I am writing in response to the article “Yes, One Is Halachically Obligated To Get The Covid Vaccine” by Rabbi Daniel Feldman, and will respond point by point.
The article begins with the following editor's note: “Some readers requested expansion upon Rav Hershel Schachter’s ruling that one is obligated to get the Covid vaccine (in the July 9 issue). So we asked one of Rav Schachter’s leading students, Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman, to expand upon it.”
Rav Schachter has published many dozens of responsa related to the Covid situation, spanning hundreds of pages. Many of these responsa focus on picayune matters related to tefiilla in an outdoor minyan and recitation of parts of the Haggada when one is socially isolated. While I do not mean to minimize the importance of these matters – all aspects of the Torah are important and must be studied – these are hardly matters of life and death.
Conversely, Rav Schachter's ruling that, with limited exceptions, all of Klal Yisrael is obligated to get injected with a Covid “vaccine”, has staggering implications. If we put every ruling that Rav Schachter ever issued in his life, and every bit of Torah that he ever taught, on one side of a scale, and this ruling on the other side of the scale, the latter would outweigh everything else in terms of importance.
It is incomprehensible, therefore, that for his ruling that millions of Jews are obligated to take this injection Rav Schachter did not trouble himself to write a proper teshuva. The July 9 article was extremely brief, devoid of serious Torah analysis befitting a matter of such monumental importance. In addition, the little information that was supplied was fundamentally flawed, as I noted in a letter sent to the Jewish Press on July 11 that was ignored.
How can it be that Rav Schachter devoted more time and Torah analysis to the question of making up missed weeks of Kriyas HaTorah? How can it be that, nearly two months later, he has still failed to expand on his unprecedented ruling of such monumental importance, despite numerous requests, and it is left to one of his students to attempt to clarify his words? This is inexplicable, unacceptable, and unconscionable.
I will further note that all the so-called “leading” rabbis who issued similar rulings have likewise made themselves unavailable to respond to questions and challenges, which are an essential part of the halachic process. This is unprecedented, and no justification for this holds water. This is especially true when the implications of these rulings could not be more serious, and when communication is easier than ever before.
All of this raises the uncomfortable but necessary question as to whether there is a coordinated decision to issue rulings mandating “vaccines”, then to go into hiding and treat it as a closed matter. This is, in fact, the official policy of most government-run health establishments all over the world, who as a matter of official policy have prohibited doctors and other employees from being interviewed on Covid-related matters without their prior approval. In other words, only hand-picked members of the medical establishment are permitted to receive prescreened questions from hand-picked members of the media and public.
Has the rabbinic establishment and the organizations they represent – which receive funding from the government and other establishment sources connected to the pharmaceutical industry – adopted a similar policy? If that is not the case, it would be difficult to tell the difference, based on the lack of availability of vaccine-mandating rabbis to publicly respond to critical questions and challenges.
Again, all of this is unprecedented in the Torah-respecting world, it violates the halachic process, and it raises serious questions about the integrity of the establishment-connected rabbis who are demanding that everyone get injected, or else. It is not pleasant to call the integrity of Torah scholars who have long been respected into question, but unfortunately their approach to this situation forces us to raise these uncomfortable questions. The stakes are simply too high to pretend this is not an issue.
I will now address the content of Rabbi Feldman's response.
He begins with a disclaimer that he “cannot speak on behalf of Rav Schachter”, and that “any mistaken interpretations or extrapolations are my fault”. In other words, Rav Schachter is silent on the issue, his student is only speculating, and he takes no responsibility for the possibility that he is misrepresenting Rav Schachter's position. There is no indication that he even shared his speculation with Rav Schachter, despite being one of his “leading students”, teaching at the same institution, and presumably enjoying coveted access to Rav Schachter that is unavailable to most others. Why is that?
