Thursday, February 27, 2020

Corona in the Torah

Latest development:

Corona has been detected in the Torah!

The mystery has been solved at last. Corona's origin has been discovered, in an etymological sense at least.
It's right there in Exodus 34:29 --  When Moses descended from the mountain, he "did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant -- כי קרן עור פניו..."
Moses did not know that his face was CoRaN, radiating light.

It spread quickly to verse 30 and 35. Three incidents!

This ancient Biblical Hebrew root is undoubtedly the source of the Latin word "corona," which eventually became "crown" in English. QaRaN can also mean horn, and is the likely origin of a host of other English words like cornice, corner, cornucopia, cranium, cornea, and unicorn.

The contemporary Coronavirus has a series of crown-like spikes or horns on its surface, which is the reason for the name.

Moses had crown-like rays of light emanating from the skin of his face. Like its modern-day namesake, his unusual corona caused much fear, and everyone was afraid to approach him (ibid 30).

Fortunately, Moses did not need to be quarantined. Instead, he covered his face with a mask! (ibid 33)

The mask wasn't meant for protection, since Moses' corona wasn't contagious, but rather for modesty purposes.

Moses was careful to remove his mask when teaching Torah to Israel. There can be no barriers when it's time to learn Torah.

Parenthetically, Moses' corona has been subject to much misinterpretation over the ages. Michelangelo read a faulty Latin translation of the Torah that rendered "QoRaN" as horns, and consequently depicted horns atop Moses' head on his famous stature in the Basilica. While the root QeReN can indeed mean horn, our verses in Exodus clearly use the verb form that indicates radiating light. QeReN often means ray in noun form too, as in קרני אור, rays of light. Even the sun has a corona. Too bad no one with any Hebraic literacy was around to advise Michelangelo.

QoRaN can also denote radiating power. Three times daily, we petition G-d to cause the QeReN (power) of redemption to flourish, and to exalt the QeReN (power) of Moshiach.

Corona is a word that expresses radiance, power, and salvation.

Takeaway lesson of Moses' original Corona is: take off that mask and come to shul to bask in the radiance and power of Torah study.

By the way, did you know that Corona has also been detected in the Mishna too?

"One should only stand up to pray with a heavy (i.e. serious and focused) head -- אין עומדים להתפלל אלא מתוך כובד ראש"  (Berakhot 30b). "Heavy head" is pronounced "COVID rosh" in Hebrew [and COVID 19 reminds us that this shabbat, we'll read Parshat Terumah, the 19th portion of the Torah!]

So there you have it, folks.

The best way to be prepared for Corona is by feeling empowered and coming to Shul this Shabbat, praying with COVID rosh, learning the 19th parsha of the Torah and unmasking the deep radiant secrets contained therein.

(And if you really insist on a Mosaic face-mask, feel free to wear one next week on Purim).

Anyway folks, I hope you appreciated this important Corona update.

By increasing in Torah study, prayer, acts of goodness and kindness, may we merit to CoRoNate king Moshiach in the most immediate future. Amen.
.
.
PS: Didn't mean to make "light" of a serious subject.
I suppose this virus might indeed deserve a bit more KOVID rosh

Monday, February 3, 2020

Be the Rebbe's Voice

 
The Rebbe needs a voice. Would you please be the Rebbe's voice?
As we prepare to celebrate 70 years since the Rebbe's leadership, it's important to reflect on his highest priority: the inalienable right of every Jewish child to a Torah-true education.

Undoubtedly, if he were here today and able to communicate, heads would be rolling. Yeshivos and Talmud Torahs banning Jewish children is an unprecedented assault on Am Yisrael. There's not a shred of doubt in my mind that he'd be livid and would incessantly demand that this deplorable situation be remedied at once. He'd oppose the intolerable "mandatory vaccine policy" -- that effectively bars children from school with no exemption or recourse -- with every fiber of his holy being.

Never before has the absence of his holy voice and clarity been so sorely felt. Never before has our people dealt with such appalling lack of rabbinic leadership as we are presently experiencing.
Where is the Rebbe when we need him most?
Who will stand up for the chlldren if not he?


Who will insist on chinuch al taharas hakodesh for every single Jewish child when some of his most vocal followers have betrayed his calling?
Where are the Chabad rabbanim, mashpiim, and famous speakers? 
 
