I feel like I’m going back to the bad old days – like getting into those political arguments about Trump.
Now it is with anti-vaxxers. It boggles the mind that otherwise intelligent people become completely irrational when objecting to
vaccines. I have tried having a logical discussion about the issue, but it always proves to be fruitless. The conversation always slithers from being an issue of government control to being one of personal health.
The conversation usually comes to a halt when I ask them the following question: I can name people whom I know, and know of, who have refused to be vaccinated and sadly contracted COVID-19 as a result and died. Can you name me one person who suffered death, miscarriages, infertility or grew a third arm because of being vaccinated?
Some will say that they have family who remain in great pain as a result of the vaccine. I find it interesting that these anti-vaxxers who, for all kinds of political, conspiratorial, and government control reasons, report that in their family are people who have been vaccinated and have suffered. Yet, bli ayin ha’ra, my entire immediate family and eligible nieces and nephews here and in Israel have been vaccinated. So far, there are NO reports of any lasting effects from the vaccine.
Check out Dick Farrel, a right-wing radio host from Florida, who adamantly opposed vaccinating; he unfortunately died of COVID. Before dying, he begged others not to follow him and to make sure they do get vaccinated. The same is true of conservative radio host Phil Valentine, who opposed the vaccine until he became seriously ill with COVID.
The Tiferes Yisrael, in his classic commentary on Pirkei Avos (3:18), writes that we need to be thankful to countless gentiles who have contributed greatly to the advancement of civilization. He lists the printing press and vaccinations against smallpox as among those great achievements. What do you think he would say about today’s vaccines, against measles or COVID-19? Perhaps the Tiferes Yisrael would be condemned by anti-vaxxers today, as well.
There is a great clip on Twitter of a gray-bearded Sephardic chacham in Israel, HaRav Ben Tzion Mutzafi, who was interrupted while giving a shiur. The protester was screaming something about the need to oppose vaccinations.
He did not expect the reaction from Rav Mutzafi (in Hebrew, of course): “Get out of here now, you crazy person. You are a rasha (wicked person) and a kofeir (non-believer)!”
It is interesting that Rav Mutzafi would call the protestor a non-believer. It’s possible that it’s just a manner of Sephardic flourish. More likely it is because the very last halachah in the Shulchan Aruch (427) is: “Anyone who exposes himself to danger and says, ‘It is my business alone and no one else’s affair’ is severely reprimanded.”
Those who decide not to vaccinate are not only deciding about themselves. They are making a decision that could adversely affect the entire community.
Do the right thing! Do the frum thing! Vaccinate!
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.