Author Topic: Rabbanic Covid Guidance  (Read 9251 times)

Offline Euclid

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Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2021, 08:58:49 PM »
I am told there is a recent letter from R Herschel Shachter with a soul searching criticism of Covid practices that are bringing about Chillul Hashem & antisemitism/aivah.

Can anybody find it?
Quote
Rabbi Hershel Schachter

COVID and Derech Halimud
Just a few days ago (Jan. 29, 2021) there was a long article in the New York Times about Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the COVID situation in Eretz Yisroel. I was very saddened to read the statistic that although the Chareidim make up only 12% of the Jewish population in Eretz Yisroel, 28% of those infected with COVID were from the Chareidi community. What a tragedy! More than twice as much as it should have been.

Every morning in the davening we speak about the value of human life. We comment that all human activities are so trivial that to a certain extent, humans are not more consequential than animals. However, we go on to say, the B'nai Yisroel, the followers of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov who keep mitzvos are in a very different category.

The opening passuk in the Torah tells us, "בראשית ברא אלקים" and Rashi in his commentary quotes from the Midrash that the word "בראשית" means "בשביל ראשית", i.e. for the Jewish people, that are referred to by Yirmiyahu (2:3) as ראשית and for the Torah which is referred to in Mishlei (8:22) as ראשית. The passuk is telling us that the world was created on behalf of the Jewish people who are going to keep the Torah. This was the whole purpose of creation.

The simple reading of the mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:14) is that all men were created btzelem Elokim. The Jewish people have a greater degree of tzelem Elokim, which is referred to as bonim laMakom (since children always carry the DNA of their parents). The M'eiri in his introduction to shas quotes an interesting Midrash that maintains that the first five of the Aseres Hadibros were written on the first luach and the second five were written on the second luach, and there is a correspondence between the first set of five and the second set of five. Specifically, the sixth of the Aseres Hadibros is related to the first; the seventh to the second, etc. The connection between the first and the sixth dibros is that the Torah prohibits murder because man was created btzelem Elokim and one who kills is demonstrating that he does not believe that there is such a thing as Elokim. Because we believe that B'nai Yisroel have a greater degree of tzelem Elokim, we are always much more careful regarding safeik sakonah (possible danger) than all of the medical doctors. For example, when a bris has to be postponed because the infant is not well, even after the doctors release the baby from the hospital and say that that he is up to having the circumcision, the halacha in the Gemarah tells us that we still have to wait additional days. And, in recent years, the mohalim have established a minhag regarding the bilirubin count that is also more stringent than what the doctors would say.

Halacha tells us that even if there is a sfeik sfeika, a very slight risk, of sakonah, still that slight safeik is sufficient to be docheh Shabbos and Yom Kippur and most of the mitzvos of the Torah. So the question begs itself, how could it possibly be that the number of infections in the Chareidi community due to COVID is twice as high as what it should have been, proportionally?

My impression is that part of the explanation is a result of the derech ha'limud adopted in many of the yeshivas. There is a big emphasis on pilpul, sevoros, chakiros, and ha'veh a'minas in the Gemarah. The Gemarah considers the highest level of learning to be one who learns l'asukei sh'meitza aliba d'hilchosa - to reach a final conclusion as to what the halacha is. When I was a student in the Yeshiva, one of the talmidim asked a rebbe after we learned a whole piece of Gemarah that was relevant to halacha l'meisa - halachic practice, "so how do we pasken?" The rebbe, who was a European, responded in Yiddish, "call up the Agudas Harabonim and ask them". In the Lithuanian yeshivas in Europe learning halacha l'meisa was frowned upon. They misinterpreted the idea of learning Torah l'shmo to mean that one should not focus his learning arriving at a conclusion as to what the halacha is. It is well known that the Chazon Ish worked hard to correct this misunderstanding and influence the yeshivas to concentrate more on halacha l'maaseh.

Many students in the yeshivas today are trained to raise all logical possibilities about the halacha - maybe it's like this and maybe it's like that; on the one hand and on the other hand, etc. Rav Avigdor Nevenzal pointed out that the Malbim (in his commentary on Mishlei 1:7) understands that "אויל" is a specific type of a fool who is always raising questions and doubts, that maybe it's like this and maybe it's like that.

