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To be sure, the general application of the words “Daas Torah” as it is used today, is at best a misnomer intended to keep people from thinking and to hold them in line. As we shall see, the ones who invoke this cry seldom actually follow the “daas Torah”. Rather, they create it.
What “Daas Torah” truly is, is to give direction in what is called ‘the fifth volume of Shulchon Aruch’. In places where no clear rulings exist and where Jewish law intersects with hashkafa, then, someone whose mind is infused with nothing else other than Torah can be relied upon to carry the true Torah outlook. It cannot be used, however, to supplant matters of clear fact and law. Those who flaunt true Torah law and attempt to display moral superiority due to alleged ‘daas Torah’ create a perversion of Torah law and worse. Due to this point, many examples I will cite below are truthfully irrelevant as long as no teshuvos have been written about the subject, but I will include them anyways to show a gamut of the issues we are facing today.
Right in the beginning of the pandemic, it was widely known that R’ Chaim Kanievsky זצ"ל eschewed all government interference and instructed that Yeshivos remain open despite the alleged dangers.
Because of his rulings, he was visited by the police and had hit pieces published about his position worldwide.
At that time, none of the frum media outlets posted about his position. The only narrative seen in the Jewish media were portrayals such as this:
In what may have been the biggest coup in the Yeshiva world, the family surrounding R’ Chaim Kanievsky hijacked his name to follow the bidding of the Israeli Ministry of Health. Once the vaccine was deployed, some really strange things started to behold. In what appeared to be a stunning reversal, many videos emerged in rapid succession of R’ Chaim telling all to get vaccinated. Men, Pregnant Women, Teachers under the pain of firing, and little children who were facing school exclusions. Mysteriously, he ruled that there was an absolute obligation to get vaccinated even though he clearly authored a letter published during the height of the virus that school closures were unnecessary. No one asked the obvious question that begged to be asked. How could the obligation to vaccinate necessitate school exclusions if the virus itself hadn’t?
It is unnecessary to speculate upon how the deception occurred, but it’s clear that something is amiss. The subjects in this article are known to the author and describes an extremely troubling interaction with R’ Chaim’s family. Only three days after this Rebbetzin committed not to talk about subjects that she knows nothing about, she put out this promotional video (arguably a first for a Rebbetzin) which was tweeted and celebrated by some who care very little about Torah Values:
Many months later, in an attempt to rewrite history, the Rebbetzin complained how she was “harassed” to explain the facts to her father, R’ Chaim, even though she was too busy to go…
Even more peculiar is that one person confided to me, unsolicited, that the reason that he hadn’t sent his daughter to seminary in Israel is because he sent someone to R’ Chaim asking if it was better to go and get vaccinated, or to remain in the states and attend a local seminary. The response was to choose the latter. Both can’t be right. One is agenda driven and one is not. One is telling the truth and one isn’t. As for me, I have no question who the truthteller is.
To highlight the absurdity of this saga, my friend composed this parody.
To complicate matters more, the family member referred to Dr. Hardt (see story at link above) who claimed that the real orders are being driven by a certain known rabbi – a brother-in-law with R’ Chaim. However, in a personal correspondence with this rabbi, he wrote to me:
That the reason to take the vaccine is because the Gedolim (no doubt referring to R’ Chaim) said so. This circular reasoning is akin to pulling oneself up by his bootstraps. R’ Chaim relies on his doctor, who takes orders from this rabbi, who in turn attributes it to R’ Chaim.
Do we honestly think that this perversion is the way that psak was practiced for millennia?
On September 1st, 2021, the following video was released:
On its face, it may have been a good intentioned drama by rabbanim to convince people to vaccinate.
At the time I reached out to two of the rabbis as follows:
“I must commend you on your skillful plug for the Covid vaccine.
In truth, though, I was left wondering; what was the intent of this video?
Throughout history when a Rav wanted to state his opinion, he authored a teshuva. These teshuvos were often acrimonious (i.e., the נודע ביהודה regarding the get from Cleves etc.), but clearly stated the Rov's stance and explained where his position emerged from. This enabled רבנים since time immemorial to have robust arguments כמלחמתו של תורה.
However, nowhere and at no time in history have Rabbanim created catchy commercials without context. You'd be hard pressed to find precedence for such an anomaly, and it heralds the way in for a newfangled Judaism. Now, those with enough resources at their disposal can create catchy PR campaigns and videos instead of hammering it out in the כותלי בית המדרש. I don't suggest that you haven't done so, but I don't see any evidence that you did. Aside from stating "Get Vaccinated", there is little to give this the כח of פסק.
