Monday, June 8, 2020

Is Your Rabbi Mistaken About Covid-19?

It's important to correct your rabbi when he's in error. Of course, rabbis are human and can make mistakes.


Does your rabbi support keeping schools and/or shuls closed at this present time, or at any point during covid 19 outbreak? 

Does he cite precautionary measures ordered by Rabbi Akiva Eiger or Rabbi Yisroel Salanter during their local cholera outbreaks?

Does he compare covid 19 to epidemics mentioned in the Code of Jewish Law (Orach Chaim 576:2,5) for which fast days are decreed and during which everyone ought to isolate themselves (Yoreh Deah 116:5, Taz) or at least avoid public gatherings?

If he does, please correct him: 

The cholera outbreak of R' Akiva Eiger's times had a mortality rate of 3.5 to 9% of an ENTIRE population, and the disease posed significant mortal risk to EVERYONE. Such statistical contagion is indeed a factor in halacha even if no present diagnosed condition.. Even children who had lowest risk still suffered a 2 or 3% mortality rate (compared to seniors at 16%). Conversely, .1 % mortality rate of a potential disease (or other risk) is NOT numerically significant in halacha (see Shulchan Aruch Harav Orach Chaim 330:1), but .1% mortality rate of an actual diagnosed condition is indeed deemed pikuach nefesh in Shulchan Aruch (ibid 316:23), albeit begrudgingly.

Of course, our current virus PALES in comparison to cholera. Covid has a death rate of .03% in the US and a mere .005% worldwide. It also cannot be compared to epidemics for which fasts are decreed, since they required a mortality rate of .3% of an ENTIRE population within three days. A mere tenth of that in five months is obviously insufficient.

This contrast is all the more evident in case of covid 19 which poses negligible risk to children and young adults. There is no basis in halacha to banning such individuals from the public unless the individual has a diagnosed condition. Halacha does NOT allow us to regard healthy people as asymptomatic carriers.

As such, there is absolutely zero halachic basis or precedent for banning public torah learning of children or public worship of healthy adults.

If your rabbi claims there is, he is simply being disingenuous or ignorant.

If he claims that dina d'malchusa applies here, he is wrong. 

Even worse, he is compromised.

Find a new rabbi.

PS: for more insight into contemporary rabbinical errors, see my blog post: Are Rabbis Inerrant?

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