Why have they dropped the ball on Jewish children?
Why the silence?
How long can this madness continue?
How will Klal Yisrael survive this insidious onslaught without the voice of reason from our faithful shepherd of seventy years?
Answer:
"And Aharon your brother will be your spokesperson -- ואהרן אחיך יהיה נביאך." *
We -- you and I -- shall be the Rebbe's mouthpiece. We must speak on his behalf.
And if we do, his voice will be heard. And reason will prevail.
On this awesome occasion of 70 years, let's celebrate the Rebbe's leadership by being his voice. Today.
Do it for the children. Do it for the future of Klal Yisroel.
Don't betray the Rebbe's legacy by remaining silent at this crucial time.
Speak up now.
To my family of chassidim and shluchim worldwide:
Remember Mordechai Hayehudi's fateful words:
"כי אם החרש תחרישי בעת הזאת -- For if you will remain silent at this time,
רוח והצלה יעמוד ליהודים ממקום אחר -- relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source,
ואת ובית אביך תאבדו -- and you and the house of your father will be lost.
ומי יודע אם לעת כזאת הגעת למלכובעת כזאת -- And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.” **

My brothers and sisters: who shall be the Rebbe’s voice -- who shall be the source of relief and salvation -- who else if not we?
Who will speak for the Mordechai Hayehudi of our generation if not we?
If you will remain silent at this time, relief and salvation will surely come. Hashem has many emissaries, but you will lose this awesome zechus.
And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position of being the Rebbe’s shliach! Do not betray your position. You represent royalty.
Please speak up now.
Happy Yud Shevat. Be the Rebbe’s voice. Today.
Thank you.
With blessing for immediate relief, salvation, and geulah,
Michoel Green
.
.
PS a pundit reading this might counter: "How do you have the chutzpa to assume you know what the Rebbe would be saying today?" My answer: "It's not even a question. Go read his igros and sichos of 42 years." Pundit: "But maybe this time, things are different." Me: "When in doubt, err on the side of Jewish children learning Torah."
* Ex 7:1. See Sicha of 3 Shevat 5752.
** Esther 4:14.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Exposing Lies, Part II

 



Part I addressed the numerous lies that are frequently repeated by proponents of mandatory vaccine policy.

Today let's expose misconceptions prevalent in the orthodox Jewish world, and Lubavitch in particular.

Let's start with Lie #1:
  • "All contemporary poskim support the vaccine policy."
This is patently false. In fact, it is the exact opposite. There is not one single posek who supports current vaccine policy. Not one. 

Certain rabbis from Israel and abroad have ruled that one ought to vaccinate for measles, and certain others have endorsed several other shots. Not one ever endorsed current policy that includes hepatitis B, and will likely include HPV and flu shots in the near future. Not only has no rav ever endorsed current policy, none have ever written responsa permitting an orthodox Jewish parent to give their child the hep-b vaccine.

So the reality is the opposite. No contemporary poskim support the mandatory vaccine policy.


  • "All the gedolim instructed their adherents to get vaccinated."
False. Numerous gedolim have respected parental choice on this matter. Some of our nation's most prominent gedolim recently urged lawmakers to uphold religious exemption.[1]


  • "A child may be barred from school if he isn't vaccinated, since he is endangering others."
This is insidiously untrue. A healthy unvaccinated child endangers nobody. It is forbidden to prevent a healthy child from learning Torah with his peers. Moreover, such a draconian policy causes the entire community to be remiss in its halachic obligation to provide schools that will educate all its local schoolchildren. Such errant communities are deserving of excommunication.[2]

  • "A yeshiva or synagogue is entitled to decide its own policies."

False. Yeshivos, schools and shuls are not private enterprises, but exist to service their local population. Consequently, they must welcome all Jews, irrespective of medical choices, and may not discriminate. Synagogues may not bar Jews either. Doing so would transgress the prohibition of "לא תתגודדו: לא תעשו אגודות אגודות. Do not divide your community into agudos agudos," i.e. do not make divisions among Jews of your local community that forces them into different factions that are at odds with one another.[3]

Schools which have such exclusionary policies are no longer "community schools," but private businesses that exist to serve an exclusive clique. As such, they are not entitled to be seen as charitable institutions, and have no business raising funds from their local community whose children they have cynically neglected.

Shuls and mikvaos that adopt such draconian policies should be shut down, or at least let them acknowledge that they are not orthodox since they operate in violation of normative halacha. It's no different than if they'd decide to remove their mechitza. Actually, it's worse.


  • "Jewish camps are entitled to set policies that protect all their children and staff, so unvaccinated children may be excluded."

Incorrect. Jewish camps aren't private daycare centers, but operate with the stated purpose to educate Jewish children during summer months. Education isn't exclusive. It must be offered to all Jewish children without exception.

Furthermore, a healthy unvaccinated child poses no risk to anyone in camp unless s/he was exposed to a contagious disease during an outbreak.