If you were coming to present scientific fact, sources were lacking, and many "facts" stated within were actually far from factual or simply stated out of context. Either way, why would rabbanim make a commercial to promote something which is out of their purview? Just because you feel passionate about an issue, doesn't automatically make you an expert in that particular field.
I therefore conclude that this video served no purpose other than as a commercial with celebrity endorsements simply to promote and sell a product. Much like a commercial featuring black men promoting Nike Air sneakers, we have "Rabbis" promoting vaccines. This, I'm sorry to say, is, or at least should be, beyond the realm of a Rov’s duties.”
I received replies from both of the rabbis that I reached out to.
One replied that I should be דן לכף זכות and the other replied with some headline from Yeshiva World News. Hardly the teshuva lehalacha I was expecting.
In their little contained squealing excitement, they boasted how the New York mayor played the video at his press conference two days later.
The question posed above reverts yet again. Was it always that non-orthodox government sympathizers were the ones that wrote scripts for halachic theatrical videos? Or is this some kind of newfangled Judaism?
Daas Health Department
Years ago, when viewing rabbinical proclamations, I assumed that it was penned due to a genuine concern affecting the kehillah. I assumed that rabbis gathered together because they saw a pressing need, and then issued a letter to inform the masses. I definitely didn’t think that it was often external insidious sources that were the brainpower behind these actions. But life has a way of teaching.
As written about extensively in a previous article, To Vaccinate or to Vaccinate, harnessing the power of religious leadership was always something that was capitalized on to persuade the masses. Vaccination is no different. Notably an Israeli think tank called SYNRGAi that utilizes Artificial Intelligence to combat enemies and viruses points out; “The ultra-Orthodox public is divided into sub-sectors led by separate leaders. Harnessing the power of the public is only possible by first harnessing the power of the leaders”. Consider the following exclusive emails obtained via Freedom of Information requests:
In this case, we have a Jewish government liaison, now running for office, reaching out to his target within the community that he needs “Rabbinical Proclamations”. The full email exchanges make it abundantly clear that the rabbi who was reached out to will do anything it takes to appease his handlers. No doubt, because the very fact that he relies extensively on government funding makes the rabbi beholden to the health department as opposed to the other way around.
Again, we reiterate the question, when the Chofetz Chaim or the Chazon Ish issued proclamations, was it also on behalf of their respective governments or was it despite their government?
Throughout the pandemic, rabbis were under extreme duress to pander the position of the government. Be it about lockdowns, minyanim, and more lately vaccines, there was an unending onslaught on rabbanim to issue guidance in line with the government’s whims. In the beginning when much wasn’t understood, many rabbanim indeed signed such declarations. With the advent of the vaccine, however, something changed.
Rabbanim are in the unique position to know whether a woman is having irregularities in their cycle or other fertility issues. Despite the extreme pressure mounted on rabbanim to get behind the covid-19 vaccine push, they have nonetheless so far resisted jumping on the bandwagon. Rabbanim have seen first-hand the undeniable avalanche of detrimental effects it has caused, particularly related to women’s health.
Click on the twitter thread below and read some of the responses. It’s illuminating how the silencing of women’s issues seem to be ubiquitous.
And herein lies the crux of the issue. Measles was apparently deadly enough for rabbanim to produce dozens of signed proclamations. Lockdowns were obviously effective enough for numerous Rabinical letters calling to halt Yiddishkeit as it was practiced since time immemorial. Aren’t our future generations worth it enough to issue a warning to others that need not suffer the same fate? Granted that most proclamations issued are political, but do all of them need to be that way? Doesn’t simply the suffering of families that can’t live married life the way they should warrant immediate action? This litmus test differentiates the men from the boys. If a rabbi you know has issued proclamations about inane subjects but has steadfastly refused to issue one about this travesty, any utterance from his lips obviously needs to be discounted. They obviously weren’t his own words, rather they are the words that he was instructed to say.
To illustrate; in November of 2018 the Vaad Harabanim from Baltimore put out a unanimous statement that vaccination is a Halachic obligation, and that religious exemptions for people of the Jewish faith should not be respected. They further ostracized children that are not vaccinated citing that their presence presents serious risks and therefore they must be banned from parks and public places.
Now, however, the greatest posek (decisor of Jewish Law) in Baltimore has instructed his own grandchild to stay in the USA in leu of attending seminary in Israel being that the latter was contingent on receiving the covid vaccine. He privately confided to someone that the reason behind this recommendation is because the government lied about the data and there are risks associated with the vaccine.
Did this rabbi issue a public proclamation to express his concerns publicly? Why not?
Was it ever about halacha and public health, or was it simply about public opinion?
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