Why is Rav Schachter being shielded from expanding on his ruling in this way? Why is it that Rav Schachter's student can expand on his ruling with the express goal of “emphasizing its message”, yet neither he nor the teacher is really standing behind it? Essentially, this is nothing more than an attempt to promote Rav Schachter's radical, poorly argued ruling without anyone taking accountability.
Rabbi Feldman continues with another disclaimer in the name of Rav Schachter: “individuals may have specific medical advice that is particularized for their circumstances, and they should consult medical professionals familiar with their personal situation.” Essentially, for one to be exempt from getting injected, he would require a particular medical reason unique to them and an exemption from medical professionals. In absence of this, he must get the injection.
In other words, every single Jew is beholden to a doctor to grant them permission not to take this injection, otherwise he must take it. With this one statement, Rav Schachter and his student have granted unprecedented power to doctors over all of Klal Yisrael, from old to young, to decide what drugs are put into their bodies. We are entirely at their mercy. Just like that, medical autonomy has been defined out of existence. This was done with just a few keystrokes, without support, context, or debate on the subject, as if it were as elementary as Shema Yisrael.
Rabbi Feldman continues: “The obligation to protect one’s health is defined by the current state of medical knowledge...In the case of the Covid-19 vaccines, the overwhelming conclusion has been that the vaccines are safe and greatly effective, and that Covid is horrendously dangerous.”
Once again, these declarations, which are the premise for all that follows, are made as if they are indisputable facts. Rabbi Feldman takes them entirely for granted, to the extent that he does not bother to provide any specific sources for his conclusions, nor any context. He takes this information as so obvious that it requires no further discussion; the matter is closed.
Although I am not a medical expert (as far as I know, neither is Rabbi Feldman) I have devoted my life to these matters for the last two years. I have seen thousands of articles and videos on the subject, many from top medical professionals all over the world, and corresponded directly with many others who have been similarly devoted to these issues. I do not presume to know the nitty-gritty of the science, but I know beyond a doubt that this matter is far from closed.
There is by no means an “overwhelming conclusion that the vaccines are safe and greatly effective.” There has been a marketing campaign unlike any other in human history to convince the general public of this – all of which is paid for by companies and organizations with direct conflicts of interest. Those who claim that Covid is not nearly as dangerous as these drug-pushers want us to believe have been censored, smeared, fired from their jobs, and even personally threatened. The same is true for those who have provided powerful research showing that truly safe immunity-boosting measures and inexpensive early intervention treatments render Covid essentially harmless.
The evidence of this is far more overwhelming than claims that Covid is an immediate threat that changes all the rules, or that the “vaccine” is the best course of action or even an advisable one at all.
Whistleblowers all over the world have reported that hospitals have been bribed to falsely record deaths from anything and everything as “Covid deaths”, and that employees have been instructed to comply or else. They have also reported that hospitals have literally murdered patients through improper treatments or even more directly to further inflate the numbers of Covid deaths, exaggerate fears of the illness, and exaggerate the need for these experimental pharmaceutical products.
Are Rabbis Schachter and Feldman unaware of all this? Do they dismiss it with a smug wave of the hand? Have they looked into it at all? If not, why not? If yes, why have they not elaborated and incorporated their findings into their ruling, as is appropriate for any halachic responsa?
If it is true that the medical establishment has been widely corrupted, how can any information by these same people form the basis for halachic rulings that impact the health and lives of all of Klal Yisrael? Do Rabbis Schachter and Feldman believe that “the current state of medical knowledge” is so sacrosanct that we must shut our eyes and blindly do whatever they say, no matter what? Must we accept their testimony even when comparable testimony by witnesses in court would be rejected due to obvious conflicts of interest and prior lies that render them untrustworthy? If so, what is the basis for this?
If, theoretically, Dr. Mengele was appointed the head of the medical establishment, and all his underlings kowtowed to his declarations on what is safe, effective, and necessary, must we similarly bow to his rulings as the chief arbiter of medical knowledge?
Rabbi Feldman does not address any of this.
