`274 Akiva Tatz, Master Manipulator Part Two
Chananya Weissman

June 22, 2023

 

At the 17-minute mark of his lecture, Akiva Tatz launched into a convoluted diatribe about evidence and experts. He expressed faux admiration for Lone Rangers who bravely go against the prevailing viewpoint, but immediately warned that such people are “not necessarily objective”. Tatz expressed no such caveat regarding those who side with the majority, despite the obvious incentives for doing so, and the great hazards of being a Lone Ranger.

Tatz continued, comparing it to Talmudic study: “Where's the preponderance of evidence? If there's evidence on one side of the debate, that's where we go. If you've not mastered the evidence yourself, but you're assessing expert evidence, we go with the majority of experts. That's how we handle it in the Talmud. When we do not have a majority, we know what to do. We have certain ways of handling certain doubts.”

This is largely incoherent, but what is somewhat coherent is so fundamentally erroneous that we must question whether Tatz is a serious student of the Talmud or is merely winging it. No one will confuse Akiva Tatz with a posek, but basic competence and understanding of how halacha works should be expected of anyone bearing a rabbinic title, and, frankly, every Jew with a modicum of education.

First of all, Talmudic debates (and, by extension, how halacha is determined) are not resolved by a vote of those who belong to the amorphous club of “experts”. There is no single simplistic rule for how debates are resolved; in fact, the Talmud itself provides numerous rules, which often have exceptions. In many cases the halacha pointedly goes against the majority, in some cases the minority opinion is completely disqualified, and in other cases the minority opinion may be followed in extenuating circumstances, or by communities following their tradition. There are certain sages whose opinions are given preeminence in disputes – depending on who they are up against. Sometimes the halacha follows the later opinion, though the teacher usually trumps the student – then again, not always.

Of course, many other factors come into play, such as whether we are dealing with biblical law or a rabbinic law, or the severity of particular mitzvos.

All the above and so much more illustrate why the job of a posek is so difficult, and only the cream of the crop are entrusted with this responsibility – which they must approach with the greatest of care and reverence.

There are indeed cases of halacha being determined by a vote of sages assembled specifically for this purpose, and of course the Sanhedrin did the same to decide between multiple legitimate opinions. However, for Akiva Tatz to make a blanket statement, as a matter of fact and principle, that Talmudic debates are settled merely by following a majority of “experts”, demonstrates either total ignorance of how things work or deliberate deception. There is no other option. Take your pick.

Indeed, if all we must do is “go with the majority of experts”, what point is there for us peasants to “assess expert evidence” altogether? And how could we even deign to do so?

That, ladies and gentleman, is the takeaway Akiva Tatz was really intending to drive home, under the false pretense of being the Talmudic way. When push comes to shove, it isn't really about evaluating evidence, but following the supposed “majority of experts”.

Of course, Tatz conveniently ignores the fact there is no such thing as a halachic ruling that all of Klal Yisrael – the overwhelming majority of which are healthy – must run to the doctor and take a particular medical treatment. No rabbi or consortium of rabbis can issue a binding ruling of this nature on the Jewish public. The opinion of both a rabbi and a doctor in these matters must be tailored to an individual before it carries any degree of weight, let alone render something obligatory.

But Tatz and many charlatans like him pretend that a majority of doctors – many of whom are heretics, frauds, or simply reading recipes and think they know how to cook – can issue rulings that rabbis must rubber-stamp, which then have the force of a Sanhedrin.

How could smart and educated Jews be so easily misled?

Then things become especially confusing. Tatz illustrates how we “handle doubts” with two anecdotes. There was a medical question without a clear consensus among the doctors. Tatz says he brought the matter to Rav Elyashiv, who reportedly said “Let the patient choose.”

Tatz found this amusing. Imagine, a patient, a mere peasant, actually deciding for himself between expert medical opinions!

He followed with another anecdote in which two senior doctors differed with a single doctor. However, the former were merely “national experts” while the latter was “more highly qualified”, an “international expert” (interesting ranking system they got there). In such a case, should we follow “a majority of highly competent opinion, or a minority of superior opinion”? Here too Rav Elyashiv reportedly said “the patient gets to choose”, which Tatz related with a very surprised look on his face.

After suggesting that superior expertise neutralizes a majority, Tatz zig-zagged in the opposite direction, returning to the mantra that “we go where the evidence leads”.