  • "Stop complaining about your kid not being allowed in school (because of vaccines). Don't make your kid my problem."
This bizarre sentiment is so thoroughly un-Jewish, it's hard to fathom that any self-respecting Jew (let alone rabbi) could utter such unspeakable words. "כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה -- all Israel is mutually responsible for one another."[4]

In addition, all Jews have a communal responsibility to provide Torah teachers for all the children of their city.[5] This obligation is paramount. Failure to comply resulted in excommunication or worse.[2]

Even one single child out of school in your community is YOUR problem. YOU are remiss. If you can't find the time to worry about this serious problem, then move away and find another community in which all children are deemed entitled to a Jewish education.

Don't counter: "עזוב תעזב עמו -- I'm only required to help you if you help yourself, so go get your kid vaccinated." This isn't accurate either. Getting a child vaccinated isn't a halachically-sound prerequisite to learning Torah. It's unreasonable to demand a child be vaccinated in order to attend chumash class, so yes, we are all remiss if a child is excluded from school for unjust reasons.


  • "The Rebbe encouraged vaccination."
True, but that statement requires qualification. In fact, the Rebbe was somewhat ambivalent about vaccines. With regard to the polio vaccine, he encouraged it with the caveat that the particular shot and manufacturer should be known to be safe with no injurious side effects.
Such is not the case anymore in the US where hundreds of cases of vaccine injury are reported each year, from every known vaccine on the market. Moreover, the Rebbe held this view back in the fifties, sixties, seventies and up until the mid-eighties, when vaccine companies were still held accountable for vaccine injuries. In the fall of 1986, congress passed a law protecting vaccine manufacturers from lawsuit. Consequently, there is no recourse for side-effects suffered from any vaccine. Not surprisingly, no one has reported any endorsement from the Rebbe of any vaccine since the summer of '86, in public or in private.

Furthermore, the Rebbe encouraged vaccination for polio, a disease that posed great threat to children at that time period. When other vaccines were added, the Rebbe approved, but refrained from telling anyone that they were obligated to get them. In the summer of 1981, the Rebbe spoke lightly of many parents' sense of urgency to vaccinate for measles:

"If for a doubt of 4 percent [of catching measles if not vaccinated], it is worth causing the child pain, screaming, itching, redness and possibly fever, just to avoid the disease—even though there is no mortal risk, but rather just discomfort for a few weeks—how much more so is it worthwhile to ensure the health of the child’s soul...(and enroll child in a Jewish school etc.)” [6]
So while he approved of vaccinating children for measles, the Rebbe saw no medical imperative to do so, but just for convenience sake and sound preventative advice. Clearly he saw no moral obligation to vaccinate for so-called "herd immunity" either. 

In another letter, the Rebbe added that one "ought not separate oneself from the community" (אל תפרוש מן הציבור), so if the majority of children in the class are vaccinated, then vaccination is indeed advisable. The concept of not separating oneself from the community is not halachically-binding per se, but rather a matter of laudatory piety (לפנים משורת הדין). Surely this factor is irrelevant if a parent is concerned over documented health risks or side effects associated with any given vaccine.

To summarize, the Rebbe only approved of vaccination if the particular shot (and its manufacturer) is categorically safe with no reported injuries. No such vaccine exists in current times. Furthermore, he only expressed approval for polio, measles, and small pox vaccines, certainly not for STD's like hepatitis B. He did not declare vaccination a moral and binding obligation, but merely recommended it as proper and advisable, since it aims to benefit your child. He never endorsed "herd immunity." Most importantly, he never suggested that a child not be allowed to attend school or camp if not fully vaccinated! In the same letter in which he advised to follow majority practice, he acknowledged a minority of the student body that may choose not to vaccinate.

  • "The Rebbe's words are eternal, חי וקיים. If he approved of vaccination for thirty years (from 1956-1986), then shouldn't a chassid believe that this approval applies to all vaccines of all times?"
No, not at all. His approval of vaccination was not accross the board or absolute by any means. It was always contingent on their safety. His responses dealt with the specific vaccines of particular time and places.

There were numerous examples of matters concerning which the Rebbe gave advice or directives that pertained to a specific time period, and after a while, when circumstances changed, became non-applicable. The Rebbe's general approval of the concept of vaccination, and his endorsement of specific vaccines in certain time periods, cannot be misconstrued as an unconditional hechsher to all vaccines of all times.

Which instructions of the Rebbe are eternal, חי וקים? His directive to enable every Jewish child to attend Jewish schools, yeshivos, and camps.

In the sicha cited above[6], the Rebbe drew a kal v'chomer from a parent's urgency to vaccinate for measles. If for something so non-obligatory like the measles vaccine one feels obliged, how much more so are we obliged to ensure that every Jewish child attend a Jewish school and receive an authentic Torah education.