Instead he launches into a winding discussion of one's obligation to risk one's life to protect himself and others from a presumed danger. He mentions a Yerushalmi which supposedly indicates that “one is indeed obligated to take on a possible risk to protect another from a more definite harm,” but he does not even cite the source.
What “possible risks” and “definite harms” are we talking about? Must we assume any possible risk to protect another from any more definite harm? Once again, we are provided no context. So long as we can cherry-pick a source that indicates we have some amorphous responsibility to others, we must assume that halacha mandates every Jew to take the “vaccine”.
This is Torah?
Rabbi Feldman supports this radical conclusion with the law that one doctor is sufficient to allow a patient to eat on Yom Kippur, even if the overwhelming majority of doctors believe that his life is not in danger if he continues to fast. Rabbi Feldman uses this as support for taking the “vaccine” because the majority of doctors claim it demonstrates “greater sensitivity to the sanctity of life.”
This source is completely misapplied. Doctors are not empowered to calculate for the entirety of society that people who are not ill and not their patients must take a pharmaceutical product of any kind in the presumed interests of “the greater good”. A doctor is indeed empowered to rule leniently for an ill patient that the prohibition of eating on Yom Kippur should be relaxed to protect his life. How Rabbi Feldman and others derive from this source that doctors can mandate that everyone, including perfectly healthy people, must inject themselves with experimental drugs – all of which have clear risks and unknowns, unlike eating some food on Yom Kippur – is a total mystery, and a corruption of the Torah.
Rabbi Feldman devotes the rest of his article to a confusing hodgepodge of other sources on the subject, clumsily shtupped together to support his predetermined conclusion. It is little different than the way gay activists cite “Love your fellow” and “All men are created in the image of God” as support for their pre-determined conclusions. Essentially, they are taking a general philosophical concept and applying it in an extreme, radical way to support a halachic conclusion, without providing clear context or limits. This is not Torah; it is megaleh panim b'Torah – abusing the Torah to support incorrect conclusions.
Indeed, Rabbi Feldman then devotes two paragraphs to a statement in Pirkei Avos that we have to be concerned for others. This is now a primary source for all of Klal Yisrael taking a dangerous experimental drug – or else – for an illness whose dangers have been greatly exaggerated on purpose to compel people to take this drug. In addition, we must surrender our medical autonomy and subject the entirety of Torah to the “medical expertise” of godless, corrupt people whose integrity could not be more suspect.
All because Pirkei Avos tells us to be concerned about other people, and some people have to take some risks some of the time to protect some other people from some dangers.
If one compares this approach to serious halachic responsa from sages such as Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and earlier Torah giants, the difference will be clear.
If we seek guidance in these life-and-death matters from Pirkei Avos, I would suggest two other teachings instead:
“Be patient in judgment”, from the very first Mishna, which adjures judges to thoroughly study matters before issuing a ruling, even if they seem clear on the surface. This abrogates the notion of blindly following “overwhelming conclusions” of a corrupt medical establishment, or even an honest one.
In Avos Chapter 3 Mishna 11 Rabbi Elazar Hamoda'i states that one who is megaleh panim b'Torah shelo k'halacha has no share in the world to come.
The consequences of being megaleh panim b'Torah in such a way that all of Klal Yisrael will be physically and spiritually endangered is left unstated.
I will conclude by noting that over 130 rabbis and poskim from all over the world have urged Klal Yisrael not to take these injections, and their position is supported by thousands of medical professionals and whistleblowers who have provided overwhelming evidence that these “vaccines” are far from kosher on any level.
If Rabbis Schachter and Feldman have thoroughly examined the pertinent issues and concluded otherwise, they are welcome to present a proper responsa explaining this in great detail. They must also make themselves available to questions and challenges from the people whose physical and spiritual lives are impacted by their ruling.
In absence of this, their rulings violate the halachic process, they have no force, and they present a clear and present danger to Klal Yisrael greater than any illness or proposed treatment.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman