To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate – It’s Still Not A Question
I read with interest – and indeed with some concern – your response to Rebecca’s vaccination question in the most recent edition of Jewish Weekly. Given the many potential personal judgements and considerations surrounding the various vaccines that may be rolled out in the coming period, my (layman’s) reaction is that a religious leader should be quite hesitant about publishing to a general readership an (apparently unqualified) dictum that “when there is a vaccine for CIVID-19 we are obligated to be immunised”.
I believe that taking any medically invasive measure can never be deemed a black-and-white judgement for every individual, and I feel such a question differs substantively from, say, holding extended gatherings in enclosed spaces or carrying out other activities that may harm others, on which I assume Halacha is unequivocal. When and if vaccines are rolled out each of us should be allowed to take our decision based on our personal circumstances without the fear hanging over us (based on your response to Rebecca) of unequivocal Halachic contravention; if any restrictions flow from our decision (such as, for example, any prevention of the unvaccinated population from boarding a flight) then that may need to be factored into one’s decision-making.
Thank you for taking the time to write. Yours was one of several letters and indeed some phone calls (how do they even get my number and why do they call me to discuss my column?!). In any event after I published my response last week, the following statement was issued by both the Rabbinical Council of America as well as the Orthodox Union:
“Halacha obligates us to care for our own health and to protect others from harm and illness. In addition, Halacha directs us to defer to the consensus of medical experts in determining and prescribing appropriate medical responses to both treating and preventing illness.
There has long been an almost uniform consensus among leading medical experts that vaccines are an effective and responsible manner of protecting life and advancing health. For over two hundred years vaccinations have been responsible for the dramatic reduction of many terrible diseases and have significantly improved public health in our country and around the world. For this reason, the consensus of our major halachic decisors is to encourage us to use vaccinations to protect ourselves and others from disease.
While this guidance has addressed vaccine usage generally, the introduction of the novel COVID-19 vaccines required specific reconsideration. The halachic decisors recognize that the COVID-19 vaccines have been developed with unprecedented speed and are expected to be made available under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). In addition, the two currently leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates are mRNA vaccines which employ a new vaccine technology. Notwithstanding these factors, the conclusion is that, pursuant to the advice of your personal health care provider, the Torah obligation to preserve our lives and the lives of others requires us to vaccinate for COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine becomes available.”
What can I say, Nicola. I’m clearly in good company and your (and others) issues and concerns with me now extend themselves to much of the Rabbinic world.
Can A Rabbi Work On Shabbat?
I’m a primary school student and in Jewish studies we learn a lot about Shabbat. My question is, if you’re not allowed to work on Shabbat, how come Rabbis get paid where Saturday is certainly a working day for them?
(a) Do as I say, not as I do. (b) Rabbis are above the law. (c) It’s not work – it’s pleasure (and if you believe that…). (d) Believe it or not Rabbis work the other six days of the week as well, and some of it is in preparation for Shabbat.
I am looking to convert to Judaism. One friend told me it could take up to three years, which is too long. Is there any way to speed up the process? Can you tell me how long it will take?
How long is a piece of string? It all depends on your level of conviction. And judging from the sound of your letter, wanting to “speed up the process” means to me that you have an agenda of sorts. You might want to pack it in now. Could you imagine applying for citizenship in another country and daring to ask the Immigration Office if they could speed up the process for you? I think that would land you with a big red “DENIED” stamped in your passport. Judaism demands absolute conviction. It’s not like gaining membership to some social club. If you’re truly committed then you’ll ride it out however long it takes. If you have ulterior motives for your conversion you might want to find something else to convert to.