God give us more learned Rabbis and no more Experts

Photo: Davidi Friedman. Rabbi Kanievsky.

There’s a story about a shul that had a problem with rats. The president of this shul called in the experts and the first expert suggested traps – but these didn’t work, somehow the rats took out the cheese and escaped before the traps were able to close. The second expert suggested poisonous raisins to be scattered around, but mysteriously all the cats in the neighborhood were dropping dead and people were becoming scared. Finally the Rabbi suggested that he could help. 

“You?” Asked the president in astonishment. 

“Yes, me!” Said the Rabbi, “just bring all the rats into the main shul with a huge kiddush laid out for them on the floor. Once they are all assembled I will give them all a Bar Mitzvah”.

The president asked “A… a Bar Mitzvah? What on earth for?”

The Rabbi replies, “Because I guarantee you, once they have had their Bar Mitzvah, they will never step foot inside the shul ever again!”

This is just one of many stories about the superior logic of our Rabbis over “experts”.

Today we stand in the midst of a COVID fiasco and the experts in Israel are recommending yet another lockdown.

Now ignore the fact that the previous lockdowns have been a tremendous failure, leading rapidly to a second phase of infection and a huge dent into what was a very healthy economy. Today we have more data about the COVID and its impact.  A recent Stanford University study states that the chances of a healthy 50-64 year old dying of COVID is 1 in 19 million (less than the chance of being run over by a bus).

Against all this, and against a lockdown in general, stands the lonely figure of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. He reportedly instructed yeshiva students not to be tested for COVID to avoid closures of schools and mass quarantines.

Is this negligence by our Charedi brethren, a contravention of the mitzvah of “pikuach nefesh”, or is it something else?

Because of mass hysteria about COVID, it has been very unpopular to suggest any strategy that doesn’t take everybody off the street, in order to save the lives of those (mostly over the age of 80) who are at risk.

However, many of us over the age of 40 will remember the chickenpox parties of the 1970’s where a child infected with chickenpox was INVITED to infect all of his classmates (along with ice cream and jelly and a round of musical chairs). This was to ensure that everyone would be immune by the time that they were childbearing (or at least the girls) when chickenpox can have severe effects on a fetus.

So 40 years ago the age old, and time tested, wisdom was to infect those with low risk of severe symptoms in order to protect those at a greater risk. Today the “new wisdom” (generated by mass hysteria and social media) is to isolate everybody.

Let’s take Rabbi Kanievsky’s logic to the limit. If we were to expose everyone under the age of 64 to the virus tomorrow, making sure that they were then quarantined effectively for two weeks, we would have herd immunity across the country in a fortnight and those over the age of 80 would be safe to walk outside their homes without a mask, by the end of September.

The “experts” on the other hand are suggesting more lockdowns that could prolong this unpleasant episode of man-made disaster for another year or more.

Torah study, which is so frequently dismissed by “informed” modern academics, breeds a holistic approach to life and logic – something described in Hebrew as “sechel” or common sense. Against this, contemporary academia requires such a specialization, today, that an epidemiologist is no longer an expert on epidemics but only on one specific pathology of one specific virus.

When our Rabbis called for quarantines in times gone by they did so because they would have personally known hundreds of people who were dying from some mysterious disease. Today anyone with “sechel” can see that the chances of dying from COVID are so minute that one could easily believe that we were just in the regular flu season.

Since we have all been infected by a far worse virus over the past decade, that of believing what we see on social media, it now takes a senior Charedi Rabbi to tell us what we should have seen from the beginning. This is no serious pandemic. This is a man-made disaster, of unprecedented proportions, a simple over reaction to seasonal flu.

That’s why I, for one, say, “God give us more learned Rabbis and no more ‘experts’”!

About the Author
The writer is the emeritus Rabbi of Radlett United Synagogue with a Masters degree in Public Health from Hebrew University and a lifelong career in finance.
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