Wednesday, November 23, 2022

no room for reflection?

I didn't bother to read the article in the Atlantic about COVID "amnesty" or any of the many reactions to it.  I can understand why someone who was barred from being with a loved one at their time of death, or someone who lost a job, or someone whose spouse is suffering from depression or alcoholism, or any of the many terrible outcomes that resulted from misguided Covid policies would refuse to simply brush off the harm that was done (and that continues to be done) in the name of public health.  Dr Scott Atlas recently said that Dr Fauci is guilty of presiding over "the biggest failure in public health history."  I would say there is plenty of blame to go around and Dr Fauci is not the only one at fault.  

Yet at the same time, I think the Atlantic piece is important.  The article may be self serving, an attempt to exculpate wrongs rather than answer for them, but it's at least a first step, a start to raising the uncomfortable question of whether all that was done -- the lockdowns, the forced vaccinations, etc. -- was justified.

What troubles me is that there has been no effort, at least that I have seen, within our community to consider the same issue.  Was closing shuls for so long really justified?  Was firing teachers who were unvaccinated?  If you like, you can ask whether the community was too slow to react to the dangers of the virus or whether there was more that could have been done?  Either way, the issue deserves reflection.

I do not think it is fair to say that the question is strictly an issue for the medical community or a public health issue and not a religious/halachic issue.  In other words, I do not think it fair to say that the Rabbis and leaders in the community were simply following the dictates of public health and medicine and therefore are excused from any onus of responsibility.  Medical professionals are biased, like all people.  Political and financial motives affect their decision making; their judgment and reasoning can be as faulty as anyone else's.  (Recommended reading: False Positive: A Year of Error, Omission, and Political Correctness in the New England Journal of Medicine by Theodore Dalrymple.)  Just today, Dr. Jha, the head of the White House Coronovirus response team, said, "We can prevent every covid death in America" if everyone gets their booster.  This is an obvious lie.  Many, many people who have been vaccinated and gotten boosters continue to die with Covid.  Were someone to take this doctor's word at face value and declare that getting a booster is a matter of pikuach nefesh, as it assures one of avoiding death from Covid, that person would be a fool. A declaration by a medical professional does not excuse one from thinking critically, examining the evidence, and considering other points of view.  One need not be a doctor to form an informed opinion on a public health issue issue any more than one need have a PhD from the Harvard School of Government to have an informed opinion on foreign policy.  So no, the onus is not on the public health community alone.  The onus is also on the Rabbinic and lay leadership of the religious community to reflect on whether their decisions/psak were arrived at through an informed, unbiased assessment of the differing opinions and information that was available, or whether they perhaps uncritically followed and were too easily led by modern shaman down wrong paths, perhaps paved with good intentions. 

For someone, either a layperson or a leader, to think that their community -- whichever community it is and however they handled the response to Covid -- got it 100% right and there is no need for further reflection and consideration, to me is just another mistake among many of the Covid era.


  1. Way back when the shuls were still closed, I saw some people making their own outside minyan (I think it was Pesach 2020 but could be off) and one of the people there said to me, so you think in a few years the rabbis will look back and say we were too strict, we shouldn't have closed down. He was ahead of his time. Buu of course for someone that threatened to call the cops on a Rabbi if he kept his shul open (as happened in a community) will not omit the error of his ways and quite frankly it was evident the error from the beginning so those that held they were right then will not back down now in all likelihood

  2. also your likn to Dr Atlas thing didn't work, at least not for me -a 406 error

    1. Not sure why... I just tested it and it came up.
      What happened where I live is some of the tent minyanim have become institutionalized. A few weeks ago we were invited to a sheva brachos on shabbos. Friday night davening was in a tent in Ploni's backyard, Shabbos morning in someone else's home. Every shul in the neighborhood is open, but why come to a shul and be meshabed yourself to a Rav and a kehila when you can be the melech and do what you want with your chaveirim?

  3. First, no one really knew what they were doing when this started political correctness and a desire to show Trump was wrong coloured the responses and too many public health officials enjoyed the sudden huge amount of power they had.
    But here's another thing that crossed my desk - back in the early days of the pandemic, if the virus got into a nursing home it affected almost everyone, a majority would be hospitalized and a minority would die. In my town the biggest nursing home outbreak is at 83, none hospitalized (all vaccinated).
    Vaccines are often a victim of their success. Deaths drop off tremendously and suddenly people forget the early horror and instead say 'but he got vaccinated and he still got CoVID" without ever thinking "and he didn't wind up in the ICU". This is very frustrating.

    1. >>>instead say 'but he got vaccinated and he still got CoVID"

      Because the public was told, repeatedly, that vaccines prevent illness, not that they merely prevent death or a trip to the ICU. That, until Covid, was the definition of a vaccine.