Rabbi Schochet

Should I Tell Them I’m Not Vaccinated? 

Dear Rabbi 

I attended a Chanukah party last week and of course the conversation of vaccines came up. I was asked if I got mine and I chose to say “yes,” even though I didn’t. I simply didn’t want to cause an argument in the middle of the party. My wife insisted to me afterwards that I should not have lied and that if I choose not to vaccinate I should be open and honest about it and stand up for my principles. My question is, is it proper to be less forthcoming about your vaccination status in order to avoid unnecessary arguments or harassment? 


Dear David 

Everyone’s favourite dinner table topic. Did you get vaccinated? Did you get your booster? Which one did you get? Was it Pfizer? Did you have a reaction? And then there are the so-called sophisticated who like to talk Delta, Omnicron etc. (They’re usually the ones who never say “covid” but “covid 19”). Can’t we talk about something else for a change? 

There are two issues at play here. The first is the requirement to get vaccinated. As discussed here before, all Halachic authorities maintain that one has an outright obligation to take medically recommended vaccinations. On the basis of the Torah mandate, “and heal he shall heal” we derive that G-d’s gives man licence to heal and we do not say, “If G-d made me ill, He will make me better.” Or worse still, “if G-d wants me to get Covid then I will get it and it is not for me to resist it through a vaccine.”  

To be sure, Judaism believes in man’s free will and the significance of our actions, and not in pre-determinism or fatalism. As in the words of the commentaries on the Talmud (Bava Kama 85a) one is not allowed to rely on miracles, but must follow the way of the world. In this case, follow the guidelines to vaccinate. 

That said, the question is misleading because it presumes that one who is unvaccinated is more likely to transmit infection. This is factually incorrect. According to all research, individuals who have had all the relevant vaccine doses, while unlikely to get the infection themselves, are nevertheless just as likely to transit the infection as an unvaccinated individual. 

As such, there is no point or purpose in revealing to others that you are unvaccinated if that’s going to trigger tensions. But if asked, rather than outright lie about it, one can be economical with the truth for the sake of broader harmony, with a line something like, “why would anyone not want to be vaccinate?” 

 Why Did She Suffer? 

Dear Rabbi    

My wife was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2013.During the four years she was ill she had numerous surgeries, radiotherapy and sadly passed away in Nov 2017 age 67. She looked after her mum who had a stroke; she looked after her dad for 10 years with cancer; she looked after me with health issues and was so good to lots of relatives. Why does such a caring person have to suffer so much? I know we all have to die but why the need for suffering before that? And do you believe we go to the next world when we do pass? 


 Dear Noah 

It is precisely the answer to your second question that balances somewhat your first question. Yes, fundamental to Jewish belief is that when we leave this world we go somewhere else. That “somewhere else” is a place where one basks in the euphoria of Divine bliss. Can I describe that to you? No, because I have never been there (and hopefully won’t be there for a long time to come). Think about your hand inside a glove that is moving. To the outside observer the glove is moving, but in reality it is of course the hand that is the essence and that is moving. So too, the soul is contained within a body. The soul is the essence and while it comes into this world for a period of time, it is contained within a body. The body, like the glove, remains totally ineffective without the soul, and the soul too cannot achieve anything here if not contained within the body.  

Together they go through a journey. Sometimes it is a smooth ride. Other times it could be quite rough, as in the case of your beloved wife. I cannot tell you why one person suffers more than another, or indeed why there is suffering in the world altogether. What I can tell you is that there are checks and balances and whatever a person endures in this world, for whatever the reason, will be balanced against the even greater reward they will receive in the next world. Of course the ideal would be not to suffer here and still experience immense reward elsewhere, but that ultimately is G-d’s accounting, and “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”  

Take some comfort, even if only a grain of comfort, in knowing that your wife is somewhere else – receiving immense reward. And indeed, as I often say, when one is taken so young and before their time, there is obvious need for another angel in heaven. From your description of your wife, she was clearly an angel to so many here on earth.