Please, Don’t Use the Holocaust By Varda Meyers Epstein and Are Bottom Feeders Kosher Fish? By Yehuda Shurpin and another part of the fear-mongering during Covid is shown wrong after a year and PM Netanyahu's Greeting for Israel's 73rd Independence Day
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.
Going to the grocery store in Massachusetts in 2020 guaranteed you would breathe heaps of sanitizer. A full-time employee scrubbed down shopping carts between customers. Conveyor belts at the checkout counter were blasted and wiped between every sale. Glass surfaces were sprayed as often as possible. The plastic keypads on credit machines were not only covered in plastic – why putting plastic on plastic stopped Covid was never clear – but also sprayed between uses.
Employees would carefully watch your hands to see what you touched, and as you exited the space would cover the area with cleaning spray.
It was the same at offices and schools. If a single person turned in a positive PCR test, the entire place had to be evacuated for a 48-hour fumigation. Everything had to be wiped, sprayed, and scrubbed, to get rid of the Covid that surely must be present in the bad place. The ritualistic cleaning took on a religious element, as if the temple must be purified of the devil before God could or would come back.
All of this stemmed from the belief that the germ lived on surfaces and in spaces, which in turn stemmed from a primitive intuition. You can't see the virus so it really could be anywhere. The human imagination took over the rest.
I was in Hudson, New York, at a fancy breakfast house that had imposed random Covid protocols. It was cold outside but they wouldn't let me sit inside, even though there were no government restrictions on doing so. I asked that masked-up twenty-something why. She said "Covid."
"Do you really believe that there's Covid inside that room?"
Subway cars were cleaned daily. Facebook routinely shut its offices for a full scrub. Mail was left to disinfect for days before being opened. Things went crazy: playgrounds removed nets from basketball hoops for fear that they carried Covid.
During the whole pathetic episode of last year, people turned wildly against physical things. No sharing of pencils at the schools that would open. No salt and pepper shakers at tables because surely that's where Covid lives. No more physical menus. They were replaced by QR codes. Your phone probably has Covid too but at least only you touched it.
"Touchless"' became the new goal. All physical things became the untouchables, again reminiscent of ancient religions that considered the physical world to be a force of darkness while the spiritual/digital world points to the light. The followers of the Prophet Mani would be pleased.
Already back in February, AIER reported that something was very wrong about all of this. Studies were already appearing calling the physical-phobic frenzy baseless.
The demonization of surfaces and rooms stemmed not just from active imaginations; it was also recommended and even mandated by the CDC. It offered a huge page of instructions on the need constantly to fear, scrub, and fumigate.
On April 5, however, the CDC page was replaced by a much-simplified set of instructions, which includes now this discreet note: "In most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low." Oh is that so?
The link goes to the following:
Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) studies have been conducted to understand and characterize the relative risk of SARS-CoV-2 fomite transmission and evaluate the need for and effectiveness of prevention measures to reduce risk. Findings of these studies suggest that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection via the fomite transmission route is low, and generally less than 1 in 10,000, which means that each contact with a contaminated surface has less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection.
So much for the many billions spent on cleaning products, the employees and the time, and hysteria and frenzy, the rise of touchlessness, and gloves, the dousing of the whole world. The science apparently changed. Still it will be years before people get the news and act on it. Once the myths of surface transmission of a respiratory virus are unleashed, it will be hard to go back to normal.
Fortunately the New York Times did some accurate reporting on the CDC update, quoting all kinds of experts who claim to have known this all along.
"Finally," said Linsey Marr, an expert on airborne viruses at Virginia Tech. "We've known this for a long time and yet people are still focusing so much on surface cleaning." She added, "There's really no evidence that anyone has ever gotten Covid-19 by touching a contaminated surface."
Still, I'm willing to bet that if right now I headed to a WalMart or some other large chain store, there will be several employees dedicated to disinfecting everything they can, and there will be customers there who demand it to be so.
How many years will it take before people can come to terms with the embarrassing and scandalous reality that much of what posed as Science last year was made up on the fly and turns out to be wholly false?
Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research.
He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and nine books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.
The Holocaust was an outsized event: comparable to no other, unparalleled in history. Perhaps that is why, more than any other catastrophe, the Holocaust gets exploited. The Holocaust is used to compare and draw parallels to whatever particular issue bugging people at any moment in time. And in one sense, exploiting the Holocaust in this manner proves the magnitude of this event: the Holocaust is the worst thing people can think of, so it is where they will always turn for inspiration and debate points.
