Volume 64 Number 85 
      Produced: Wed, 25 Nov 20 03:48:27 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Ad hayom hazeh 
    [Joel Rich]
Corona shortcuts 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
    [Joel Rich]
Forced vaccination (3)
    [Ben Katz, M.D. Ari Trachtenberg  Meir Shinnar]
How to relate to decisions 
    [Joel Rich]
Meaning of life 
    [Joel Rich]


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 18,2020 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Ad hayom hazeh

The phrase "ad hayom hazeh" (until this day) appears 76 times in Tanach and "ad
hayom" another 12 times. Some authorities understand it generally to mean until
the time the Torah was written while others understand it as forever.
Does the latter interpretation mean that some avenues of free will are
foreclosed? According to the former, why bother telling us?

Joel Rich


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 11,2020 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Corona shortcuts

Ben Katz wrote (MJ 64#84):

> The question then becomes what is one's chance of getting covid?  If one 
> doesn't follow precautions it can be fairly high (eg 10-40% in a family
> setting).  

Where do you get these numbers?  There is still scant evidence on the
effectiveness of any of the prescribed precautions (mask wearing, social
distancing, lockdowns).  Indeed, until around March of this year, the widespread
belief in the medical community was that masks are ineffective in
preventing viral transmission.  No amazing evidence has come to fore since then,
only a few mechanistic and observational studies, and some negative meta-analyses.

>  If one doesn't follow public health guidelines it is going to spread pretty
> quickly (see what happened at the White House, where despite daily testing
> there was a superspreader event; no one died but Governor Christie was
> hospitalized).  How are you going to prevent spread, esp to those at risk, if
> you don't do anything to prevent it (eg, wear a mask and socially distant till
> there's a vaccine, or take the vaccine once it's available)?

Anecdotal comments aside, there is no evidence that we can do anything to stop
the spread of COVID. We can temporarily delay it with very painful lockdowns,
but it spreads easily and exponentially throughout the community as soon as we
open up.

The rabbis are right to resists the Draconian and unsupported measures from the
secular leadership. Nothing less than our freedom as Jews is as stake.


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 25,2020 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Ein_anu_bekein

The Rama frequently invokes "ein anu bekein [we're not conversant?]" as a reason
we don't follow something allowed by the Shulchan Aruch
Do you think this was an objective or subjective difference between the communities?

Joel Rich


From: Ben Katz, M.D.<BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 11,2020 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Forced vaccination

Ari Trachtenberg wrote (MJ 64#84):

> I don't think that the case against some vaccines is as simple as has been
> suggested.  The following site has some interesting and relevant citations 
> from well-known rabbanim:
> https://www.rodefshalom613.org/2019/05/rabbis-write-about-doctors-and-vaccines>/
> In the case of the flu vaccine, which is increasingly being mace mandatory for
> children as a condition of education, there is poor safety research and weak
> efficacy:
> https://www.cochrane.org/news/featured-review-three-updated-cochrane-reviews-a
> ssessing-effectiveness-influenza-vaccines

Once again, this is my area of expertise. There is NOT a poor safety data re the
flu vaccine. The vaccine is very safe. Re efficacy, it is no secret that flu
vaccine efficacy varies between about 40-85% per year, based mainly on how close
this year's strain is to last year's. And the vaccine works better in some
populations than others (eg the elderly, which is why we no longer ONLY give the
vaccine to those at most risk but to those who are most likely to TRANSMIT the
virus to those at most risk.  Same thing with German measles vaccine. German
measles is a mild illness.  We only vaccinate kids to prevent them from
spreading it to women who might be pregnant (like their mothers or teacher). Pre
vaccine there were 20,000 babies born with congenital rubella syndrome after
each outbreak; today that number is < 10.)

From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 12,2020 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Forced vaccination

Ben Katz, M.D. writes (above):

> Once again, this is my area of expertise. There is NOT poor safety data re
> the flu vaccine. The vaccine is very safe.

We are, perhaps, going a bit astray from the scope of mail-jewish, but I
do think that this conversation highlights an interesting distinction between
halacha and science.

Halacha is based on the opinions of experts (our rabbis) and does not have a
strong objective feedback control from the real world (see, for example, our
halachic assertion that properly kashered meat has no blood, regardless of what
our eyes see).  The process has gotten refined a bit over time - different
communities select which experts they wish to use, and later experts sometimes
overrule earlier ones - but no amount of evidence that blood remains in
kashered meat will alter the halachic conclusion.  As we learn from the case
of Akhnai's oven, not even G-d has a check on rabbinic decision making.

