A narrative is developing in the #haredi #chareidi community about Rabbonim (Rabbis) and #Coronavirus. Articles, essays, letters and social media posts all emphasise the importance of "listening to Rabbonim" around this issue. /1
This is to be expected, the notion of "Da'as Torah" is well defended in the #frum world. While not the original intention, this idea of Rabbinical input for all aspects of life, even those outside of religious matters has started resembling the doctrine of papal infallibility. /2
What is really quite fascinating and galling is to watch this develop in real time. Rabbonim reacted at the same speed as the general population, in some cases slower, and in others, completely hostile to precautionary measures which affected religious gatherings. /3
I am particularly angered by pious rhetoric surrounding Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky; as a method of enforcing restrictions against minyanim (quorums), the line in #frum circles is now that "Rabbi Kanievsky says you should close the minyanim". /4
I see the practicality of this but the outright hypocrisy and falsehood is infuriating. A bit more about that, and the notion of "Da'as Torah" here: /5 https://twitter.com/AiryManning/status/1247493687577382916
A lot of this takes place just in conversation and via whatsapp messages and shiurim but I'll try to collect them here if I see anything in print. /6
Mishpacha magazine published an article regarding Rabbi Ahron Teitelbaum of Satmar: "The Rebbe listened, considered, and then accepted the instructions. Completely. He explained what would happen if masses of people were infected all at once....
...This was an “es la’asos l’Hashem heferu Torasecha” — sometimes you have to take drastic measures, even though they might seem counterintuitive to Torah."
As this important thread by @avitalrachel shows, this is a fictional narrative. https://twitter.com/avitalrachel/status/1247148299896922112
This letter by the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, also 12th March 2020, banning minyanim and gatherings, demonstrates that that by no means was this an inevitable decision. H/T @ShulimLeifer
I will now attempt to document a few publicly available statements (from the website) of Agudas Israel of America. There may have been other statements which you should feel free to bring to my attention.
These will be extracts specifically related to guidance about public health, because my aim is to document actual facts vs the fictional narrative which is already being written.
Just to reiterate, my aim here is not to "blame" Rabbis for not being ahead of governments/public health bodies, but to pushback against the narrative that they were, which is advanced to support the notion of Da'as Torah: that Rabbonim should be consulted on all things.
13th March 2020
Nothing here amounts to a clear directive to close public gatherings.
15th March 2020
In this one, Agudah (in my opinion) is being disingenuous, they state the recommendations of infectious diseases which "deserve strong consideration", but follow it up with "for schools/shuls that have closed", mixed signals.
I missed one, this statement was issued some time before Pesach, but doesn't have a date, but at least does clearly state that minyanim should not be held. Pesach this year was from the 8th-16th April. But it's somewhat diluted by the later waffle on the 15th.
@MarcusBlimi is a front line healthcare professional, who noted down her views about Agudah's response two months ago and has now published them. Just take a look at the comments to see how people who dare to dissent against the leadership are treated. https://twitter.com/MarcusBlimi/status/1261841993732435969
Excellent thread from @MarcusBlimi analysing #Covid19 response from Agudah. https://twitter.com/MarcusBlimi/status/1262422117116784641
Now UOHC. https://twitter.com/ifyoutickleus/status/1263233704350158849?s=19
Link in next tweet.
Damning lines: "It is appropriate, under our present circumstances, to be especially mindful during prayer, and certainly to not change in any way the recitation of the traditional prayers and piyutim...
...(It goes without saying that the blowing of the shofar should not be changed in any way.)"
Many responsible synagogues in the UK (where gathering for worship is allowed under safety conditions), including #hareidi ones, did indeed reduce the length of prayer and the singing this year...
...and took extra precautions regarding shofar blowing, including organising curbside shofar blowing.
Rav Moshe Shaul Klein, a #haredi #chareidi posek, has written a halachic responsum explaining why in his opinion, the synagogues, study halls etc, should be opened despite #COVID19. His halachic reasoning, which I would anyway reject in favour of science, is internally flawed>
>For a link to his work (it's in Hebrew) and a rebuttal see Rabbi Natan Slifkin's response here:
It's taken ultra Orthodox Jews being in the news for violence for Agudah and UOHC to act (as far as I know these have been issued in the last few days, despite the dates, correct me if I'm wrong.) When I see the fluff pieces about how wonderful they've been, I will remember.
H/T @DovidTeitelbaum for Agudah
H/T @ifyoutickleus for UOHC
Would just like to include that @chiefrabbi issued advice that was both good and timely.
In March, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch issued a psak that people should distance themselves and that shuls and yeshivot be closed. Now he has issued a psak that those who report non-compliant institutions to the authorities should not be counted in a minyan...
...and has labelled them as "mosrim", which is a serious halachic label.
One of the problems in the #hareidi #chareidi community is the total outsourcing of *all* decisions to Rabbis (Rabbonim) and the #COVID19 pandemic has sharply demonstrated how dangerous this type of thinking is. This letter was printed this week in the Jewish Tribune (UK).
I once had an argument on here with a Rabbi (who I respect) who talked about Rabbis working with authorities to increase vaccine uptake in religious communities. Now I agree with this approach for the purposes of pragmatism, but I upset him by pointing out that....
....the fact that people think they need to consult Rabbis on matters which are not Rabbinical is part of the problem in the first place....
....An additional point is that BECAUSE there are many people who WILL listen to Rabbonim (especially the big names), many have failed their communities in epic proportions by NOT taking positions during this pandemic or worse, taking dangerously anti-science ones.
@chiefrabbi doing the right thing again, if only more would follow his example. H/T @Shmarya https://twitter.com/chiefrabbi/status/1322901009971249152?s=19
In which Rabbis who don't know anything about how modern therapies make it to the public publish a letter stating that people should "not yet have the vaccine".
H/T @ifyoutickleus, @josephmfaith
The logic to the above ruling is that because harm cannot be ruled out, they cannot yet recommend the vaccine, which seems reasonable on the surface until you remember that the risk of #COVID19 is much higher than the vaccine. I would like to know who they consulted...
....but if they are medical people I can imagine that they tried to explain potential risks in a fair way but because of the subject matter and the poor understanding of science in this world, the balance of risks was not understood.
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