Using the Holocaust for comparison's sake, on the other hand, cannot help but weaken the power of this singular event in our minds. If something is as bad as the Holocaust, then the Holocaust is not the worst thing that ever was. It was just as bad as something else: whatever gets your goat at a given point in time.
A current example of how this works relates to the politicization of lockdown measures in the face of the global pandemic. Some of us see coronavirus measures as the government doing the best it can in an unprecedented situation. If lockdown measures and regulations seem contradictory at times, or even silly, we trust that the intent of these measures is to halt the spread of contagion and keep people safe.
Other people may, however, find lockdown measures arbitrary, unnecessary, counterproductive, dangerous, or a form of government oppression. They may even see some nefarious intent on the part of the government or be suffering from "Trump Derangement Syndrome," in which they feel compelled to trash-talk every action taken by the president, good or bad. If you find yourself anywhere in this paragraph, you no doubt feel compelled to make your case, loudly and at length, to everyone in hearing/viewing distance.
And what better way to show the evil intent and oppressive nature of lockdown measures than to compare them to the Holocaust? And so it was that I butted heads with a libertarian on a Facebook group called "Corona Virus Insanity Memes." I was there not to interact with the members of this group but to find memes to cheer up my friends during lockdown. I do this most days, sifting through lots of duds to find the best.
Sometimes the memes offend me, or fail to draw a chuckle, but rather than say anything, I simply skip past to the next one. Different strokes for different folks. No point arguing these things.
But the other day I bumped into a meme that stopped me cold. The meme, depicting Anne Frank, gazing into the distance, was captioned, "The law is not a moral compass. The people who hid Anne Frank were breaking the law. The people who killed her were following it."
The thrust of this meme is that laws should not be equated with morality. Sometimes we have to break laws in order to do the right thing, and sometimes obeying the law is evil. In other words: just because something is lawful, doesn't make it right.
Like I said, normally I skip past something that offends me. I don't want to debate random people on the internet. To what purpose? But this meme pushed my buttons. I was incredulous. Is this guy really saying that being asked to wear a mask and stay indoors to avoid contagion is the same thing as being forced to hide in an attic to escape being murdered because one is a Jew?
So I told the guy: the comparison is appalling and offensive. The two situations are not at all analogous and the Holocaust should be off-limits as either a comparison point or comedy material. That such exploitation trivializes the Holocaust.
But Kiril was never going to hear me. He was hell bent on making me see that I was missing his point and on illustrating his supposed oppression. I knew it, and yet persisted in trying to get him see what he could not see. The enormity of the Holocaust. The numbers. The intent of lockdown measures versus Hitler's Final Solution. The fact that law didn't enter into what happened to Anne Frank. That Germany invaded Holland, where Anne Frank's family went into hiding. That no one elected Hitler to rule over the Dutch or move the Franks to Bergen-Belsen, where Anne died of typhus at age 15.
I talked about the magnitude of the Holocaust, the over 6 million people gassed to death and burnt in crematoria and the difference between being hunted and targeted for being Jewish and being asked to stay home to contain contagion. None of this left any sort of impression on Kiril, who only doubled down, suggesting it was a good thing to use the Holocaust to shock the people and give them a rude awakening about government overreach, to learn from history whatever we can.
But this is a distortion of history. The two situations are not analogous. And to compare them weakens the impact of what the Holocaust was, and how it impacts on our lives still today and for generations to come.
It is true that in a democratic society, people vote for their leaders but don't always like the results. But there are second chances. They can rectify the situation by voting differently in future or by resorting to the courts. Anne Frank, on the other hand, is dead, and stays dead. There are no more choices for Anne Frank or the other almost 7 million Jews murdered on behalf of Hitler's Final Solution.
If we can compare anything to the Holocaust—anything at all—then what, exactly, is special about the Holocaust? How is it different from any other terrible situation, imagined or real?
To my mind, the main reason not to compare anything to the Holocaust is to preserve in our minds the uniqueness of this catastrophic event in all of history. The Holocaust, this concentrated effort at eliminating the Jewish people once and for all, stands at the very pinnacle of evil which, until now, and God willing forever, simply has no equal.