“If someone sends you a video telling you that covid is this or that...and they give you evidence, have they given you evidence on both sides of the question, or only one? If they are giving you evidence on one side of the question, that's irrelevant. That is an insult to intelligence. Somebody sends me a video, ten doctors standing up with their white coats and fancy labels, and the best medical institutions, the best medical educations, senior people...ten of them, making some unorthodox point about covid. That proves that they're right.

“No! For those ten people there are ten thousand doctors saying the opposite. Are you showing me both sides of the evidence? If not, you're insulting me...that is downright dishonest and it's an insult to the objective mind. What would you think of a court case where the judge allows one side to speak only?” Here Tatz cackles.

Do you follow that? We admire Lone Rangers and admit they can be right...but we follow the evidence...unless it's a case of doubt, in which case we follow the majority of experts...unless one of them outranks the others, in which case it's a draw...but if ten senior doctors with the absolute best credentials make an unorthodox point, it means nothing if there is a large majority against them.

Because, at the end of the day, it isn't really about evidence. It's about orthodoxy.

Furthermore, anyone who shares a minority opinion of highly credentialed experts must also bring evidence for the other side, otherwise he is immediately dismissed. The “objective mind” will not so much as examine evidence against the majority unless the one bringing this evidence also brings evidence in favor of the majority.

What should one do if he has considered the evidence of the majority position (which should be taken as a given) and found it terribly lacking? What if the majority position is based on bad science and fabrications – historical examples of which Tatz himself shared? Tatz does not explain.

In addition, this made-up rule, this most unreasonable moving of the goalpost, does not apply to those in the majority, where Tatz conveniently resides. Tatz makes no demands of himself to present evidence in favor of the minority position. No, that he swats away derisively.

Indeed, Tatz is not demanding a court case in which the judge allows both sides to speak, but for lawyers and witnesses against him to argue on his behalf. Otherwise they are insulting Tatz and the objective mind.

Tatz also ignores the ruthless demonization and censorship of those who opposed the official narrative before any true debate could even be had. Incredibly, he claims the persecuted minority, desperately seeking to present their evidence and be heard, are the ones rigging the game by not bringing evidence for the establishment!

Tatz put a bow tie on the mind-bending diatribe with a comment that should win an award for smug hypocrisy: “You start with a prejudice and the evidence is against you, you need to be humble enough to say that the evidence suggests that you're wrong.”

Tatz then launched into story mode, distracting and entertaining his audience to cover for the weakness of his position. He does this frequently and remarkably well. He makes a highly suspect assertion, and before the mind can crystallize its discomfort with the assertion, he tells a lengthy story that demonstrates his broad knowledge, disarming his audience with humor and interesting but irrelevant details, and illustrates a very basic point that has little to do with his original assertion. It sounds great, though! So his audience is lulled into accepting the whole package.

Having assuaged their discomfort and disguised the fact that he hasn't really said anything of actual substance in 27 minutes already, Tatz can now take more potshots at the “conspiracy theorists”. He hasn't debunked anything or provided any evidence in support of his own position – just a smug remark about ten thousand doctors to ten – but the listener might believe he's learned something, which he can confidently parrot to others. Rhetoric and storytelling delivered with confidence can be very persuasive.

After bloviating about correlation not being causation, Tatz says this: “If every child who gets autism had a measles vaccine the week before, that proves nothing at all. Why? Because every child who gets autism will have had a vaccine the week before, because all the kids are getting vaccines. So the fact that a child got a vaccine, then got autism, that is irrelevant! You need to show me that the children who did not get the vaccine didn't get it, and those who did, did get it.”

This is one of the most outrageous, deceitful, unscientific comments I have ever heard, and it should immediately discredit Akiva Tatz irrespective of everything else.

First of all, if every child gets a vaccine, and a week later many of them develops autism, what person in his right mind wouldn't at least have a strong suspicion that the shot had something to do with it? What person with anything remaining of his soul wouldn't demand an immediate halt to the vaccinations until the matter could be thoroughly and transparently studied?

Second of all, not all children get the measles vaccine, not even close (thank God). There are control groups readily available, though the establishment never had interest in truly studying the matter, for some reason that is surely honorable. They probably don't want to waste public funds and people's time on something so unnecessary, right?