That directive is eternal and ever-relevant. It applies in all times, all places, and for all Jewish children, irrespective of vaccine records.
  • "Halacha instructs us to listen to doctors."
False. Halacha acknowledges the expertise of doctors and relies on their testimony concerning a metzius (reality). For example: Is this patient ill? What is his diagnosis? May his condition worsen as a result of fasting?  These are questions which doctors are qualified to answer.

Halacha does not defer to doctors for moral decisions. For example, the reason a sick person eats on Yom Kippur is not because a doctor said so, but because halacha says he should eat if an expert physician diagnosed his condition and said that eating might cause danger.

Here too, a doctor might testify about the risk and prevalence of a particular disease, and about how that risk is mitigated by vaccinating. However, since the vaccine also entails a risk (concerning which most doctors lack experience or training), the decision whether to vaccinate or not is a moral one. The doctor cannot make that decision for his patient. Furthermore, a doctor might testify about efficacy of herd immunity from preventing an outbreak of disease in a given population, but that still does not mean that the Jew is now morally obligated to vaccinate. This decision is a moral one, and only halacha or a rav moreh hora'ah may dictate moral obligation.

In this case, halacha does not recognize the value of herd immunity. Instead, halacha defers to the patient himself in consultation with medical experts, to deliberate and compare risk to benefit to his own body, not to the so-called herd.

  • "Halacha instructs us to follow a majority of doctors."
False. Halacha instructs us to follow the expert who has experience diagnosing the specific condition in question[7]. Numeric majorities are irrelevant. Here, we are discussing vaccine injury. The vast majority of physicians have no experience researching and diagnosing vaccine injury, and those who do often advise against vaccination.
  • "There's nothing halachically wrong with making use of human cell lines in vaccines. The aborted fetuses presumably weren't Jewish."
False. It is forbidden to derive benefit from a non-Jewish cadaver as well[8]. Worse, using the vaccine means paying the manufacturer for it, effectively compensating the perpetrator for the abortions he committed in order to produce the cell line included in that vaccine. Furthermore, the tissue was harvested via water bag method, i.e. live dissection, which involves excessive cruelty. Lastly, new human cell lines are being developed all the time. "Water bag method" abortions have been documented as recently as 2016. By using these vaccines (i.e. MMR, varicella, hep-A, zostavax, polio), one is supporting and helping to perpetuate this practice.[9]


  • "It's okay to use aborted humans for this purpose since it's saving lives."
Wrong. A vaccine doesn't save lives. It decreases a person's chance of catching a disease in the first place, which might prevent future risk. This distinction is critical. A patient who needs a heart transplant is in mortal danger right now. Poskim permit him to receive a heart transplant -- even though the donor is euthanized while heart is harvested -- since the donor would have been euthanized regardless. The logic is, since the donor was going to die anyway for another recipient, this patient suffering heart failure might as well benefit and save his life in the process. Conversely, a vaccine is saving no one's life at present. Consequently, we may NOT benefit from killing of a human fetus now in order to prevent potential disease in the future.[10] 

In contemporary times, the practice of abortion in medical research and production of human cell lines is rampant. As orthodox Jews, we cannot be party to this horrific practice. Moreover, we are obligated to teach the Seven Noahide Laws to our non-Jewish neighbors. For Noahides, abortion is murder, and these practices are all categorically forbidden. It is our obligation as Jews to teach these laws to others.

This is not a psak din, but merely pointing out the obvious, that the use of aborted fetal tissue in the production of vaccines is highly problematic from a halachic point of view. As such, there are strong religious grounds to decline these vaccines. Perhaps some might find grounds to be lenient, but they'd be the exception and not the rule.

  • "As a parent, I am responsible to my community to ensure that dangerous diseases don't make a comeback."
False. As a parent, you are responsible to protect your child from harm. You may not expose your child to risk even if it's to supposedly benefit your community.

However, you are responsible toward your community to ensure that every single Jewish child be provided an authentic Torah education. Your entire community shares this grave responsibility.  If it is remiss in this holy obligation, it is better if the community didn't exist altogether.[2] ומכלל לאו אתה שומע הן -- from the negative we may infer positive: the only reason your community exists as a Jewish community is to ensure a Torah education to all its local Jewish children.

Let's start living up to that responsibility.


