July 14, 2022
Torah scholars argue all the time. While the disagreements often get very intense – because both sides are fighting for God's Truth – there is supposed to be a deep underlying respect even between Torah scholars who stand at opposite sides of a disagreement. This is because they recognize that their opponent is also a sincere warrior for God's Truth, and there are often multiple opinions that fall within the boundaries of legitimacy.
However, not all opinions are legitimate, and not all Torah scholars are people of integrity. The general public has learned some very hard lessons in recent times about “experts” taking advantage of people's trust. We cannot blindly rely on credentials and reputation, and this is no different when it comes to the Torah. Unless we are dealing with a proven prophet who is literally speaking in the name of God – which ceased with Malachi thousands of years ago – we don't blindly follow any instructions. A Torah scholar must validate his opinion every single time, otherwise his words have no greater value than those of a child.
Furthermore, he must make himself available to questions and challenges, and modify or retract his opinion as appropriate. A Torah scholar who shirks from this is a fraud, and his opinions are not worth the paper on which they are written.
This makes many people uncomfortable, because they have been conditioned to follow orders. From the earliest days in school, a child is taught that he must raise his hand and ask permission in order to use the bathroom. Even as students are cynically encouraged to think for themselves, this is the primary lesson they receive throughout their formative years. The rest of the education process is mostly filler. Rebellious students tend to be the brightest, the ones least able to become unthinking drones. Nowadays they diagnose them early on and drug them up.
With this introduction in mind, I ask you to step out of your comfort zone, disconnect if even slightly from your years of institutionalized conditioning, and truly think for yourself. What I am going to share with you will probably make you uncomfortable. Not only that, it will challenge you to rethink many of your assumptions and quite possibly change the way you live as a Torah-observant Jew.
On July 9, 2021 the Jewish Press published an interview with Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who many people hold in high esteem as a Torah scholar and longtime Rosh Yeshiva. I am going to level a very strong accusation against Rabbi Schachter, which I will substantiate. On the basis of this, I will no longer refer to him as a rabbi, with all that implies.
I realize the tremendous consequences of being wrong about shaming a righteous Torah scholar.
The thing is, there are also tremendous consequences for giving honor to someone who abuses his position and perverts the Torah to lead people astray – even to actual death.
So please clear your mind of biases and assumptions, and use the cognitive part of your brain with which God endowed you to consider the following information. Then decide if Rabbi Schachter is indeed still worthy of being honored and followed, or if he has willfully distorted the Torah and endangered those who trusted him.
You are capable of deciding this for yourself, and in fact this is what the Torah demands of you. When we stand before the Heavenly Court and they ask us why we violated the Torah, “I was just following so-and-so” will not be an acceptable excuse. It isn't down here, either.
The Jewish Press interview with Schachter is available here.
At the time I submitted a reply to the Jewish Press, which is available here. They did not acknowledge it. The following month the Jewish Press published this clarification from one of Schachter's main students, (Rabbi) Daniel Feldman. I submitted an even more detailed response to that as well, both to the Jewish Press and Feldman, which is available here. Once again, in the true spirit of abusing the Torah, they ignored it. In all the many months since then, to the best of my knowledge, they have failed to address the matter.
Schachter has recently made some waves by being video-recorded eating a (presumably kosher) locust. Just when the Amalekites are pushing a diet of creepy crawling things, this same "prominent posek" who faithfully pushed Amalek's death shots on the Jewish people, and was recorded getting injected with who-knows-what, is now making a public show of eating locusts. Mere coincidence, or more conditioning? Food for thought, no pun intended.
Either way, it is disgraceful that a "prominent posek" has plenty of time to eat bugs, but no time to explain his "rulings" with far greater implications.
In light of this, I took a closer look at his interview in the Jewish Press, and discovered something that should blow your mind. Not only do Schachter's words not even qualify as Purim Torah, he literally made up Torah sources. (Shmuel Eliyahu has a history of this as well. See for yourself.)
Schachter is responding to the question “Is one obligated to get the Covid vaccine?” He begins as follows:
“I think one is obligated to. You should do like the Tannaim. The Tannaim were not doctors; they followed the non-Jewish doctors of their generation when it came to matters of medicine.”
A footnote mentions two responsa of the Chasam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah 338 and Even HaEzer I 17. Schachter is counting on readers being unfamiliar with what the Chasam Sofer says about doctors elsewhere, not to mention Chazal and other poskim, as I showed here and here. Schachter's words are extremely radical, come with no context, and are unsubstantiated.
But it's worse than even that. Schachter is counting on people being impressed by the sight of footnotes and not bothering to look up the sources he cites.
I looked them up.