But Akiva Tatz pretends a control group doesn't even exist. “All kids are getting vaccines.”

What happened to all the anti-vaxxers people like Tatz love to hate?

Thirdly, the fact that some children took the vaccine and didn't get autism does nothing to disprove a link between the shots and those who suffered from them. This should be self-understood, and even Tatz will acknowledge this later on. No drug will have the same effect on everyone who takes it, and even a vaccine that causes a specific adverse reaction will not cause it in everyone who receives it.

But when it comes to autism, Tatz ridicules the notion that the measles shot could have anything to do with it, because not everyone who received the shot became autistic a week later, only some children. As Asher Weiss would say, maybe it was the cholent.

As for showing him that children who didn't take the shot didn't get autism, there's a mountain of evidence suggesting just that. Not from the powers-that-be, of course – they've never troubled themselves to study this – but from brave doctors and scientists who haven't sold their souls, and were treated by the establishment in predictable fashion.

This compilation of evidence – real evidence – says it all, though Akiva Tatz and his ilk have already waved it away derisively, and therefore we can just move on.

Now, Tatz had a logistical problem. He knows he's pushing the envelope and that not all his listeners would be taken by his rhetorical devices. This is where he goes from being more than just a shill for the establishment into something even more sinister: an Erev Rav distorting the Torah to force his Jewish audience into line.

He presents the case of a vaccine for dengue fever that would supposedly save the lives of 10,000 children per million who get the disease (ignoring the fact that there might be other options), but the vaccine would kill 1000 children for every 10,000 it saved. Tatz said he asked Rabbi Zilberstein (who promoted the covid narrative as well) what the halacha would be, and the answer he received was that the governments must give the shots to everyone (in other words, force people).

Why? It's simple math. We are injecting children with something we know will kill 1000 of them, but it's one tenth of the deaths we presume will occur otherwise.

This is outrageous. If a person is dangerously ill, and there is a risky treatment that has a 90% chance of saving him, but a 10% chance of shortening his life, it's a serious question whether we are allowed to administer the treatment. Every case must be carefully studied individually, for no two are exactly alike. Rav Moshe Feinstein in fact has many responsa that deal with such questions.

However, there are no grounds for injecting perfectly healthy children with something that we know will kill some of them for the speculative benefit of protecting them from an illness they might contract later on, and which can be deadly. We do not actively murder some children to save others.

That is not Judaism.

That's Molech.

Tatz says it's understandable that some parents could live with their child dying from an act of God, but not because of something they did. It's “a psychological issue. But it's not halachically valid.”

With one little anecdote, Akiva Tatz has just obligated every Jewish child to receive every vaccine the establishment decides will kill fewer people than whatever illness it is supposed to prevent. Parents do not have a choice in the matter (certainly the poor children do not). If they have a problem with it, they should see a psychologist. Everyone must play this macabre game of Russian Roulette, for the good of society. Some children will have to be sacrificed on the altar of science to save others from the angry gods of disease. The Torah demands it.

The priests of Molech would play music to drown out the screams of the children. Doing what's good for society should be a happy occasion, after all. The children being sacrificed for the greater good should really have been more considerate.

Nearly thirty minutes into this malarkey, Tatz finally makes reference to an actual Torah source – barely. “The Ramban, who was a doctor, said what heals one kills another.”

Well, duh. But the Ramban, who was a doctor, did not advocate giving potentially deadly treatments indiscriminately, let alone to perfectly healthy people who had no need for a doctor in the first place. The knowledge that what heals one person kills another is not a license to heal more people than you kill, or to invade the bodies of healthy people at all, but a warning to make sure that what you are giving the individual before you will heal him and not kill him.

Proper medical care is not determined by mathematical models and Molech-like “public health policies” but by treating each human being as a unique case and an irreplaceable life that cannot be actively harmed to save another. Hashem has many ways of removing a plague from society (and many reasons for bringing one in the first place). Appeasing the Angel of Death with 1000 sacrifices to spare 10,000 is not one of them.

Akiva Tatz was wise not to begin his lecture with this assertion. The audience needed to be primed before something so morally repugnant could be presented as reasonable and halachic.

