I was alerted to this post (hat tib NB) from the brilliant Rabbi Slifkin. Mori V’Rabbi R’ Hershel Schachter contends that there is a חיוב to consult the experts in healthcare before even attempting to make halachic pronouncements on issues. One can see this partially in the evolution of R’ Moshe’s Psakim on Cigarette Smoking. They progressed from a lack of direct evidence to שומר פתאים השם to a full blown איסור to commence or continue as agreed by modern Poskim today based on current scientifically proven medical knowledge. There is, in my estimation an anarchist element in the attempts to discredit inoculation. It beggars belief that גדולים as mentioned by Rabbi Slifkin should take a dangerous and scientifically dubious lax view toward inoculation. I do not begin to understand it. In addition to being plainly against רוב מנין and רוב בנין of expert medical advice, it is at least a מסייע לדבר עבירה to wantonly expose other children to disease. I simply do not understand these alleged Psokim. I say, alleged, because there is a tendency to misquote Rabonim. Why R’ Shmuel Kaminetsky would say such a thing is something I do not begin to understand. I hope he is being badly misunderstood and/or misquoted.
Here is the piece from Rabbi Slifkin.
Following the previous discussion of how some people deny the potentially fatal risks involved in metzizah b’peh, I was sad to see a new report about another way in which certain frum people endanger the wellbeing and lives of their (and our) children. The Baltimore Jewish Times reports (p. 1, 2) on the phenomenon of people who refuse to vaccinate their children. It was depressing to see that no less a figure than Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky, the most moderate and least anti-rationalist Gadol B’Torah in the charedi world, is supporting these people:
According to Dr. Linda Grossman, bureau director for clinical services at the Baltimore County Department of Health, independent schools that operate under Maryland laws have the same policy. She says that some Jewish day school parents claim religious exemptions to avoid vaccinating their children.
“I’m not aware though of any religious reasons not to vaccinate in Judaism,” she said. Beginning this fall, two additional vaccines are being phased in statewide. Kindergarteners will now be required to receive an additional dose of the chicken pox vaccine, and seventh-grade students must receive the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis as well as one dose of a vaccine against meningitis.
“There are far worse consequences to not vaccinating as compared with vaccinating,” said Grossman, reiterating her hope that parents do not claim religious exemptions to avoid vaccinating their children.
R.B. encountered significant difficulties when she claimed a religious exemption at a local boys’ day school. Before her son began school, she contacted someone at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as well as the state attorney general’s office, to inquire about Maryland’s laws regarding religious exemptions.
“They said that the school could not refuse to accept a religious exemption,” she related. “But then school started and the nurse called. She said the school didn’t accept religious exemptions. I told her they had to accept them so she said I would have to speak with the principal.”
R.B. reached out to Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky, founder and dean of the Talmudical Academy of Philadelphia, whose wife, Temi, speaks out against vaccinating children. The rabbi wrote a letter on R.B.’s behalf, leading to her son’s principal relenting and apologizing.
When reached by phone, both Kamenetzkys confirmed their belief that vaccinations, not the diseases they prevent, are harmful.
“There is a doctor in Chicago who doesn’t vaccinate any of his patients and they have no problem at all,” said the rabbi. “I see vaccinations as the problem. It’s a hoax. Even the Salk vaccine [against polio] is a hoax. It is just big business.”
Kamenetzky says he follows the lead of Israeli Rabbi Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim Kanievsky, who rules that schools “have no right to prevent unvaccinated kids from coming to school.”
Normally, I don’t mind if people have views that run counter to modern science. It doesn’t really affect or bother me that Rav Chaim Kanievsky says that Jews and non-Jews have a different number of teeth. But in the case of inoculation, it’s everyone else’s children who are put at risk.
Well it bothers me because they do have the same number of teeth, and it does bother me that established Science is discarded by “a doctor in Chicago”. I’m clearly not smart enough or knowledgeable enough to understand these views. The Worlds health organisations are enough of a Sanhedrin on such matters for some Rabbinic leaders, allegedly.