Snow in Jerusalem for the first time in 8 years and Tragedy at a Remot (Jerusalem) outdoor Synagogue and The Person or the Constitution? By Alan M. Dershowitz and Israel Prize Laureate in Medical Ethics and M.D. Rabbi Prof. Avraham Steinberg on Halakhic and ethical factors in vaccinating against corona and the issue of sanctions for vaccine refusers and Worshippers look forward to returning to the synagogue and The Portion of Terumah
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Israel Prize Laureate in Medical Ethics and M.D. on: Halakhic and ethical factors in vaccinating against corona and the issue of sanctions for vaccine refusers. Rabbi Prof. Avraham Steinberg
Fundamental background facts:
1. COVID-19 is an international epidemic that has caused innumerable deaths the world over, including several thousands of our brothers in Israel. In addition, the epidemic has caused severe illness and ongoing health problems, even among those who have recovered. The epidemic has also caused psychological damage, and extensive damage economically, in the world of education, and in many social spheres.
2. To date, all of the methods employed to contain the epidemic have failed. The disease continues to spread and to bring about widespread death and illness.
3. The vaccinations manufactured to provide protection against the Coronavirus, and which have passed the accepted stages of research, and which have received the accreditation of the most authorized regulatory agencies in the world, have proven to be extremely effective, not only during the experimental trial, but also during actual implementation millions of people in various countries around the world, and especially in Israel. Furthermore, they have proven to be very safe, with only mild and passing negative after-effect
4. All the claims of conspiracy, and the alarmist fake news surrounding the vaccines, are unfounded, fake news, and a person should not take them into account. While there do remain several open questions, they don't carry enough weight to avoid vaccination.
5. The people who refuse to be vaccinated cause damage to themselves, since they are liable to become very sick, and even to die. In addition, they cause damage to others, because they are likely to infect many people, both a very small percentage amongst those who have already been vaccinated, and amongst those who were not allowed to be vaccinated, whether because of some existing medical problem, or because they lacked permission, such as children under the age of 16 (note: the vaccine has not been tested for under 16 year olds).
Hence, halakhically it is an obligation upon everyone to be vaccinated based on the commandment, "You shall safeguard yourselves exceedingly," (Devarim, 4:15), ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם and based on the imperative to avoid harm to others.
In light of these factors, the Halakhic and ethical conclusions regarding people who refuse vaccination are as follows:
1. Regarding vaccination refusers – the matter must be judged in light of its criminal aspect, and in the sphere of damages/torts. Firstly, if it is permissible, or necessary, to force them to be vaccinated against their will, or to punish them for their refusal, as a consequence of the criminal aspect of their refusal. Secondly, it is permissible or necessary to impose sanctions upon them, or to deny them benefits, or interaction with the public, as a consequence of the aspect of damage caused by their refusal.
In regard to forced vaccination or punishments, it seems that from the principle of the law (Ikar HaDin) in the realm of Halakha, there is room for compulsion based on whether the condition is such that the epidemic is severe with grave mortality and sickness involved, this stemming both from the commandment to carefully guard one's health, and in order to prevent them from spreading the disease to others, thereby endangering lives.
In practice, it seems this approach will not be implemented in democratic states which respect the autonomy of the individual, even at the price of personal injury to himself. Nonetheless, the leaders of these countries, and those who determine the law, are obligated to make a great educational effort to explain the vital importance of the matter, medically, ethically, and in light of the Halakha – to persuade people to be vaccinated, and to negate the various false rumors opposing vaccination.
2. Regarding sanctions and restrictions on interacting with the public, and concerning the incentive of benefits, it seems clear that this is permissible, and even an obligation of the government to enact such measures.
That is to say, it is permissible to prevent vaccination refusers to enter places that are not vital to life, and to grant entry permits to public places (such as hotels, restaurants, places of entertainment, and the like; and even to synagogues and schools), only to those who have been vaccinated, or to those who were infected and recovered. It is also permissible to prevent vaccination refusers from interacting with the public, including teachers, policemen, store owners, and the like.
And it is certainly permitted for private companies and private businesses to allow entry to their premises exclusively to those who can prove that they have been vaccinated, or have recovered from coronavirus.
3. It also must be noted that in the realm of damages/torts, a vaccination refuser, during a spreading and uncontained epidemic, can be legally sued placed under legal obligation if a person is infected and becomes ill because of the said person who refused to be vaccinated, and the person who became ill can bring a damage suit against the person who infected him.