The Chasam Sofer in Yoreh De'ah 338 can be found here. This is a response to a question regarding a place where the law was that a person could not be buried until a doctor examined him and confirmed that he was dead. Under what circumstances could a Jewish doctor who was a Kohen (and is thereby forbidden to come into contact with a dead body) perform this examination or otherwise visit someone who is on the verge of death? Nowhere does the Chasam Sofer even discuss trusting non-Jewish doctors, let alone to the extent that millions of healthy Jews should take injections just because they say so.
This might be hard to believe, but Schachter's second “source”, which you can see here, is even worse. Once again, both the question and the answer do not even remotely relate to the matter at hand. It concerns a man with a certain physical blemish that, according to the Torah, would make it impossible for him to have children. But what if the doctors claimed otherwise?
The Chasam Sofer speculates in passing that contemporary doctors might know how to perform a particular surgery better than they did in earlier times, but nowhere does he suggest that the Tannaim “followed the non-Jewish doctors of their generation when it came to matters of medicine”. On the contrary, he is consistent with his extreme skepticism of doctors, stating “All testimonies [from doctors] will not move us one iota from our true Torah and our tradition, and if there were such a medical cure to his injury [as the doctors claimed], Moshe Rabbeinu would not have been quiet about it.”
Not only does this source fail to support Schachter's radical claim about “trusting doctors”, the little we can glean from it actually contradicts him.
But Schachter's shenanigans get even worse. He continues in the Jewish Press interview as follows:
“There's always a machlokes [disagreement] among doctors. So you follow the consensus of the doctors. The Tannaim always did like that.”
Once again he supports this sweeping, radical claim with two citations in a footnote: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 328:10 and 518:1-6. Once again he counted on no one bothering to look up his sources, but just to trust him. I looked them up.
The first source deals with a person who is seriously ill (which already cannot be used to support performing medical treatments, let alone dangerous medical experiments, on healthy people). One doctor claims that we need to violate Shabbos, otherwise the patient's life will be endangered, and another doctor claims it is not necessary. Some are even more lenient, in that we trust someone who is not an expert if he claims the patient needs the treatment on Shabbos. In this exceptional case, we are lenient and violate Shabbos to treat the patient.
What does this have to do with trusting non-Jewish doctors (or even Jewish doctors) that we should treat everyone like a deathly ill patient and inject them with who-knows-what? Nothing.
But, believe it or not, it gets even worse. The source continues with the following comment from the Rema: “And some say it is specifically Jews [that we trust even if they are not experts] but regular non-Jews who are not doctors, we do not consider them to have expertise [to the extent that we are lenient and violate Shabbos based on their concerns].”
In other words, not only are we not subservient to the medical opinions of non-Jews, as Schachter is desperately trying to substantiate out of thin air, their opinions carry less weight, particularly when it means suspending a mitzvah.
But Schachter manages to top even this con job. Orach Chaim 518:1-6 has literally nothing to do with doctors. It deals with the laws of moving objects on Shabbos. Schachter seems to have spun the wheel and randomly selected a source, quoting nothing from it, inventing support for his radical position out of thin air. It's a total bluff.
Hershel Schachter invokes the Tannaim. Do you know what the Tannaim actually said? Those who distort the Torah to arrive at conclusions that are against the halacha – even if they have Torah and good deeds to their credit – lose their share in the world to come (Avos 3:11).
I will leave it to others to determine how far back Hershel Schachter's corruption goes, but at the present time he must be considered a megaleh panim B'Torah. His “rulings” on the covid injections are a farce, a disgrace to the Torah, and a danger to the Jewish people. He should no longer be considered a competent or reliable authority. Unless he does teshuva, he is no longer worthy of respect, and in fact should be treated with scorn. People who distort the Torah – who actually invent sources – have no place among us.
Some might suggest that I am being too harsh and should “tone it down”. Consider the conclusion of the Jewish Press interview.
Shlomo Greenwald: “If one is hesistant [to give the shots to his 5-year-old], is the community obligated to encourage him or pressure him?”
Schachter: “Sure, they should pressure him. They have a right to say, we're not going to let your children into school if your kids don't get the vaccine.”
Just like that. This, of all things, didn't come with any footnote. Not even a single fake Torah source to substantiate this incredible “ruling”.
How many children will be sterile because of this? How many children will be in poor health their entire lives because of this? How many children will suddenly drop dead of mysterious causes because of this?
So if you think I am being “too harsh”, I ask you this: if I knew that a rabbi had abused a single child, would you say I am being too harsh? Most likely not. Well, this is incalculably worse.
The wicked people in your midst “who tore you down and destroyed you will leave you” (Yeshayahu 49:17). May it be soon.
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