[1] See recent letter by nation's largest rabbinical college, Beis Midrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ. See also 54-page "Gedolim Letters on Vaccination, Parental Rights, and Religious Freedom." Available upon request.
[2] Shabbos 119b. Hilchos Talmud Torah (Rambam), 2:1.
[3] Yevamos 14a, based on Devarim 14:1.
[4] Sifra, Bechukosai 7:5.
[5] Bava Basra 21a. Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:3 (of the Baal HaTanya v'hashulchan aruch).
[6] Hisvaaduyos 5741 volume 4, p. 598-599.
[7] Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 618:9.
[8] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 349:1. See also Mishne Halachos, mador hateshuvos, 6:203, prohibiting nivul hameis even if it's to save a future life. See also Mahadura tinyono, 2:253.
[9] Not only is this a violation of לפני עור לא תתן מכשול, it is effectively becoming an accomplice to the abortion itself, akin to השוכר הורג להרוג etc.
[10] See Mishne Halachos cited in footnote 6 regarding nivul hameis.



Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Don't Misrepresent the Rebbe's Words!


Recently I read an article on Chabad.org that examined the Rebbe's position on vaccines. I was shocked to discover an excerpt from a sicha that was subtly altered. Naturally I notified the editor at once. The editor replied that they had merely copied the story as it appeared in a recently published book, "Mind over Matter," page 328. While I do not know who is responsible for this grave error in translation, I feel obligated to publicize it here for all to read. This was no small oversight, but appears to be deliberate misrepresentation of the Rebbe's opinion on measles and its vaccine.


Beware agenda-driven translations.
Shockingly, an excerpt from a sicha of the Rebbe that has been circulating online (on Chabad.org and elsewhere) appears to have been doctored.

A Jew visited me recently, and we discussed education. He told me that statistics have shown that a bad education harms only 5 percent of children.
I asked him if he vaccinated his children for measles, polio [1], etc. He replied: “Of course! We are parents!”
“Do you know what percentage of children who do not receive the vaccine actually contract the disease?” I asked. He happened to know the statistic—less than 3 or 4 percent. In other words, even for a possibility of 4 percent, and especially in these countries where these diseases are even more rare, it is still worthwhile to vaccinate [2], with all of the pain, etc., that it causes. Why?
“Who cares about those minor inconveniences, as compared to what possibly could happen without vaccinating?” he responded.
I said to him: “If for a doubt of 4 percent it is worth causing the child pain, enduring the child’s screaming and all the other effects of the vaccination [1], just to avoid the disease—even though for the most part [3] there is not even a possibility of any life danger, but rather just severe [4] discomfort for some time—how much more so is it worthwhile to ensure the health of the child’s soul, where the doubt is 5 percent, and where the vaccine does not cause any pain. All that is required is to sign the child up for studies in a Torah-true educational facility! This action will affect his entire life!”
This translation is fraught with errors:

1) In the original transcript, the Rebbe never mentioned polio, but only measles and small pox. The side-effects he mentioned were redness, rash, itching, and possible fever.

2) The Rebbe did not exactly state that "it is still worthwhile to vaccinate." Instead, he said: "It's worth it all the itching, redness, light pain that one endures when getting the vaccination."

3) The Rebbe did not say "for the most part." Instead, he said unequivocally that there is no mortal risk.

4) The word "severe" does not appear in the transcript. The original reads: "Even though there is no mortal risk, but rather just discomfort for a few weeks."

The story was said at the farbrengen of Shabbos Parshas Shoftim in the summer of 1981*. Here is the original yiddish of the relevant sentences:
קומט אויס, אז צוליב א ספק פון 4%, ובפרט נאך במדינות אלו וואס דער גאנצער ענין איז א דבר בלתי רגיל -- איז כדאי דער קראצן און די רויטקייט און כאב קל וואס מ'באקומט בשעת מ'מאכט די איינשפריצונג. האט ער מיר געזאגט במה נחשב הוא די אלע זאכן לגבי דעם וואס קען ארויסקומען בספק הכי גדול אויב מ'וועט ניט מאכן די איינשפריצונג
האב איך אים געזאגט, מה-דאך אז צוליב א ספק פון 4% איז כדאי דער קראצונג און די רויטקייק און כאב, און דערצו שרייט נאך דער קינד, און עס קען נאך זיין א ווארעמקייט -- אבי באווארענען פון דעם ענין פון היפך הבריאות, אע"פ אז דאס איז ניט קיין סכנת נפשות, דאס איז נאר אן אומבאקוועמליכקייט פאר א פאר וואכן

This adaption is very serious.


The Rebbe stated unambiguously that measles poses no mortal risk to a child. He said the only consequence is a few weeks of discomfort. Not "severe discomfort."

Not only do these added words not appear in the transcript, they make no sense at all. If the Rebbe had conceded a mortal risk, even in a minority of cases, then there is no kal v'chomer comparison to Jewish education. If there were even a slightest mortal risk to child from getting measles, there is no question that vaccination is imperative. Pikuach nefesh is paramount in Jewish law.

Severe discomfort or pain would have been a compelling reason to vaccinate too. Certain laws of shabbos are suspended when there is severe pain. This arguably would have rendered vaccination as the more serious chomer as well. No convincing argument could have been made in support of Jewish education.