When I was a student in college, there was a popular British philosopher by the name of Bertrand Russel. One day, one of my classmates brought with him a copy of Russel's "dictionary of philosophy". As I seem to recall, for every letter of the alphabet Russel has a word and a cartoon to convey the meaning of the word. Under the letter "A" you find the word "arithmetic" and the cartoon depicts a priest with the collar around his neck in a backward position, teaching young children arithmetic. The priest writes on the blackboard 1+1+1=1. They believe in the Trinity but the bible says "Hashem Echad", so they assume that one plus one plus one equals one. Of course, we all know that that does not correspond to reality.

Chazal always believed in experimentation. It is generally assumed today in all of the yeshivas that it does not make any sense to have a machlokes in the Gemarah regarding metzius - a factual point. The Ramban points this out, quoting a passage in the Talmud Yerushalmi which asked, how can there be a disagreement between Rav Yochanon ben Nuri and the chachomim whether orez and dochen can become chometz, why didn't the Tanaim test it out and ascertain what the reality is? Halacha cannot contradict reality!

In the shailos u'teshuvos literature, there is a serious discussion between the Chasam Sofer and the Maharam Schick regarding to what extent do we rely on medical knowledge. One thing is for sure, though: with respect to sakonas nefashos we certainly follow what the doctors say at least to the extent of considering it a safeik sakonah which is docheh almost kol ha'Torah kula.

This entire attitude that many otherwise very observant Jews have to totally ignore the recommendations of the medical community regarding the risks of COVID is in total contradiction to the Jewish tradition of psak halacha. The religious Jews always placed more value on human life than doctors did.

The Beis Ha'Levi explains that when the Jewish people responded, "כל אשר־דבר ה' נעשה ונשמע" (Shemos 24:7) at Har Sinai, na'aseh meant that we committed ourselves to observe the mitzvos, and nishmah meant that we committed ourselves to learn Torah. What does it mean to learn Torah? The Chumash tells us "ולמדתם אתם ושמרתם לעשתם" - "you should learn them (the 613 mitzvos) and observe them." It is for this reason that the Rambam authored the Sefer Ha'mitzvos as an introduction to the Mishnah Torah. At the beginning of each section in Mishnah Torah, he gives you a list of the mitzvos that will be covered in this section. By the time you complete the entire Mishnah Torah you have covered all of the 613 mitzvos.

The basic mitzvah of talmud Torah is to be familiar with all of the 613 mitzvos and all of their details. Answering a question Rav Akiva Eiger has on a Tosofos is comparable to eating the icing on a second piece of cake as part of dessert. The primary goal and focus of limud ha'Torah is to know halacha l'maaseh how to keep all the mitzvos ha'Torah. In my opinion much of the tragedy of the high infection rate among the Chareidi population is due to the faulty derech ha'limud which eschews focusing on the correct thing to do halacha l'maaseh, and instead focuses on pilpul and ha'veh a'minas. Just as in learning Torah they are preoccupied with sevaras that do not correspond to halacha l'ma'aseh, similarly in dealing with COVID they come up with, and act based on, ideas that simply don't correspond to reality.

Let us all return to the traditional style of learning that was practiced for so many centuries and merit the promise of the Torah, "וחי בהם" ולא שימות בהם.
This?

Offline PlatinumGuy

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2021, 08:59:42 PM »
TY!
״וזה כלל גדול: שישנא אדם כל דבר שקר. וכל מה שיוסיף שנאה לדרכי השקר יוסיף אהבה לתורה.״ - אורחות צדיקים

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2021, 09:26:25 PM »
Where is that from?
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Offline Euclid

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Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2021, 09:37:46 PM »
Where is that from?
Weekly email. Think it's eventually posted on torahweb.org

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2021, 11:16:00 PM »
Interesting take. I think it really happened the other way. People decided not to take precautions and justified it after the fact with sevaros

Offline EliJelly

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #25 on: February 13, 2021, 11:30:31 PM »
This?
Genuinely curious, was his Rebbe Rav JB Solovetchik continuing his family's tradition on derech halimud or was he also against the Yeshivish/Brisk style?