PM Netanyahu's Greeting for Israel's 73rd Independence Day
Many bottom feeders aren't kosher, but that has nothing to do with where they live or feed.
For a fish to be kosher, it needs to have both fins and scales that are easily removable without tearing the skin.1 So although many bottom dwellers such as shellfish, lobster, crab, catfish, etc. aren't kosher, it's because they don't have the signs of a kosher fish.
Carp, on the other hand, is often classified as a bottom feeder and is one of the more popular kosher fish used in making the classic "gefilte fish" for Shabbat.
Swimming to the Top
Torah laws can generally be classified into different categories: those that are logical and those that transcend human logic. Kashrut, for which no reasons are given in the Torah, falls into this second category.
At the same time, our sages tell us that we are meant to delve into these laws and endeavor to comprehend them as much as possible (all the while keeping in mind that the "ultimate reason" behind these laws may be beyond our limited human intellect).2
Thus, many rabbis and philosophers have speculated on their purpose.
For example, Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman (Nachmanides) writes in his commentary to Leviticus:
The reason why fins and scales [are signs of permissibility as food] is that those fish which have them always dwell in the upper clear waters, and they are sustained through the air that enters there. Therefore their bodies contain a certain amount of heat which counteracts the abundance of moistness [of the waters], just as wool, hair and nails function in man and beast. Those fish which have no fins and scales always dwell in the lower turbid waters, and due to the great abundance of moistness and gatherings of water there, they cannot repel anything. Hence they are creatures of cold fluid, which cleaves to them and is therefore more easily able to cause death, and it [the cold fluid] does in fact cause death in some waters, such as stagnant lakes.3
This seems to be one of the main sources for the notion that all kosher fish are by definition not bottom feeders. However, as noted, this is only meant as an "after-the-fact" observation, not an absolute rule.
Additionally, a closer look at Nachmanides reveals that it's not about where the fish feed, but whether they swim to the upper levels of the water. Interestingly, carp, which is often classified as a "bottom feeder," actually feeds in nearly all sections of the water, and only feeds on the bottom 40-50% of the time. They are also known to feed directly on the surface.
Perpetuating the Misconception
Confusing the speculations of philosophers with "the" reason for kashrut has led to many misconceptions, the most common of which is that kosher food is specifically healthier.
True, due to some of the kosher guidelines as well as the strict controls put in place by some kashrut organizations, kosher products may be healthier, but this is not always the case. To illustrate, hemlock, one of the deadliest poisons, comes from a plant and is completely natural, and therefore is technically "kosher."
Of course, one of the commandments in the Torah is to be careful with our health,4 so we shouldn't eat anything that is harmful to us. Yet what is harmful for one person may be fine, or even healthy, for another. Therefore, the question of health is left to doctors (who themselves are not always in agreement), and the question of kosher is left to rabbis.
So although the common misconception is that bottom feeders are unhealthy and therefore unkosher, their health status doesn't impact their kosher status. (And some bottom feeders are in fact healthy.)
Although the underlying reason for keeping kosher isn't necessarily physical health, the sages and mystics explain that it does have a profound effect on one's spiritual health and well-being. Furthermore, eating non-kosher foods can dull one's spiritual sensitivities. And like all things in the spiritual realms, this can in turn impact one's physical well-being as well.5
Kosher, Healthy Mind and Body
Interestingly, the Talmud states: "All [fish] that have scales also have fins [and are thus kosher]; but there are [fish] that have fins but do not have scales [and are thus unkosher]."6
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that scales, which protect the fish like armor, represent the quality of yirat shamayim, "awe of heaven" and integrity, which protects us from negativity and the many pitfalls that life presents.
Fins, which propel a fish forward, represent innovation and ambition.
Ambition and innovation without the protection of integrity and awe of heaven can have very negative consequences and isn't "kosher." At the same time, we can't just remain in a protected state—in matters of holiness, we must always strive to move forward and climb ever higher.7
Ramban, Leviticus 11:9; Rabbi Moses Sofer, known as the Chatam Sofer (on Talmud, Chulin 66a) explains that Nachmanides' intention is that fish with fins and scales can propel themselves to the top of the water where there is more air and warmth, enabling them to produce scales. The scales provide a method for the fish to get rid of some of their excess harmful moisture that would otherwise be trapped in the fish.