The following letter by Rabbi Yitzchok Smith discusses the halachic issues surrounding the response to Covid-19. Rabbi Smith asks that this letter be distributed to all who would benefit from the information.
Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Smith
Passaic Park, New Jersey
By the Grace of G-d
10 Elul 5780
August 30, 2020
It is imperative that this community be restored to a rightful setting where Torah is paramount, and individuals are respected.
In the ongoing debates about masks and coronavirus vaccines, I suggest that the masks and the prospect of vaccines are a valid concern but still is a distraction. The real issue is that the government has decreed who is essential and who is not essential. Essential people can make a living. Those decreed non-essential cannot make a living and either starve or become a ward of the state. There is no basis or definition in any law, just decrees. The fact that the Jews are not singled out is no comfort – this is war against humanity. The danger of such decrees cannot be overstated, and they must be rejected.5
There is no place in Torah for a Jewish community to be governed by a committee of medical doctors. Nor by an unelected committee composed of Rabbonim, politicians and doctors. The concept of a doctor in Torah, and the permission to heal, is based on a personal relationship between a doctor and an individual patient where the doctor is both an expert in a relevant disease and knows the patient personally. Such a doctor is a doctor that a Rov has permission to listen to and to take into consideration the medical insights of the doctor as to that patient. However, a doctor cannot make decrees for a community of individuals that he has never met, or knows nothing of their health, and/or regarding a disease that he has no personal experience with.
Venishmartem m’eod l’nafshoseichem is often thrown about as the reason to shut shuls and yeshivos. But this posuk is really
referring to the need to cleave to Hashem and not be distracted by the worldly pressures into leaving Hashem and adopting
foreign worldviews. In fact, the only time this posuk appears in the Gemora (Brochos 32b) it is the non-Jewish governor who
uses this very posuk against the Jew to argue that davening should be interrupted because of ‘danger.’ The response of the
proud confident Jew on behalf of Yiddishkeit is NO!, we will not even allow this possuk to be used to confuse us to interrupt
even ONE tefillah. And, as the story concludes, continuing our Yiddishkeit without the slightest modification brings true
respect from the non-Jews.13
Civilization is going through the writhing pangs of the establishment of public health supremacy which intends to overrule all other considerations, including Torah. Public health is not ‘refuah’ in Torah. Public health is not a substitute for Torah.
|↑1||Rabbis Breslauer, Bodenheim, Celnik, Cohen, Cohen, Davis, Eisenman, Fishman, Glasser, Halbertstam, Hirsch, Isaacson, Krause, Lazar, Novoseller, Ryback, Sacks, Schwab, Shulman, Singer, Spira, Weinberger, Wolbe, and Zupnick, Shlita.|
|↑2||Rabbis Cohen, Glasser, Hirth, Zupnick, Assemblyman Schaer, Councilman Munk, Mr. Brisman, Mr. Rackoff.|
|↑3||Drs. Gejerman, Hellmann-Ostrov, Joseph, Lax, Lipton, Rosen.|
|↑4||While ideally, I would meet with each recipient in advance of delivering this letter, that is not practicable. This letter is not intended as a private letter. Due to the vital nature of this communication it may be distributed to anyone who will benefit from this information.|
|↑5||It was in 1933 that the concept of lives unworthy of life (Lebensunwertes Leben) was introduced by the Nazi’s to justify their sterilization campaigns, and the euthanasia of the elderly, ill and disabled, including disabled children with the participation of hundreds of asylum directors, pediatricians, psychiatrists, family doctors, and nurses. The euthanasia campaign did not originally target Jews – it targeted Germans. Only later in 1941 was the definition of lives unworthy of life expanded in the implementation of the massive and broader euthanasia campaigns, commonly called the Holocaust. In the death camps there were selections between essential and non-essential people, those who could work and those who could not. And, on Kristelnacht, only the Jewish businesses were shuttered, but in this year nearly all businesses have been shuttered, something unheard of in the history of the world, where it has now become illegal for many to make a living. That shuttering was followed by actual burnings in many places.|