Around the thirty-minute mark he says the following in reference to governments and drug companies:

“Just because those people have done nefarious activities in the past does not mean that they're doing them now. They may be, they may not be. And therefore we are basing ourselves on the evidence.”

So if Mengele and his proteges become your health officials, don't be naive, but don't turn into some conspiracy theorist. That wouldn't be objective! It's all about the evidence, and the scientific community has established safeguards against bad science. They have your back.

With a clever forking of the tongue, Tatz then downplays published scientific evidence. As he explained, a study showing wonderful results for a particular drug will be published, but this might have been a statistical anomaly. In fact, there might be nineteen other studies showing the exact opposite, but these didn't get published, “because no one wants to publish studies that don't show any results.” Hence, if you see a published study that favors a particular treatment (hydroxychloroquine maybe?), unless you're aware of all the other studies that weren't published, “this finding is irrelevant.”

Do you think his takeaway was to take all those overhyped studies favoring vaccines with a grain of salt? Don't be ridiculous. The point of this little lesson was to discourage people outside the exclusive “expert” club from thinking they can have an informed opinion – especially rabbis, and particularly rabbis who might discourage people from taking a vaccine.

The appropriate response from a rabbi when asked such questions, according to Tatz, is “Ask your doctor.” Rabbis can respond to “halachic questions” that pertain to risk, but not “medical questions”.

Of course, rabbis who believe vaccines are too risky, or that healthy people have no business running to doctors for medical treatments, are stepping out of their lane.

Tatz marginalizes the role of rabbis to such an extent that they are essentially beholden to establishment doctors, and apparently cannot even second-guess their medical opinions. This is a complete break from Jewish law and tradition, as I discussed in a two-part article called Trusting Doctors in Halachic Responsa (see here and here). Rav Moshe Feinstein also has numerous responsa pertaining to medical issues, and while he values the opinions of doctors, he frequently notes that doctors are untrustworthy for a variety of reasons, and he rules on far more than mere risk factors.

Certainly a rabbi should become informed before issuing a ruling about anything, but poskim have every right and obligation to become as informed as those with fancy degrees and titles. They do not have to follow the same path to acquire this knowledge. Rabbi Tendler related that Rav Moshe often amazed the experts with his own expertise of complex medical matters. Rav Moshe didn't have to go to university; the university came to him.

Tatz then arrives at his coup de grâce. “Let me leave you with a very important principle. How do we assess risks, unknown risks like a covid vaccine?...The Gemara puts it like this. How we assess medical treatments is not on the basis of their statistical safety. Please listen carefully to this. It's on the basis of what's accepted as normal...I'm not talking about things that are risky, I'm talking about things that are exceptionally safe, where the evidence is that they're very safe, but we don't know exactly what's involved...

“...I'm talking about medical risk issues. What's permitted Jewishly is not what is safe enough, but what is normal enough. That's called dashu bei rabbim, when a community, a society, broad society does a certain thing as normal, you may do it. Not because it's safe enough, but because it's normal. God runs the world according to normal standards.” As Tatz explains, we are allowed to get into a car or a plane – not because it's statistically safe enough, but because it's normal.

This is a half-truth. We are not allowed to do just anything society considers “normal”, irrespective of the actual risk factor. If society considers it normal to smoke, or climb mountains, or play tackle football, or get in a boxing ring and let someone pound you in the head, we do not throw out the risk factors and expect God to protect us. We always balance the need and benefit of a particular action with the risks. Whether or not something is considered normal behavior factors into the equation, but by no means is this the most important factor, let alone the sole determining factor as Tatz portrays it.

You can already guess where Tatz is going with this little house of cards built on a foundation of hot air – he already mentioned covid shots – but first Tatz would take his Grand Canyon-sized leap of logic totally off the map.

“There are certain food additives and colorings that we eat in our food that have never been proved to be safe. Is it a problem halachically? No! They're normal! God runs the world according to what's normal. You're not supposed to start freaking out about mercury in your tooth fillings [waving derisively] and food colorings and so forth and so on. There's no need to do that!”

Yes, he really said this. We shouldn't “freak out” about eating foods with toxic chemicals that cause cancer and everything else under the sun – no problem! – because society decided this is normal. If you worry about this, you have a lack of faith in God.

Of course, if you're not hyperventilating about covid and measles and polio and whooping cough and every other excuse they have to inject chemicals in your healthy child, you're a reckless fool and a menace to those around you. How dare you rely on your immune system and God?

