חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא

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.

Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky

Viewing ourselves and our mentors realistically

[Hat tip to R’ Micha]

This is a sobering letter from R’ Yitzchak Hutner ז’ל. He was a very interesting, non-standard, Charedi Rosh Yeshivah, who considered Rav Kook ז’ל as his Rav HaMuvhak for many years; R’ Kook’s picture used to hang prominently in his Succah. The Rayatz of Lubavitch ז’ל arranged for him to have a personal Chavrusa in Chassidus with the last Rebbe ז’ל before he became Rebbe. He was Rosh Yeshivah of Chaim Berlin, and Rabbi Groner ז’ל was also influenced by him and spoke about him. He is best known for his Sefer Pachad Yitzchak, something that’s on my “need to learn properly” list; a list that seems to be getting longer and longer. A generally fiery and charismatic character who some considered to be almost Rebbe like given the Tishes he used to host, R’ Hutner wrote a letter (no. 128) to presumably a Talmid. This letter was translated and published in the Jewish Observer in December 1981.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the Artscrolls and HaModias of the Charedi world tend to never portray the full picture of Gedolim, making them all appear perfect in every possible way. This is of course an exercise in Sheker and a great shame. Furthermore, it can put unrealistic pressure on the ordinary person. Our task is to clone ourselves, but that cloning is to the Middos of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, through adherence to Halacha. We know that we cannot reach that level of perfection. We strive and struggle, but should be under no illusions that we can achieve the type of perfection described by Charedi Hagiography. A dose of realism never hurt anyonw.
Given that we are in Ellul, it’s also a fortuitous moment to re-publish the excerpt below.

…A failing many of us suffer from is, that when we consider the
aspects of perfection of our sages, we focus on the ultimate level of
their attainments… while omitting mention of the inner struggles
that had previously raged within them. A listener would get the
impression that these individuals came out of the hand of their
Creator in full-blown form.

Everyone is awed at the purity of speech of the Chofetz Chaim,
z.t.l., considering it a miraculous phenomenon. But who knows of the
battles, struggles and obstacles, the slumps and regressions that
the Chofetz Chaim encountered in his war with the yetzer horo (evil
inclination)? There are many such examples, to which a discerning
individual such as yourself can certainly apply the rule.

The result of this failing is that when an ambitious young man
of spirit and enthusiasm meets obstacles, falls and slumps, he
imagines himself as unworthy of being ‘planted in the house of
Hashem.’ According to this young man’s fancy, flourishing in the house
of Hashem means to repose with calm spirit on ‘lush meadows’ beside
‘tranquil waters’ (Tehilim-Psalm 23) delighting in the yetzer hatov
[good inclination], in the manner of the righteous delighting in the
reflection of the Shechina [Divine Presence], with crowns on their
heads, gathered in Gan Eden [Garden of Eden]. And at the same time,
untroubled by the agitation of the yetzer hora….

Know, however, my dear friend, that your soul is rooted not in
the TRANQUILITY of the yetzer tov, but rather in the BATTLE of the
yetzer tov. And your precious warm-hearted letter ‘testifies as one
hundred witnesses’ that you are a worthy warrior in the battalion
of the yetzer tov. The English expression, ‘Lose a battle and win
a war’ applies. Certainly you have stumbled, and will tumble again
(a self-fulfilling prophecy is not intended) and in many battles
you will fall lame. I promise you, though, that after those losing
campaigns you will emerge from the war with the laurels of victory
upon your head…. Lose battles but win wars.

Who runs the Edah Charedis?

The news out of Israel is that the Av Beis Din of the Edah, together with some of his fellow Dayanim issued a letter requesting that their community daven for a Refuah Shelema for the critically ill R’ Elyashiv. R’ Elyashiv is described by non Chassidic Ashkenazim as the “Posek HaDor”. However, R’ Elyashiv is seen by the Neturei Karta and their ilk as tainted on account of his previous employment and relationship with the Rabanut.

The Beis Din of the Edah Charedis took the sensible view that when a man of this stature and learning is critically ill, one should cast aside any aspersions and genuinely pray for his recovery. The “Askanim” or Committee of the Edah, like Askanim in many groups have their own agenda. They parade and market allegiance to “Daas Torah” but they pick and choose when they listen to their own Daas Torah. This is a very dangerous situation and further marginalises the importance of Rabbis in our world.

Daas Torah is a new invention: an outgrowth of the chassidification of Jewry post Holocaust. Ironically, Daas Torah isn’t under threat from those who don’t subscribe to that weltanshaung. Rather, it is being undermined by the very people who created and now misuse it like a political football to further their own often sinister agendas.

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