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2021, 12:05:42 AM »
Genuinely curious, was his Rebbe Rav JB Solovetchik continuing his family's tradition on derech halimud or was he also against the Yeshivish/Brisk style?
I don't think it answers your question, but on the same topic here is a recent video interview R Herschel Shachter gave, in which I found very fascinating how he maintained a close mutually respectful relationship with many Rabbonim who are much further on the right of the spectrum.

https://unitetoheal.com/causes/unite/events/sichas

(I don't know how to embed)


״וזה כלל גדול: שישנא אדם כל דבר שקר. וכל מה שיוסיף שנאה לדרכי השקר יוסיף אהבה לתורה.״ - אורחות צדיקים

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2021, 12:21:23 AM »
Re Rav Hershel Schachter: Wow! While I can't say this is true for every situation in which people have ignored Covid precautions, but it is truly on the point and this derech has caused many other issues, too.

Offline EliJelly

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2021, 12:23:30 AM »
I don't think it answers your question, but on the same topic here is a recent video interview R Herschel Shachter gave, in which I found very fascinating how he maintained a close mutually respectful relationship with many Rabbonim who are much further on the right of the spectrum.

https://unitetoheal.com/causes/unite/events/sichas

(I don't know how to embed)
The video is blocked of course

Offline PlatinumGuy

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2021, 12:42:34 AM »
״וזה כלל גדול: שישנא אדם כל דבר שקר. וכל מה שיוסיף שנאה לדרכי השקר יוסיף אהבה לתורה.״ - אורחות צדיקים

Offline EliJelly

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #30 on: February 14, 2021, 12:56:41 AM »

Offline a mirrer

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #31 on: February 14, 2021, 05:10:50 AM »
what's the difference between this city and other Haredi cities? Leadership?
the 2 main differences are
1. the fact that the mayor is an absolute bulldozer who made sure that everyone is vaccinated (in the summer when the government was making lockdowns on cities based on the percentage of positive tests he had all the children tested in 2 or 3 days to bring down the positivity rate) and
2. lack of the anti zionist suspicious of every government move population which makes up a big part of the anti vaxxers in Israel in the city

Offline Dan

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2021, 08:01:43 AM »
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Offline Dan

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2021, 08:26:08 AM »
(Seems like it was taken down.)
Theories?
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Offline yzj

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2021, 08:46:29 AM »
http://web.archive.org/web/20210206111231/http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2021/parsha/rsch_yisro.html

(Seems like it was taken down.)

I think its pretty obvious why. It is a broadside on the entire yeshiva system as well as its manhigim and mesorah.  BTW The yeshiva olam reads the Beis Haleivi as saying very different than stated above; the Beis Haleivi is actually saying that Torah lishmah that does not lead to halacha Limaseh is on a far higher level....

Offline Yehuda57

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2021, 08:50:02 AM »
Theories?

There are numerous reasons why Hareidi neighborhoods would be hit harder than others besides for lack of precautions. Plus

Interesting take. I think it really happened the other way. People decided not to take precautions and justified it after the fact with sevaros

Plus

I think its pretty obvious why. It is a broadside on the entire yeshiva system as well as its manhigim and mesorah.  BTW The yeshiva olam reads the Beis Haleivi as saying very different than stated above; the Beis Haleivi is actually saying that Torah lishmah that does not lead to halacha Limaseh is on a far higher level....

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Offline Dan

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2021, 09:23:15 AM »
There are numerous reasons why Hareidi neighborhoods would be hit harder than others besides for lack of precautions.
I mean for why the article was cancelled :)
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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2021, 09:36:17 AM »
I mean for why the article was cancelled :)

I think similar to what @yzj said, in that it was an emotional and harsh critique of a huge segment of Orthodox Judaism, and while I'm sure the opinion stands, maybe someone decided that it was too public a forum to address it in.
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Offline Yehuda57

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Re: Rabbanic Covid Guidance
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2021, 09:55:33 AM »
I mean for why the article was cancelled :)

I'm saying that this was probably pointed out
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