Let’s see if we can apply what we’re discovering about what really sparks off our bad middot to the recent, absolutely bonkers, ‘measles madness’ that’s apparently going on in the States right now.
I basically read no Jewish news sites, so the first I heard of all the balagan about a measles epidemic was when I started getting phone calls and emails from a few of the people I know there.
One person – a non-vaccinating mother – told me that even some of her friends were turning on her over the whole measles thing, and sending her emails blaming her, *and people like her*, for the recent death of a child from measles. Then today, someone forwarded this email on to me, that she’d just received from someone clearly very upset about her public decision to not vaccinate:
"You are a Rodef and Mazik according to all Gedolei Yisrael spanning all spectrums of Judaism. You might want to think twice before you go out against all of these big people. You might want to think about what you are going to answer to Hashem after 120."
Without getting into all the discussion about vaccinations generally (you can go HERE to read a very thoughtful, and meticulously-researched article on the subject, written by an orthodox American posek), I think it’s useful to really understand what’s actually playing out here.
God is just using the vaccination thing to draw attention to the real work to be done here, i.e. working on our middot.
And the same is true of pretty much every ‘great debate’ currently raging in the Jewish community. As soon as we get too caught up in the details, we lose sight of that big picture, but everything that’s going on around us right now – whether it’s Trump, Brexit, California’s fires and stirring volcanes, measles epidemics, terrorism – all of it is just God trying to talk to us, and trying to give us a message.
So, let’s see if we can get past all the superficial stuff, to see what’s really going on with the measles madness in America, right now.
Let’s go back to that curt, three line email. What are the underlying emotions, or ‘vibes’ we can pick up from it, to see where the writer is really coming from? This is what I picked up:
Now, let’s go back to our infographic from the last post, which sets out how these different bad middot are actually related.
There are two main routes to anger:
Route 1 is JEALOUSY.
I don’t think that’s at play with our pro-vaccine abusive emailer, (although jealousy is often a huge factor behind many people’s anger issues. We’ll return to this subject another time.)
So, it seems to be FEAR that’s leading to this emailer’s ANGER.
So now, let’s take a look at what’s causing the FEAR, as that is the key to understanding where this person is really coming from, and dealing with the problem at its root.
The FEAR is being caused by WORRY and ARROGANCE.
Where is the WORRY coming from? That’s pretty easy to figure out. It’s coming from the media stories about kids dying from measles, it’s coming from the schools, it’s coming from the people in the medical industry who are using all parents’ innate concern and love for their children to motivate them to vaccinate their children.
(Again, with absolutely no judgment about whether vaccinating is the correct route, or not.)
When we boil things down, we start to understand that this emailer is worrying that their kid may be injured or killed by an infectious disease, God forbid. That’s the first bit of clarity.
Already, that should enable us to feel a lot more compassion and understanding for the other person, because aren’t we all just worrying about our own children, too?
But there’s another factor in here, too, which is ARROGANCE.
ARROGANCE is the one sin that Hashem can’t stand, that He can’t be around. When a person has the bad trait of ARROGANCE, it basically means they have very little real emuna, they aren’t seeing God in their lives at all, and they think everything is in their own control, and down to them.
By contrast, emuna is when you live with the idea that EIN OD MILVADO, there is only Hashem.
If Hashem wants your kids to get sick or pass away, God forbid a million times, no vaccine in the world is going to prevent that.
This is the very uncomfortable truth that a lot of people –even in the frum world - find very, very hard to accept.
Now, God isn’t a tyrant, God isn’t a sadist. God forbid, He isn’t looking to maim and kill our loved ones. What God is trying to do, is to get us to face up to our bad middot, and to work on strengthening our emuna.
In the case of the measles vaccination, the ‘truth’ that has to be accepted by everyone, on both sides of the debate, is that God is running the world, and whatever God decides, that is what will be.
If God wants your kid to be healthy and strong, that’s going to happen even if you shtup your kid with a million vaccinations. And if God doesn’t want that, that’s what’s going to happen even if you shtup your kid with a million vaccinations.
This is the truth.
But, when people are ARROGANT, they don’t acknowledge that truth, which is when they start telling themselves lies about what’s really going on, and looking for scapegoats to blame for the fact that life is not 100% in their control.
These FALSEHOODS then lead to self-righteous ANGER – and then voila, people start acting like psychos and sending OTT emails.
THE FALSE PARADIGM
Giving the OTT people in our midst more information about the pros and cons of vaccination is not going to help at all, or calm them down.
Because the real problem isn’t a lack of correct information. The real problem is a lack of emuna.
When people have very little emuna, they come to believe that their child’s health is 100% in their own hands, and dependent on their own actions, and that God is out of the picture.
This false belief is what makes them feel justified in writing such ANGRY, yukky emails to the people who happen to be on the other side of the debate to them.
The better course of action would be for us to figure out what’s causing our feeling of overwhelming FEAR, and to work on that instead. Rabbenu is telling us “the more you can reduce your WORRY - (which would include getting proper information, researching the subject to its depth, and minimizing the consumption of news, generally) – the more you will reduce your FEAR!”
At the same time, we need to be working on our ARROGANCE, too, which basically means working on our emuna that God is running the world, and what God decides happens.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EQUATION
The key thing to note is that the bad middot described above can play out on both sides of the vaccination debate. If someone believes that eating healthy and avoiding vaccinations is all they need to do to keep their children fit and well, that’s also ARROGANCE.
God is the one deciding things, not us.
That ARROGANCE can also lead to FEAR, FALSEHOODS, and then OTT ranting about vaccinations, and self-righteous, attacking ANGER.
Wherever we stand in relation to the subject of vaccination, the real and only answer is just to keep asking God what He expects and wants from us. If a person is working on their emuna, and asking God for guidance to do what’s best, then if at the end of that discussion with Hashem they decide to vaccinate their children – then that’s what best for them.
And, if at the end of that discussion they decide to not vaccinate their children– that’s what best for them.
AND NO-ONE SHOULD BE CRITICISED FOR FOLLOWING THE PATH GOD HAS LAID OUT FOR THEM.
Vaccinations don’t prevent illnesses from striking – only God does.
Not vaccinating doesn’t prevent illnesses from striking – only God does.
At the end of the day, there are parents on both sides of the vaccination question who are feeling a lot of FEAR about their children’s health and well-being, and that’s what is motivating the vitriol and ANGER. If more of us understand where all of this is coming from, then we’ll have a much better chance of finding a way forward together that promotes achdus, empathy and understanding of the other person’s position.
And maybe, that's the whole point.
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