By Larry Gordon

Elections—whether in this country or in Israel—should be about identifying leaders with the ability to do the most effective and efficient job in their governance capacity. At the same time, vaccinations that are currently being distributed and administered should be, under optimal circumstances, about beating the pandemic and saving lives, both of which are obviously in the best interest of all people everywhere.

The problem we are dealing with today is when these two important agendas become intertwined and end up hurting people in an awful and devastating way.

The safety of the vaccine for people with an assortment of other health issues will likely be debated for eternity. The fact is that in both the U.S. and Israel the numbers are being reversed, and that is the objective here.

The most damaging thing that happened over the last year is exactly the opposite of the type of statistical accomplishments that are being celebrated today. Now our experts are saying that, overall, our country is benefitting from the current drive to vaccinate as much of the country as possible, and it is a relatively minor consideration that a small percentage of people are having adverse physical reactions to the vaccination.

Through the last year, because a small minority of the overall population was suffering in the extreme from the coronavirus, that warranted shutting down businesses, closing schools, and locking down entire communities for months. This is an exact opposite result for the same type of equation and thinking. The question is: Which one is right?

In Israel, 30% of the population has received the vaccine so far. The result is that the number of new infections in the country is down 30%.

At the end of the process, rabbis should probably not be involving themselves in matters regarding the efficacy of the vaccines out there, and politicians should not pontificate about matters pertaining to religion. But that’s not how it unfolded this year.

Politicians with little data and almost no scientific knowledge displayed a great comfort impinging on religious practices in the name of science, and it seems that here in New York the Jewish community was a target.

It took the Supreme Court a long time, but they finally issued rulings saying that it was illegal for government to restrict religious practice for no other reason than a personal belief that it was one avenue by which they might be able to diminish the spread of the coronavirus.

It is important to note that a legal ruling like this does not say that shuls or churches need to be open going forward from the moment of the ruling. What the court is essentially saying is that it was a violation of our constitutional rights from the first day that Governor Cuomo in New York or Governor Newsom in California issued executive orders, or royal edicts, limiting our rights to practice our religion.

The catalyst and motivation for that kind of order is that keeping people away from venues that they frequent is meant to stem the spread of the virus. Let’s say that their intentions were somewhat honorable. But that decision-making process was quickly shown to be inconsistent and dishonest.

All the while that shuls and churches were closed in New York, California, Michigan, and in other states, businesses like tattoo parlors and abortion clinics were allowed to remain open. Businesses deemed non-essential, like clothing or shoe stores, had to remain closed, but Costco and Walmart, where you can purchase clothing and shoes, were allowed to remain open.

Herein lies a great deal of the problems we have encountered over the last year. Doctors were making religion-related recommendations, and rabbis, in some cases, were rendering medical opinions. To exacerbate things, politicians like Mr. Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio pontificated daily on subjects they knew little or practically nothing about—medicine and religion.

The result is confusion and trouble.

Who can forget Governor Cuomo in the early days of the pandemic announcing at his daily news conference that New York will need 40,000 ventilators for COVID patients? And interestingly, President Trump, who knew what Dr. Anthony Fauci told him and nothing else, was ready to furnish New York with the vents. As it turns out, at no point did New York State require more than 8,000 such ventilators.

And that, by the way, was one of Mr. Trump’s big problems that heralded the end of his presidency: When it came to the coronavirus, he basically had no idea what he was talking about; he just talked and talked.

In Israel the other day, MK Bezalel Smoritch said that over the short term, only people who received the vaccination should be allowed to resume normal life as they knew it before the pandemic set in around the world. “People have a right not to be vaccinated,” he said. “But those people should just sit home.”

Over 30% of Israelis have received the vaccine, and the plan is that by the end of March everyone willing to be vaccinated will have been inoculated. On Fox News this week, Dr. Mark Segal said that here in the U.S. the probability exists that that we will reach some level of herd immunity by summer. According to Dr. Segal we can achieve that objective when we total the combination of those vaccinated and those who have had the virus.

There will still be cases of the virus, but the numbers will be manageable in terms of the burden on the healthcare systems around the country. That means it will resemble the fashion in which we deal with the spread of influenza on an annual basis. Most people deal with the flu at home, in bed for a few days, sometimes on medication, until it resolves itself.

Our future with the coronavirus will be very much the same as that, according to Dr. Segal. It is still to be determined whether we will need an annual corona vaccine the way we take the popular and routine flu shot. We might need more shots or what is referred to as booster shots, but maybe not. It’s too early in the process for a definitive finding on this matter.

Presidents and governors should defer to doctors and scientists to render medical opinions. And rabbinical personalities, especially in Israel, should not be warning people not to take the vaccine because it is disruptive and unbalances what looks to be the obvious way out of this quagmire.

Pirkei Avos warns us to keep our distance from government. It says in Chapter 3, “Be cautious with the government, for they only bring a person close to them for their own needs. They appear as friends when it benefits them, but they do not stand by a person in his time of difficulty.” Words of wisdom.

When people used to meet with the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ask advice on medical matters, the Rebbe used to say that one should seek out a doctor that is a “yedid,” a friend.

Sure, doctors can inadvertently mislead, but perhaps the Rebbe felt that a doctor who is also a friend is less likely to be careless. If that’s the case, that’s the way to go.

Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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