Religious Exemptions – No Mitzvah
I am very disturbed by the recent editorial of the Jewish Press (“Vaccination Mandates and Religious Exemptions,” November 5) giving some credence to those who seek religious exemptions against the Covid vaccine mandates. I fail to understand any religious basis for such an exemption. On the contrary, it has been proven by every scientific study that those who are not vaccinated are at much greater risk for both infecting others as well as themselves with this very lethal virus.
I do not believe that they will gain any special mitzvah for davening with a minyan, if by doing so they will have the potential of causing serious harm to all the bubbies and zaidies who may also be davening there (or related to those who are). They in fact would be better off davening in private, as well as avoiding all other public indoor gatherings.
When the polio or smallpox vaccines were first developed, did anyone at the time also seek a religious exemption (at least rationally) resisting the vaccine? It is unfortunate that this entire pandemic has become more of a political issue than a medical and moral issue, where in fact morality and religion should dictate on the side of science supporting vaccine mandates rather than opposing them.
I’m Saying “No” to Religious Exemptions
Regarding the article “Just Say Nisht? As Vaccine Mandates Expand, Some Jews Consider Religious Exemptions” (November 12):
Whenever I’ve been asked, as a rabbi, to help someone request a religious exemption from any vaccine (Covid or otherwise), my answer has always been, “What religion do you practice?”
Rabbi Joshua Maroof
Challenging Those who Claim Religious Exemption
It’s almost certainly an apocryphal tale, but it’s a very good story, one probably everyone has heard, that speaks to the halachic authority we grant doctors. The story, at least how I have heard it, goes something like this: at Yom Kippur, an older man gets clear direction from his doctor that he is not to fast on Yom Kippur, it would be dangerous to his health. Of course, the normative halacha is that the man not only need not fast on Yom Kippur, but is not allowed to fast on Yom Kippur.
However, due to pride or a refusal to accept that he is no longer the man he was, the man informs his rav that he will indeed fast on Yom Kippur, against medical advice. Which is certainly understandable from an emotional point of view, but one that doesn’t dissuade his rav. His rav informs him that that’s okay, he can fast on Yom Kippur, but if he does, he will not be called for aliyas anymore, he will not be counted for a minyan anymore, because he is in effect a heretic.
Then, in last week’s Jewish Press (“As Vaccine Mandates Expand, Some Jews Consider Religious Exemptions,” November 12), I read that some Jews are claiming a religious exemption to getting vaccinated, despite the overwhelming medical consensus that the Covid vaccines are safe and effective. Since, as I made clear last week, I am no halachic authority, I would like to offer a challenge to those claiming a religious exemption to getting vaccinated. I would honestly like to read how you would defend your position, not to a group of non-Jews who think the name of the first sefer in the Chumash is Genesis, but to a beis din composed of da’as Torah. I am open-minded, I always welcome the chance to learn of viewpoints I don’t agree with; perhaps you could teach me something.
And if you can’t formulate a compelling case to da’as Torah as to why you should be exempt from following the overwhelming medical consensus that these vaccines are safe and effective, then maybe, just maybe, perhaps you shouldn’t be claiming your religion exempts you from having to take the vaccine?
Respect Your Opponent
I have an issue with Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier’s response (“Is it Proper?” November 5) to the question regarding teaching children to be tolerant of opposing political opinions. He states, “Certainly Not.” He further states that “I may not agree with, or even respect, your opinion, but I respect you as a person, so I’ll speak and act respectfully to you.” I submit that this shows a lack of respect and lack of derech eretz.
How different his answer is from Rabbi Marc D. Angel’s response. He states that you should actually listen to what someone says and “If they have any truth on their side, admit it. If they are wrong, then refute their positions respectfully.” Isn’t this what can be seen through the study of the Talmud?
All throughout the Talmud, we see that many of the rabbanim have different opinions and conclusions regarding points of the Talmud. All these differing conclusions are backed up by other sources. They do exactly what Rabbi Angel says, admit the truth or refute the other rabbi’s opinion/conclusion in a respectful manner.
In order to show proper and complete respect and derech eretz you must respect the entire person – opinions and behavior included. If they are behaving in a way that is anti-Torah or anti-America or have an opinion that is against Torah or America, we should act in a respectful manner and refute their opinion and help them to correct their behavior. That would be Torah-true respect and derech eretz.
Let’s Hear it for Junk Mail
Regarding the letter by Larry Penner on cleaning up campaign litter (November 12): I wholeheartedly agree that campaigns should be responsible for their litter.
However, in reference to the author being reminded of The Outer Limits and returning control of our televisions: I never lost control of my television to begin with. I could always turn my television on and off, turn the volume up or down, or change the channel. I would hope for the author’s sake he was able to do the same.
Finally, with reference to the mail filling our mailboxes: that mail provides employment for postal workers, as well as keeping the price of postage down. The author has had an opinion piece in every newspaper from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon on patronizing local restaurants. Doesn’t he care about Postal employees?
Inflation and its Fallout
Across America prices are rising and keep rising. Inflation is now the worst in 31 years. What we now buy costs more than it did just a few months ago and will cost still more in the future. At the same time, the federal government is printing more money, which increases the money supply, the amount of money in circulation. These increases are directly related. The more money the government prints, the higher the prices. In addition, the expenditure of billions of dollars for President Biden’s proposed Build Back Better is like pouring gasoline on the fire.
While Biden claims Build Back Better will total less than $2 billion, he was reluctant to have the Congressional Budget Office score it, which means financially evaluate it. His statement that it will actually cost taxpayers zero should not be taken seriously. It will be costly and the additional taxes and inflation will bring the American economy to its knees.
What scares me most is the following: During the 1920s, Germany had an economy that was also on its knees and suffered from runaway inflation. The latter was the result of the government printing enormous amounts of money. At one time the U.S. dollar was equal to one trillion marks. Following these severe crises came the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.