Science, on the other hand, is, in Richard Feynman's terms, the belief in the
"ignorance of experts".  A fourth grader could discover evidence tomorrow that
would overturn the publicly stated position of a Nobel prize winner.  The
"real world" is a supreme check on scientific theories, and, though we may
debate the significance and meaning of the evidence, we cannot ignore it.

Medicine is somewhere in between the two.  Some of the field is evidence-based
and relies upon scientific observation, but half of it is not and relies upon
the opinions of medical experts, with the most famous experts typically
dictating the dogmatic positions of the field.

Coming back to the flu vaccine, the Cochrane group has conducted the most
thorough literature review on the subject:


Summarizing some of their findings, and adding interpretations:

   * Starting at age 16 for healthy non-elderly people, vaccine efficacy is very
     low (flu rate 2.3% unvaccinated vs. 0.9% vaccinated), as is the risk for
     serious infection.
   * There is no longterm follow up from children to adulthood. The
     distribution of effectivity / age suggests that children build up natural
     immunity in youth that serves them throughout adulthood; it is not clear
     that an artificial vaccine will confer the same protection, leading to
     potentially more serious complications at an older age (similar to the
     concerns for chickenpox)

   * There are few Randomized Control Trials for children under 2, and poor
     adverse event data. (similarly for pregnant mothers).

   * The risk of adverse reactions, although small, needs to be borne every
     year unlike most vaccines which are administers 1-3 times per lifetime.

On their associated blog, they end their discussion with a damning statement:

"Meanwhile our reviews will remain as a testimonial to the scientific failure of
industry and governments to address the most important clinical outcomes for

From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 15,2020 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Forced vaccination

Ari Trachtenberg wrote (MJ 64#82):

> Recently, Tradition's online magazine featured an article arguing for mandatory
> COVID vaccination as soon as the vaccine becomes available for Emergency Use.

Is the opposition to the article specific to COVID-19 vaccines due to lack of
long term experience - or is this part of opposition to other vaccines as well?

I noticed on the Tradition web site that at least some expressed opposition to flu
vaccines as well - which suggests individuals who are putting themselves, their
families and their communities at risk out of ignorance and superstition. Part of
the major benefit of mass immunization is herd immunity.

Our community (in Teaneck) has a policy by the rabbinate (from 2019, pre-Covid)
that it is an absolute obligation for everyone who is medically able to be
vaccinated to do so. Please ensure you, your family, and your guests are fully
vaccinated. Shul attendance without vaccination may be even more dangerous than
school attendance because there can be more people who are eldery, sick, or are
otherwise immuno-compromised and unable to protect themselves

We don't yet have data on the COVID vaccines, but there really isn't a rational
informed debate about the other vaccines

Meir Shinnar, MD PhD


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 25,2020 at 02:01 AM
Subject: How to relate to decisions

I've been thinking a lot about how both the modern orthodox community and
chareidi community  relate to recent developments in Israel. (I have a similar
feeling about the US but I think in Israel it's more pronounced) In particular
Rav Chaim's edict to open the yeshivot contrary to the government rules.

The more general issue is how do we think about both an individual leader and
the community that follows that leader if we think that they are following an
extremely dangerous protocol both from a health standard and public relations


Joel Rich


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 25,2020 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Meaning of life

I listened to a podcast from earlier this year interviewing Brian Greene a
well-known physicist.


If anyone has a chance to listen to it I'd be interested in hearing their
thoughts; my understanding (or lack) follows:

One topic was free will. Brian is a physicalist but tries to explain how we
might have free will or the perception of it. I'm not sure I understood it and
I'd appreciate some help.

He also states that it's better to believe that there is no outside force that
gives purpose to our lives because that allows us to determine our own purpose.
If I understood correctly, we all look into our own guts to figure out what we
feel gives our individual lives purpose.

Ethics and morals also come from our guts but he does allow that other
civilizations might have their own which differ from ours

Very interesting however was how he allowed that saying Kaddish with a minyan
when his father died was very meaningful to him to attach to the ancient
tradition rather than something recently made up.

I've listened to a lot of similar podcasts and I still have not found the answer
to the question that if you really believe this why not just do whatever makes
you individually happy and not care about what anybody else or any other
civilization thinks.

Thoughts on how others think?

Joel Rich


End of Volume 64 Issue 85