Tatz continues in earnest. “If you live in a city where people have two locks on their door, you need two locks on your door. If you have one, you are negligent, and if you have three you lack faith.”

This is utter nonsense. Between the extremes of recklessness and paranoia, there is a large range of acceptable behavior, the specifics of which vary from person to person. Indeed, we must behave in a reasonable manner, which is often determined by the society in which we live, but we do not make personal safety decisions by merely copying what others around us are doing, without a shred of variance. (For more on this topic, see “A Practical Guide to Human Effort and Trust in God” and “God Watches Over Fools Explained”)

Tatz stresses this principle with an energy reserved for his most absurd words. The weaker the point, the louder he preaches it.

Finally he gets to the penthouse in his house of cards: “Therefore in medicine you're obliged to undertake a treatment that is the best level of the consensus of expert opinion in your time and place.”

Tatz acknowledges that Hashem is the actual source of healing, but the specific treatment one must take depends entirely on what's considered “normal” for one's time and place. Tatz even acknowledges that “any doctor knows that what's normal medical treatment today in five years time will turn out to be abnormal and probably criminal. There's no medical treatment that stands the test of time, absolutely not.”

This is highly disputable, and one can make sarcastic comments about how this axiom doesn't seem to apply to vaccines, but there are even bigger fish to fry here. Skipping ahead just a bit Tatz says the following, jabbing his finger at you in his best Asher Weiss imitation:

“So here's the problem, your doctor says take this little white tablet. But you know that in ten years time it'll be wrong and criminal. God says never mind! I run [the world]. You take the tablet that's normal in your time and place...”

According to Tatz, we are commanded to make personal medical decisions essentially based on the principle of when in Rome, do like the Romans do. What happened to “going where the evidence leads you”? Tatz was never serious about that. It was always about mindlessly following the “consensus of experts”, even if you know they are probably wrong. He says this is a halachic obligation!

And now, of course, the kicker:

“This leads to an interesting question about covid vaccines. Are they normal? I'm not sure. I'm not sure. When it comes to a measles vaccine for your child, or tetanus vaccine, yes! That is normal and you're obliged to do it. It's been around for a long time [jabbing his finger]...we know they save lives, and if you don't do that you are negligent!”

Tatz then admits that the covid shots have not been around long enough to be determined “normal in society”, but, according to Rav Zilberstein, “they do meet the criterion of expert opinion feeling that they're safe enough.”

Such brilliant Torah analysis we have not seen since the Vilna Gaon. Our lives and souls are in great hands indeed.

Tatz expresses vague reservations about the covid shots, and recommends against giving them to children – unless “there's a good reason. You live in a society like Israel where they're going for herd immunity, maybe. Your child wants to take part in a summer camp, or some travel, or some good reason, there's halachic permissibility to do things that are more than slightly risky when you've got good reason, like earning a living, getting married...”

The brilliant Torah analysis could only be topped with this brilliant medical analysis. The shots are not advised for children unless it's a Molech situation to theoretically protect others, or the government has blackmailed you. Thank you, Rabbi Dr. Tatz!

“Is there any evidence that the vaccine is harmful? No! The evidence is [it's] extremely safe.”

Tatz then babbles about there being concerns, but you should follow your local doctor's advice, but you're free to make your own decision. Maybe he was simply tired after all this (it's tedious just to listen to it), or, more likely, he's covering his derriere.

He concluded with a final bit of deception, finger wagging. “God's not playing games with your life. He's not going to make you sick because you did something that was normal and halachically mandated.”

Nearly everything Akiva Tatz said was a deception, a distortion, or an outright fabrication. The results haven't been good, to put it mildly. Yet Tatz continues to run around lecturing people without a pang of remorse, and continues to smugly dismiss the Lone Rangers, who by now are an ever-growing horde of awakening masses.

Those who followed Tatz without asking hard questions should be wondering “How could I have been so stupid?”

Many of these people paid a steep price. Some of them learned the hard way, while others remain in denial.

I hope this lengthy critique inspires more people to learn, think, ask serious questions, demand serious answers, and not be swayed by rhetoric – even from experts, especially from experts!

We need to weed out the charlatans, scum, and Erev Rav from among us. And we should never be so stupid again.

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