4. However, it must be noted that one cannot withhold medical treatment to a vaccination refuser if he becomes ill with Corona, even if he could have prevented himself from getting sick. This is the customary way of relating to any sick person who caused his or her own illness, such as chronic smokers, alcoholics, and the like. In the sphere of Halakha, we do not withhold treatment from someone who was injured while desecrating the Sabbath in public, or similar situations.
Translation from Hebrew: Tzvi Fishman
Rabbi Professor Avraham Steinberg serves as Director of the Medical Ethics Unit & Chairman, IRB Committee, and is Senior Child Neurologist at Shaare Zedek Hospital; Chief Editor of the 27 volume Head of the Talmudic Encyclopedia, and author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics. He is an Israel Prize laureate.
Tragedy at a Ramot outdoor shul
One by one, the men who came for the minyan were met with the shock of a lifetime.
The "usuals" gathered on Shabbat morning last week to have their daily morning prayers. The outdoor minyan and yeshiva had been started by a beloved Rabbi Yisroel Rozovsky, who had opened up the downstairs area beneath his own to make a safe gathering place during COVID times for prayers & Torah learning. One by one, the men who came for the minyan were met with the shock of a lifetime - the leader of the minyan, Rav Rozovsky himself, had passed away the night before.
What shocked the Ramot community most about Rozovsky's passing was that it was completely unexpected. He was a completely healthy 48-year-old father of 6. The Rozovsky family had recently recovered from COVID and were feeling well. Friday night he enjoyed a typical meal, relaxing with his children. Little did Rabbi Rozovsky know, unseen COVID complications had left him with a ticking time bomb - a blood clot near his heart. Friday night, he passed away suddenly of a heart attack.
The following video is a moving glimpse at pure, unadulterated grief:
In the clip, Mrs. Rozovsky weeps uncontrollably, surrounded by family members and friends. The family is sitting shiva now, and money is being collected to help them survive the future ahead. Rabbi Rozovsky was the sole provider of his large family, and they were not prepared for such an unforeseeable tragedy.
Worshippers look forward to returning to synagogue
Before the pandemic, Steven M. Jacobs, a retired computer-science professor living in Flagstaff, Ariz., loved listening to Rabbi Shmulik Moscowitz sing the Shabbat prayers in synagogue on Friday night and Saturday. Now that he's been advised to refrain from in-person synagogue attendance, Jacobs is learning to recite the prayer melodies on his own through a new online video resource on Chabad.org/Video, Timeless Tunes, even as he looks forward to returning to services as soon as he can.
"Rabbi Shmulik's Timeless Tunes video series brings me back into the synagogue," said Jacobs. "It warms my heart with individual prayers, tunes and explanations, and the words even appear on the screen in transliteration and translation."
Like Jacobs, the community members and college students at Chabad-Lubavitch of Flagstaff—where Moscowitz served as a rabbi for four years before taking up a post in Brazil—loved listening to him sing and were eager to learn the songs themselves. Recognizing that people had difficulty reading Hebrew and keeping up with the prayers, Moscowitz taught a musical "prayer of the month," which they sang together over and over until everyone really knew it.
Moscowitz had long dreamed of becoming a cantor, or chazzan in Hebrew. As a child in Chicago, he helped his father lead services at a synagogue in a local Jewish retirement center. As a yeshivah student, he traveled to various Chabad centers, teaching songs and serving as chazzan for the High Holidays. He also served as a baal menagen (expert in Chassidic melodies) in various yeshivahs, teaching classic Chassidic compositions to the students.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Moscowitz and his family were in Brazil, visiting his wife Yael's family, the Michaans, who are emissaries in São Paulo. "I wanted to find ways to connect with people to bring joy and happiness during this difficult period," said Moscowitz. He realized that just as people in Flagstaff enjoyed learning the songs of the prayers, this could benefit Jews around the world.
Timeless Tunes are available on Chabad.org/Video.
Timeless Tunes are available on Chabad.org/Video.
And so, Moscowitz harnessed the power of social media by launching Timeless Tunes, expanding his lessons on the melodies of Jewish prayer to a worldwide audience. He added subtitles with transliteration and translation, and enhanced the videos with accompanying music by Mendy Golomb, a 15-year-old in Sheffield, England, who records the song on his keyboard and then sends it to Moscowitz to record the vocals over it.
"I knew most of the tunes, but I had to learn quite a few myself, and I am still learning!" said Mendy.
