Such confusing times we live in, aren’t they? Part of what I’ve been finding so hard is just how quickly ‘friend’ can become ‘foe’ and vice-versa, the last few years.
It’s hard to trust anyone. It’s hard to really know where anyone is really coming from these days.
Back in 2015, I realized that God has done all this on purpose, because what He really wants is for us to keep talking to Him every single day – about everything going on in our lives – and to not just turn our brains off, and give away our free choice to other people.
That ‘other person’ could be a doctor. They could be a politician. They could be a scientist, or a schoolteacher, a parent, or even a rabbi.
Because free choice is the whole reason God made us; it’s the defining ability of a human being, and it’s something we have to exercise all the time – even if that means we’re going to end up making a mistake, or suffering something we’d prefer to not have to deal with.
I know there is a lot of controversy raging about the vaccines issue right now. (For my take on it, see THIS post.)
I was doing some praying on what’s really going on with it all, and here’s what came to me: the story of Rav Eliezer HaGadol, and the Sages, in the Gemara.
Turns out, Rav Eliezer HaGadol was 100% right, when he and the Sages were arguing about the halachic status of an earthenware oven. Rav Eliezer was so right, the river ran backwards, the walls of the yeshiva caved in, and a bat kol, a voice from Heaven, even announced that Rav Eliezer was correct.
But the rest of the Sages still banded together, ignored all these phenomena, and actually ex-communicated Rav Eliezer! The cherem was only lifted shortly before he died, so the Sages could attend his funeral.
We are talking about massive tzaddikim here – including Rabbi Akiva, the redactor of the Oral Torah, the teacher of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, the person who said that no-one in his generation was on the level to rebuke another Jew.
Yet, even Rabbi Akiva joined the other Sages in excommunicating his teacher, and the most outstanding Rabbi of the generation, Rav Eliezer HaGadol.
And Rav Eliezer HaGadol was 100% right, don’t forget! Even the angels said so!
So, what was really going on here?
In a nutshell: Jewish unity.
Having peace between Jews is the single most important thing, the single best guarantee of good health and blessing.
At the end of last week, I spoke to one of my relatives in the States who is a believing Jew, a quick thinker, and more amenable than most to hearing new ideas. I broached the vaccines topic with him – and I was amazed at how he was having a hard time accepting even the most basic ideas.
Like, the stronger a person’s immune system is, the easier they will find it to fight off disease easily.
Like, germs are around us all the time, and the main factor in whether we’ll get really sick (which is really just God, but we couldn’t really get to that level in the discussion) is whether we’re already weak and ailing in some way.
Like, the measles vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity from measles – even according to the Department of Health’s own figures, 3% of all people fully vaccinated will still develop measles.
So that means measles can never actually be fully eradicated.
The man just couldn’t hear it. He just couldn’t agree. He’s living in a world where he’s bombarded with information telling him that germs are the only factor causing disease, and that vaccines are the solution to avoiding disease.
He told me one other piece of information that I thought was very pertinent: Apparently, there’s been a few measles breakouts in Monsey, amongst predominantly chassidish communities.
“Having a measles epidemic in the Jewish community is making us look bad to the goyim,” he told me. “We already got blamed for the Black Death in the Middle Ages, we don’t need to give them any more ammunition.”
I have a feeling this last sentiment may be holding more weight when it comes to the hysteria over the measles outbreak than any of the other things so far discussed
But bottom line is: most of the people out there are so caught up in the world of lies that even if they are sincere, believing, thoughtful Jews, there is still no-one to really talk to when it comes to broaching the topic of how health really works.
So, what are our rabbis to do? Are they to promote divisive pronouncements that a majority of even frum Jews are literally incapable of accepting or following? Where is that going to lead?
So, even though Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol is figuratively right, the Sages chose unity and achdus, and hoped that God would keep everyone healthy and well.
Did they make the right decision? Honestly, there’s a machloket about that.
But what all this comes down to is that there is no shortcuts, and that the only way to get through this world in one piece, sanely, without being overwhelmed by doubts and confusions on all sides, is to keep talking to God every single day, and asking for clarity and emuna.
The last thing to say is this: Any rabbi who counsels a couple with conflicting opinions on the issue of vaccines to get divorced over the matter is not coming from a good place at all, spiritually.
God values peace above all else. God values shalom bayit above all else. And if a rabbi is saying to divorce because the other person wants to vaccinate, or doesn’t want to vaccinate, then get the heck away from them.
Bezrat Hashem, God will help us all to find our path through this maze, and to stay close to Him, and to keep our kids truly healthy in all ways, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
After I put this up, I realized I'd forgotten perhaps the most important point of all, which is that our rabbis make the reality.
When that Bat Kol came out from heaven, the Sages argued that halacha was not decided in Heaven, it was decided on earth - by the true rabbis that God had set over the people.
And God agreed!
Yes, I know what's going on is difficult. I know vaccines are not the health panacea they are made out to be by the Pharmaceutical industry. But at the same time, if our rabbis are saying we should vaccinate, we now have an additional layer of spiritual protection for our vaccinated children that wasn't there before.
The rabbis make the reality!
That's a fundamental foundation of Emunat Tzaddikim. And the true rabbis in our midst see much further down the road than we can, and are taking many more factors into account than are immediately obvious to the rest of us.
Again, Rabbenu is 100% anti-doctor. That is the Breslov path. And yet, he was pro-vaccines.
How these two things really go together is something requires an awful lot of hitbodedut, but go together, they do. And as I've said before on this blog, Rabbenu is always right.
NOTICE: The blog is only restarting at this address temporarily.
I will be migrating this blog over to a new site at: rivkalevy.com