No, of course he didn't acknowledge any risk to child's life, nor did he recognize any severe degree of discomfort.
The Rebbe was minimizing the sense of urgency to vaccinate for measles. A childhood case of measles merely entails discomfort for a few weeks with no mortal risk.
This sicha makes it clear that the Rebbe saw no medical imperative to vaccinate for measles, but just convenience and sound preventative advice. Surely he saw no moral obligation to vaccinate for so-called "herd immunity" either.

Misrepresenting the Rebbe's words to conform with public opinion -- even "mainstream medical opinion" -- is unbecoming for Chabad.org, or for any chassid.

While I appreciate the vital work that Chabad.org does in disseminating the Rebbe's teachings, promoting such doctored translations is simply unacceptable.

I have no choice but to publicly challenge the apparent political agenda behind this falsification. It's a reckless agenda that threatens to seize parental rights over their own children's well-being. It's also an assault on our civil liberties.

Ironically, the Rebbe's entire talk was devoted to insisting that every Jewish child be entitled to attend a Jewish school. The Rebbe NEVER suggested that unvaccinated children have no such entitlement.

I call upon Chabad.org to publish an article demanding that every Jewish child be welcome in every Jewish school, irrespective of his/her vaccine record.

At the very least, I hope that the folks at Chabad.org will make the necessary edits to this story. If they do, I'll gladly update this post.

* Sefer Hisvaaduyos 5741, volume 4, page 598-599.
https://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=4629&st=&pgnum=598

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Antisemitism and Public Health Agenda



Jews were historically accused of poisoning wells to cause disease and misery

Antisemitism alert.

Once again, it's the New York Times, mainstream media's most egregious purveyor of antisemitic tropes.

In a disturbing piece of biased journalism dated January 16, 2020, the Times effectively blamed the failure of New Jersey's Bill S2173 on orthodox Jews. [This bill aimed to eliminate religious exemption for mandatory vaccine policy.]

Headline read: "How Anti-Vaccine Activists Doomed a Bill in New Jersey," followed by subtitle: "Angry parents, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group and anti-vaccine celebrities rallied to outmatch one of the state's most powerful elected leaders."

This headline is problematic for two reasons.

1. There were numerous organizations and institutions that opposed this bill quite vociferously. There were religious orders and entire townships in New Jersey that opposed the bill. Why did the Times feel that the only one worthy of mention was an "ultra-Orthodox Jewish" one?
2. The "ultra-Orthodox Jewish group" referred to in the article is Agudath Israel. This organization is not "anti-vaccine" as the headline suggests. Instead, they endorse vaccination in general. The reason they tepidly opposed this bill was to uphold religious freedom of all citizens, even if those citizens hold religious views that differ from their own.

It should also be pointed out the the article featured three photographs, one of an angry parent with a loudspeaker protesting in front of NJ State House, a second of NJ state senators, and a third of orthodox Jewish girls looking out the window at the protest.

This reporting is insidious and misleading. I know firsthand. You see, I was there at the State House in Trenton last Thursday. There were many thousands of people there. There was not one single orthodox rabbi, or any rabbi for that matter, besides for me.

In fact, I was the only person there wearing a yarmulka, and I was NOT there to represent Agudath Israel or any other organization. I saw numerous orthodox Jewish women and girls, perhaps a dozen in total. Out of a crowd of six or seven thousand, their presence was hardly noticeable.

The fact that the Times attributed the "doom" of Bill S2173 to ultra-orthodox Jews is particularly troubling, especially given the newspaper's atrocious reporting of last year's measles outbreak, blaming NY's 300 cases of the highly-contagious disease on ultra-orthodox Jews.

Historically, Jews have been scapegoated for disease throughout history by bigots and haters, often accused of poisoning wells to sicken the local population. Many thousands of Jews were murdered in the wake of this canard in the Middle Ages, and it shockingly persisted until modern times. The Nazis accused Jews of spreading disease, as did Joseph Stalin. Still today in Arab media, Jews are often accused of deliberately spreading illness to cause death and misery. How could the New York Times invoke this disturbing antisemitic trope with impunity?

This appalling editorial was called out by Ira Stoll in Algemeiner Joural at the time. I also called attention to it on my social media page on May 12th, 2019:
Not to be outdone by Ilhan Omar, the Jew-baiting New York Times is at it again.

The Jews are to be blamed for spreading highly contagious disease this time.

Why target all "antivaxxers" when you can pin it on Jews?

Especially those orthodox ones.

Right out of Goebbels' playbook.