Now a Chabad emissary in Brazil, where he serves as chazzan and rabbi at Bait Centro Judaico in São Paulo, Moscowitz prepares Portuguese subtitles for his local Brazilian audience in addition to English.
"I really like the songs posted by Rabbi Shmulik," said Paulo Kopelowicz, a Jewish community member in São Paulo. "They are cheerful and inspiring, and the videos teach me how to recite them with joy and bring more intention to my prayers."
Each week, Moscowitz posts a new Timeless Tune on numerous social-media channels, along with a few meaningful explanations about the prayer. The series has a huge following in Brazil, and its debut on Chabad.org has greatly expanded its reach to individuals as far-flung as Beijing and Belgium.
Timeless Tunes includes sections for Shabbat prayers, High Holiday, Chanukah and the Hallel Series, with the Friday-night prayers to launch soon.
So don't be surprised if you hear a Chassidic niggun (melody) somewhere in the Arizona wilderness. It might just be Ivy Kellogg of Flagstaff.
Rabbi Shmulik and Yael Moscowitz, and their children
Rabbi Shmulik and Yael Moscowitz, and their children
"I find myself singing some of these songs when hiking in the forest," she said. "These songs bring peace and joy to my heart while supporting my strength in living the best Jewish life possible."
To watch the Timeless Tunes videos, visit the page here.
The Portion of Terumah
The Tabernacle and the Temples
Following the revelation at Sinai and the receiving of the laws there is now a need to erect a building which will testify to G-d's presence amidst His people. "And let them make for Me a sanctuary so that I shall amongst them" (Exodus 25;8). G-d's presence amongst the people feels tangible through the erection of the Mishkan (tabernacle).
The process of constructing the Mishkan at this point in time, and the Temple to be built later on, requires exact and detailed instructions as well as the raising of the necessary funds.
An allusion to the construction of the Mishkan and the two Temples may be found in the three crowns which appear atop the final letter "mem" in the word "betocham" (amongst them).
CNN and other left-wing media went on a rampage after Senator Mitch McConnell delivered his speech explaining why he voted to acquit Donald Trump, despite his belief that Trump had engaged in improper behavior. They accused McConnell of hypocrisy and inconsistency — arguing that if he believed Trump had done wrong, he was obligated to vote for conviction. But it is CNN and the other media that failed to understand the distinction between defending the Constitution and defending the person.
McConnell taught the American people a civics lesson by explaining that the Senate had no constitutional authority to place a former president on trial, even one who had been impeached while still serving in office. In doing so, he echoed a constitutional argument I have been making from the very beginning of this unconstitutional power grab by the Democrat-controlled Congress. The language of the constitution is clear:
"The President … shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
The constitutional power to impeach and remove does not extend beyond federal civil officials who are still in office and can be removed. As James Madison, the father of our Constitution wrote in Federalist 39: "The president of the United States is impeachable at any time during his continuation in office." It is true that once removed, presidents can also be disqualified, but they cannot be disqualified unless they are first removed. The Senators voted by a majority that they had power that the Constitution denied them, but McConnell dissented from that vote along with numerous other Senators, and they acted on their dissenting views in voting to acquit. They were right to do so. That is precisely what happened in the Belknap case, which was cited by the House Managers as a precedent.
The House Managers argued in their brief that the power to impeach is not limited to officials who remain in office, but can extend back to any person who held federal office despite how many years ago that person left the office. To have voted to convict citizen Trump would have given Congress a roving commission to seek out and disqualify any potential candidate who ever held federal public office or who might hold office in the future. McConnell correctly rejected that open-ended power grab.
The most important lesson taught by McConnell is that the Constitution protects both the good and the bad, the agreeable and the disagreeable, Republicans and Democrats. One does not have to agree with the substance with what President Trump did or said on January 6, in order to correctly conclude that the Senate had no jurisdiction over him once he left office, and that the statements he made — whatever one might think of them — are fully protected by the Constitution.
Back in the bad old days of McCarthyism, anyone who supported the constitutional rights of accused communists was deemed to support communism. That was wrong then, just as it is wrong today to believe that everyone who defends Trump against an unconstitutional impeachment necessarily supports his views or actions. I for one have been quite critical of Trump's actions on January 6 but strongly defend his right to have made his speech even though I think he was wrong to do so. I also defend his right not to be placed on trial as a private citizen by the Senate.
So, three cheers for Mitch McConnell for trying to educate the American public about this important distinction. No cheers for CNN and other left-wing media for returning us to the days of McCarthyism, when these distinctions were deliberately blurred.