Top rabbis rule on the need to vaccinate

The following is a compilation of leading rabbinic voices outlining the halachic imperative to take the coronavirus vaccine. The list is far from exhaustive and does not include scores of other leaders who have vaccinated and who agree that taking the vaccine is a halachic obligation. The list below includes statements by the following rabbis:

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, R’ David Lau. Sephardic Chief Rabbi, R’ Yitzhak Yosef. Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. Chief Rabbi of England, R’ Ephraim Mirvis. The Orthodox Union and Rabbincal Council of America. R’ Chaim Kanievsky. Rabbi Gershon Edelstein. Rabbi Asher Weiss. Rabbi Hershel Schachter. Rabbi Mordechai Willig. Chief Rabbi of Tzfat. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu. Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, mayor of Bnei Brak. Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of Yeshivat Kisei Rahamim.

In addition to all the rabbis above, the follow rabbis (among many others unlisted) publicly vaccinated: The Chief Rabbi of Turkey, Rabbi Isak Haleva. The Vizhnitzer Rebbe. The Erlauer Rebbe. The Boyaner Rebbe. The Gerer Rebbe. The Belzer Rebbe. Rabbi Shalom Cohen, senior Sephardi Haredi Rabbi. Rabbi David HaCohen, head of the Hebron yeshiva.

Statements from top rabbis & leading halachic authorities:

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, R’ David Lau:  “With God’s help, we have gotten here. After months of the coronavirus raging, there is a vaccine available that can help contain the virus. Everyone who can be vaccinated against the virus according to doctor’s instructions needs to do so. COVID is a certain danger, compared to minor concerns about side effects.”

Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, R’ Yitzhak Yosef: “I am calling on our brethren in the Holy Land to follow doctors’ instructions. Allow them to heal us … Now that we have learned that a vaccine has been found that prevents COVID, and all the necessary trials were conducted and experts say that the vaccine is effective in stopping the pandemic and is not danger – each and every person must be vaccinated in accordance with doctors’ orders.”

Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, R’ Yisrael Meir Lau: “You must not be afraid…Vaccination is an obligation for all of us…I very much hope that this vaccine will bring complete health to all of us. We are all in this together, it is not a matter of right or left, religious or no, Jewish, Arab or anything else.”

The Orthodox Union (OU) and the Rabbinical Council of America ruled on December 15, 2020 that “the Torah obligation to preserve our lives and the lives of others requires us to vaccinate for COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine becomes available…We strongly encourage all those eligible to access the COVID-19 vaccination to do so. We hope and pray that such steps will help bring to an end the tragic toll that the pandemic has taken on our community and beyond.”

R’ Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of England: “We should recognize Hashem is calling upon us to be His partners. He wants us to have hishtadlut, our efforts to behave with responsibility, at this critically important time to ensure that we don’t take any risk with regard to our health and that we responsibly safeguard and protect the lives of others…When a vaccine will be offered to you, you have a religious imperative to take it, to look after yourself and to look after those around you.”

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky said that everyone needs to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus. When one of his followers said some people are reluctant to be vaccinated out of fear it will harm them, the rabbi responded one should “not be afraid.” The group of followers and Kanievsky concluded the meeting with a blessing for health and the success of Israel’s vaccine campaign.

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein: “The vaccine is a great salvation…there is no danger from it and there should be no concern about the safety of the shots. The principles of caution (of the government health regulations) are a great halachic obligation…If someone is not cautious, then he harms others and puts them in danger…. Someone who is not cautious sins [and violates the religious precept] of ‘you shall protect your own lives’ and is deserving punishment.”

Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer, speaking on behalf of three major Haredi leaders – Rabbis Kanievsky, Edelstein and Shalom Cohen: “Everyone who is able to be vaccinated, should do so.”

Rabbi Asher Weiss: “When we deal with the question [of whether] to take the vaccine: Yes. Definitely yes…Every new medicine or medical procedure might have long-term effects, but we always try to strike the right balance between what is needed now and what might, theoretically, happen in the future…People are dying, people are suffering, and we could alleviate this pain, and diminish the suffering and save many people. This is a safe vaccine as far as we could know.”

Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu: “I tell everyone to take vaccines. Those harmed by vaccines are very few and it is not at all certain that they died because of the vaccine. On the other hand, most people are cured and live thanks to vaccines and health systems. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the health systems that save lives. We must not speak badly of them. We must not hear anyone who tells us how bad they are and how malicious their intentions are toward us. Medicine and vaccines prove themselves. All those who speak badly about them – have not proven themselves in saving lives. Therefore the halakha (Jewish law) says that you trust vaccines, you trust drugs. You trust the health systems. You do not hear at all people who scare and encourage not to get vaccinated. They are playing with the lives of others, and perhaps also their own lives.”

Rabbi Hershel Schachter: “I highly recommend everyone should take the vaccine.[Hashem] gave us such chochmah (wisdom) to develop the vaccine — we should use it. It can protect us and protect the whole community.”

Rabbi Mordechai Willig: “Any clarity you receive from me is a result of my training from my Rebbe, Rav Soloveitchik, who told us as rabbonim that there are fields we don’t know too much about and we are duty-bound to listen to those who are experts in that field.”

Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, mayor of Bnei Brak, said upon getting vaccinated. “Go and get vaccinated to protect yourselves and your loved ones.”

Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of Yeshivat Kisei Rahamim, stated: ‘any allegations against the vaccine were built on “imaginary” evidence.”

These are only a sampling of the multitude of rabbis from across the Orthodox spectrum who have come out unequivocally in support of the coronavirus vaccine. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. If you have statements from other leading rabbis please do include them in the comments below and/or send them to me at chaya@shalevcenter.org

May these voices of rabbinic authority be helpful guides to those questioning the rightness of this vaccine. And may the world experience a speedy and total healing.

About the Author
Psychotherapist, inspirational speaker, wordsmith, performance artist & Co-Director of Jerusalem's Shalev Center. Chaya lives in the heart of Jerusalem with her husband R'Hillel & their 4 energetic children. Read more pieces like this in real-life book form: https://www.amazon.com/Lit-Poems-Ignite-Jewish-Holidays/dp/1623930219
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