Next we'll hear that Jews are poisoning the wells and spreading bubonic plague to non-Jews and Palestinians, of course
.
As Stoll pointed out, the NY Times never published an editorial singling out the religious identities of other affected communities in the past, like the outbreak among Somali-American community in Minnesota in 2017, or 383 cases in primarily-Amish communities in Ohio in 2014. In fact, the Times barely mentioned these communities at all during those outbreaks, and made no mention of their cultural or religious backgrounds.

It's clear that the NY Times is at it again scapegoating its favorite target, orthodox Jews.

However, upon further reflection, this disturbing trend is not unique to the Times, but may be traced back to New York health officials. The Times editorial quoted these officials who suggested that "some ultra-orthodox parents oppose vaccination." This narrative was promoted all over the media at the time, and many New Yorkers began to avoid contact with anyone who looked ultra-Orthodox. Fear is a powerful tool.

Do you think it's mere coincidence that antisemitic attacks surged in Rockland County and Brooklyn in recent months? Was the Jersey City massacre just happenstance? And do you think the fact it occurred during the NJ legislature's attempt to pass S2173 is coincidental too?

And if it's just garden-variety antisemitism, why were only ultra-orthodox Jews targeted? Surely antisemites know where to find other Jews, as evidenced in Pittsburgh and Poway attacks. No, this recent spate of deadly violence is specifically targeting the ultra-orthodox.

The media incited fear of these Jews. Not just the media. New York health officials incited fear of this population by blaming the outbreak on their supposedly lower vaccination rate. (Never mind the fact that the ultra-Orthodox community does not have a lower vaccination rate than the general population. That didn't dissuade the Times or the NY Dept of Health from singling out those easily-identified ultra-Orthodox).

Fear is a dangerous thing. It invariably leads to loath and hate. It's easy to hate someone who allegedly poses a danger to society.

Publicly attributing a measles outbreak to Jews was overt incitement. Blaming orthodox Jews for the "doom" of a bill that was purported to promote public health is more of the same. Shame on the New York Times. Shame on New York health officials for their indefensible recklessness and incitement of antisemitic violence.

This raises serious questions about the state's agenda to promote its public health policy. Is it fair game to fault someone for catching an infectious disease altogether? Or is it bullying and scapegoating in attempt to pressure a population to submit to state's vaccination policy?

Many in the medical and political establishment argue that it's reckless to not make use of available precautions against contagious disease. Consequently, they argue, a community's lower rate of vaccination is to blame for an outbreak. This negative publicity serves as societal pressure to promote vaccination in their communities. Or so the thinking goes.

Problem is that this thinking is flawed. Not making use of a precaution might indeed be called "reckless," but only if the precaution carries no known risks of its own, and only if the precaution entails no violation of one's religious, philosophical, moral or ethical values. If either of these two conditions don't exist, i.e. the precaution itself exposes a person to risk, and/or the precaution is at odds with one's religious or philosophical beliefs, then it is by no means reckless to decline it. Rather, it's a matter of personal choice.

We cannot fault an individual for his/her religious beliefs. That is religious discrimination. Our society has no place for such reckless bigotry.

Likewise, we cannot blame an individual for his/her personal medical choices, even if it's not motivated by religious reasons. We MUST respect every individual's personal bodily autonomy. We cannot force-medicate or force-vaccinate anyone, even for the sake of a supposedly-greater societal good. Remember the Nuremberg Code.

Even if it were true that certain members of the ultra-Orthodox community have lower vaccination rates, we may not condemn them for this religious or personal preference. Doing so is an attack on their First Amendment rights. We may not call attention to their religious or ethnic identity in attempt to pressure them to submit. We may not instigate widespread fear and suspicion of an entire population.

We may not discriminate against unvaccinated people, no matter what their religion is. Healthy unvaccinated people do NOT cause or spread disease. Sick people do, irrespective of whether they were vaccinated or not. 

Let's stop using inflammatory rhetoric intending to debase or marginalize others, like "anti-vaxxers." They are human like you and me, and are entitled to their own religious, personal and medical decisions. We may not ridicule them simply because they make different choices than we do.

When New York Times attributes disease (or failure of a bill to pass) to "anti-vaccine ultra-orthodox Jews," they are cynically exploiting a segment of the population that is doubly-vulnerable to marginalization. You might call it an "intersectionality in discrimination" of sorts.

I just read reports that a student of Northeastern University was diagnosed with measles last week. No mention was made of his religious affiliation, his position on vaccination in general, or whether he had been vaccinated for measles or not! And that's exactly how it should be.

If the only way that state feels it can promote it's public health agenda is through such intimidation and incitement, then perhaps their entire policy ought to be reconsidered. The ends never justify the means.

