of Rav Chaim. In fact, the Mishpacha article supports my point, as I shall now explain.
Mishpacha condemns the non-charedi media for their disrespect in how they reported the story. Yet Mishpacha acknowledges that the charedi press reported Rav Chaim's position as stated - and it was the charedi press which was the original source of the story! Why on earth should non-charedim not disrespect a ruling which was being championed by the charedi press, which they had every reason to believe was true (and was consistent with earlier rulings that disregarded health risks), and which Mishpacha agrees would indeed be a terrible ruling if it was true?! In fact, it's only because of the scorn being poured by non-charedim that Mishpacha went to the bother of "clarifying" the ruling! So the non-charedi criticism of a "ruling" by Rav Chaim should be applauded, not condemned!