Harav Braun: The Vaccine Debate is Antithetical to Torah

In a message to the community sent out on Friday, Crown Heights Rov Yosef Braun discusses the Torah’s approach to the COVID-19 vaccine, and strongly criticizes those who search for a “Daas Yachid” to validate their belief.

In a message to the community sent out on Friday, Crown Heights Rov Yosef Braun discusses the Torah’s approach to the COVID-19 vaccine, and strongly criticizes those who search for a “Daas Yachid” to validate their belief.

Anash.org presents a full transcript of the recording for the benefit of the Chabad community worldwide.

Transcript prepared by Anash.org

It’s been a long time since we’ve been sharing these timely messages, and we hope and pray that these timely messages will only be about happy and joyous things. Most importantly the besura tova of the Geulah which is the most timely message we can ever have.

I want to refer now to a debate that is raging in our community and in many communities at large. We are going to talk very openly about it, and that is the vaccine debate. I am not going to give an answer to whether one should vaccinate or not, but I want to discuss the principle of Torah.

Like in every question, our Torah is a Torah Or, a Torah of light, and the Torah gives us clear principles and policies. It is also a Toras Chaim, a Torah of life, the Torah provides us with a way of life.

Our Torah is very clear that medical questions are to be determined by a doctor. You are not the barometer of truth. This principle that people should be debating whether we should vaccinate or not vaccinate, and everyone has an opinion on the matter, is antithetical to Torah. You are not entitled to your opinion when it comes to medical matters. You are not entitled to your opinion when it comes to Torah matters.

Freedom, free exchange of ideas, are all wonderful principles, but the Torah principle is that when it comes to medical matters, our job is to follow what doctors are saying.

People think that they have to research every single thing, check out all the different types of information, I have people phoning me non-stop, they want to convince me of this argument and of that argument, and I should look through all the literature and videos some of which is true some is untrue and many of which are just pure nonsense.

It’s not your job to research this stuff. When did you become a doctor? When did that become your responsibility? A. It’s a waste of time. It’s Bittul Torah. B. The Rebbe wrote to people many times when it came to medical matters that they should not research this matter. They should listen to the doctors and not involve their minds in their medical condition other than listening to the doctor’s instructions. That was before the information superhighway, before the social media explosion where everyone has an opinion that they can spread around all over.

Every one of these WhatsApp groups should be closed completely. They have nothing to contribute to this discussion. This discussion is purely a medical discussion. You cannot even answer a question about V’Sein Tal U’Matar for heaven’s sake, yet you are going to decide about Pikuach Nefesh, issues of life and death c”v?! You are going to make those determinations?!

A question of Pikuach Nefesh is supposed to be determined by Rabbonim when it comes to the Torah aspect, and doctors determine the medical aspects.

Then comes an argument that I will find a doctor that agrees with my opinion. As in matters of Halacha, people go shopping for a rov, “I’ll find a rov that agrees with my opinion.”

You should not have an opinion to begin with to go out and look for such a doctor. Of course, as in everything, we have a range of opinions. But Torah tells us to follow the majority. That applies both in medical matters and in halachic matters.

You can always find a daas yochid, a minority lone opinion that’s been rejected from mainstream Halacha. You can always find a minority opinion in medicine. The majority of mainstream doctors who are recognized and licensed say one thing.

They invent conspiracy theories to say that doctors are saying this because they are being paid, the Rabbonim are saying this because they are employed by the government, those Rabbonim are saying that because they are related to certain people.

That is apikursus. That is against the Torah. To say that the Rabbonim have an agenda is against the Torah. The Torah did not tell you to come up with conspiracy theories, that is not part of Torah. The Torah says to listen to Rabbonim and doctors.

You are not an expert in the field of Halacha. You are not an expert to decide whether there should be an Eiruv or there shouldn’t be an Eiruv. You are not the one to decide whether one should vaccinate or shouldn’t vaccinate.

Furthermore, you have no ownership over your body to begin with. That is another principle of Torah. The Torah says that nobody has ownership over their own body. This whole concept of liberalism and I get to decide what I think is right, people shouldn’t be taking away my privileges and my right to make decisions for myself is also not a Torah principle.

I am not discussing whether there should be mandates or there shouldn’t be mandates that is a secular question. It is definitely not my field to discuss legal issues and secular issues. I am talking about the principle that a person does not have ownership over his own body. You are not allowed to injure your body because you have no ownership over his own body.

You are not supposed to decide whether you should get vaccinated or not, that is a flawed way of thinking. The decision of whether you should get vaccinated or not is a medical decision and should be determined by doctors.

This whole machlokes is splitting apart our community, I will say that regardless of the fact of where I stand on this matter, we should not even be arguing about it. Not because of ‘Live and let Live’, that is also not a Torah approach. But because we are not supposed to be arguing altogether. It is not our subject, it is not our field, there is no religious shlichus that we have to promote a certain kind of opinion. And because we are supposed to be having Ahavas Yisroel to all Yidden regardless of whether they have opinions which they shouldn’t have.

We need to stop making this a polarizing discussion, we should stop arguing about it, we should do what the Torah says. We are an Am Chochom V’navon. As Chassidim and especially Chasidei Chabad, I am sometimes embarrassed by how low we have fallen in our Chochma Bina and Daas.

Because we are Chabad, we think we are smart alecks and we have to make decisions on our own. Boruch Hashem, we have the Torah, a Torah Or, and the Torah says that the doctor is given the authority to make such decisions. It is not that you ask the doctor and then do whatever you want. Like someone told me “you consult with the rov, and you consult with the doctor.” In our liberal mindset, I make the decisions and I use them only for consultation.

What is the point of hearing what they have to say and then following your own opinion? Like the Rebbe once said: you’ll ask the rov, and then you’ll threaten him that if the rov doesn’t do what you want him to say, you will do such and such… You ask the rov a Shaila, and the rov makes the psak. We ask the doctor a question and he makes the psak. And whatever is the mainstream medical view that’s what you should be doing.

Hashem should help that v’es ruach hatumah aavir min ha’oretz. Hashem should eradicate all sicknesses, which includes emotional and mental illnesses, and wrong attitudes and wrong approaches. We should not be embarrassed to say the view of Torah, and the view of Torah is that we should listen to doctors and not believe any of this nonsense that people are saying that is not coming from the area of Torah. People who say such things are not representing Torah. We should not fight with people, we should respect all people but we should not respect everybody’s opinion. There are opinions that are not in the purview of Torah.

Hashem should help that we should be zoche to yemos hamoshiach when all of this will be eradicated, and we will have the true and complete Geulah, and we will all be healthy and safe and free and all viruses will be eradicated from this world teikef umiyad mamash.


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