In the entire 2019 measles ordeal and the mass hysteria that ensued, not one fatality resulted from any of the 1,203 diagnosed cases of measles in NY and NJ. Antisemitism is far more perilous, resulting in three murdered ultra-Orthodox Jews, and dozens more wounded.

Hatred is no good for public health. It's a deadly disease, and a highly-contagious one at that.

Shame on the state of New York, the New York Times, and the entire media who promoted a reckless agenda of fear-mongering, manipulation and intimidation, awakening age-old prejudices that continue to haunt us to this day. 

Let's declare once and for all: "No fear. No hate." No more medical bullying or discrimination against Jews or anyone else for that matter, vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Let freedom ring.




Monday, January 13, 2020

Mothers of Israel





Tonight is the 17th of Tevet

17 is the numerical value of טוב (tov) -- good. And טבת tevet comes from tov, good.
Today is טוב שבטוב, good within good.
A miracle occurred today. Good prevailed over evil. Truth over falsehood.
Revealed good became manifest from within the hidden good.
"There is no good but Torah -- ואין טוב אלא תורה" (Avos 6:3).
Today we witnessed a victory of Torah, the ultimate good.

The State of New Jersey upheld the inviolable right of every Jewish child to attend school to learn Torah, irrespective of state's "public health" agenda.
They maintained what we already know: there is nothing healthier, nothing better, nothing more precious on earth than a Jewish child learning Torah with his/her peers.
This transcends all other "health policies."

Today's Torah portion is about the birth of Moses:

"The woman conceived and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was good, and hid him for three months. וַתַּהַר הָאִשָּׁה וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתֵּרֶא אֹתוֹ כִּי טוֹב הוּא וַתִּצְפְּנֵהוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה יְרָחִים." (Exodus 2:2)

Rashi comments: (She saw) "that he was good -- the whole house was filled with light."

Good is associated with light and with Torah. The child who filled his home with light was destined to receive the Torah from G-d on Mount Sinai.

Moses' mother hid him for as long she was possibly able to keep him under the radar. She refused to let Pharaoh's henchmen take him and cast him in the Nile. After a while she could no longer hide him, but she still would not let them take him. Instead, she put him in a cradle to shield him from the waters of the Nile, and placed him among the reeds along the banks of the river. She preferred leaving him in G-d's hands than surrender him to Pharaoh. She preferred leaving him vulnerable to nature than allowing the Egyptians to expose him to toxic conditions that would possibly cause him irreparable harm.*

A future mother herself , Moses' sister believed that this child would survive and flourish despite all the dire predictions. She stood from afar and watched a miracle unfold. Not only was Baby Moses saved from harm, he was cared for and nursed by his own mother, raised and nurtured in her loving embrace, educated with maternal devotion... all in Pharaoh's own palace.

This "good" child grew up to become Moses, the lawgiver, the faithful shepherd who saved his people from bondage and led them to freedom.

Lesson:

The devoted mothers of our generation see the inherent goodness of their children. These heroic women who insist on shielding their Baby Moses from submersion in Pharaoh's indoctrination... those brave mothers who will not bow before "public policies" that call for their pure babies to be exposed to toxins and death... they will not go with the flow and submit to the mighty Phar(aoh)maceutical machine that fuels the economy and dictates medical policy. The courageous women try to keep their young "under the radar" for as long as possible, sheltering their precious children from medical bullying. Ultimately, when given the choice, they opt to let their healthy children to remain vulnerable to nature rather than compromise their young immune systems with dubious man-made concoctions.*

These are the "righteous women of our generation" who cherish the miracle of life and watch their young grow up in the light of Torah, immune to the man-made dangers of modern society.

These are the fearless mothers who stood their ground and rallied against the NJ legislature's latest draconian attempt to harm their children.

It was humbling to stand in their towering presence this past Thursday in Trenton and witness their unwavering devotion to their young.

Men, take heed... Rabbis, stand aside... It's time to let the Mothers of Israel stand at the helm where you have failed us. They will save our young where you have neglected them.

State will now understand that these moms are a force to be reckoned with. They are unstoppable. Their momentum will take back this country.

State legislatures, pharmaceutical industry, media conglomerates... give it up. You are no match for the determination of these empowered mothers. You will crumble before the awesome power of a bas yisroel defending her young.

No one will harm their Baby Moses. 

No one will stop their Baby Moses from learning Torah with his peers.

These are the righteous women who will verily usher in the Redemption in our times.

I am in awe.

Happy 17th of Tevet. May good times be upon us.


* As King David declared: "נפלה נא ביד ה' כי רבים רחמיו וביד אדם אל אפלה -- Let us better fall in the all-merciful Hand of G-d, and let me not fall into the hand of man."

This post is dedicated to Dvora, the fearless and devoted Jewish mother of my own children.