The Truth About Machlokes

Dear Editor,

It was with great sadness that I read the article describing the pervasiveness of machlokes amongst and between all strata of Yidden (“Is There a Remedy for Machlokes?,” February 13). My rebbe, Rav Eliezer Shlomo Schick, zt’l, who was niftar recently, gave a shiur on this very subject over 30 years ago.

He explained that all machlokes has a single common denominator: emes. That is to say, each side feels that their opinion or perspective is “the truth” and that the opposing party is not. He went on to explain that the word emes in lashon ha’kodesh comprises two elements: the letter aleph stands for one of the appellations of G‑d, eh-yeh, meaning “I will be”; the remainder of the word emes are the letters mem and tav, which spell meis, meaning dead. This is the one true meaning of the word emes:I will die.

When a person has this perspective of his fleeting life, that the real emes, the real truth, is that he, too, will leave this transient life, he will realize he has much more important things to attend to: mitzvos, chesed, shalom, tefillah, etc. And he will have no time or interest in wasting his Olam HaZeh with machlokes.


Ephraim Asher Ha’levy English

More Vaccine Concerns

Dear Editor,

Thank you for putting together an excellent publication. You are one of the only publications that has allowed any balance to the vaccine debate. Truly, I have enjoyed your publication as much as or more than other large publications. There is currently a huge wave of propaganda from the pharmaceutical companies which make an open debate impossible. Actually, there is a witch-hunt. The pharms have taken the usual approach of labeling the questioners as quacks, wacks, and worse. However, it is getting harder to deny the growing population of severely injured children in our population. I am not in any business involved in this issue, but for decades I have studied this issue and thus I am more informed than most. It is so sad to see the vast destruction of children’s health only for money. Many countries have done much better with this issue by delaying vaccines until after the age of 3 and by reducing the numbers. I once asked the Amish why they don’t vaccinate. They gave me the simplest answer. The answer was that they don’t work. This would certainly explain the herd immunity theory. Incidentally, the Amish have virtually no autism and their general population is about 300,000.

Richard P. Goldberg

Editor’s Note: For a complete response issued by Rabbi Yair Hoffman to a similar letter published in last week’s issue, see

OU—RCA Statement
On Vaccinations

February 10–Orthodox Jewish parents, like responsible parents across the United States, overwhelmingly vaccinate their children against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and the other childhood diseases for which inoculations are now almost miraculously commonplace. As in many communities, a small minority of parents chooses not to do so. The ongoing measles outbreak demonstrates how this could bear very serious consequences, not only for their own children but others’ too, especially those medically unable to be vaccinated. The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America strongly urge all parents to vaccinate their healthy children on the timetable recommended by their pediatrician.

Parents who choose to not vaccinate often cite a medical study that purported to link autism and the MMR vaccine. The study was discovered to be fraudulent and was withdrawn; its lead author was found to have acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly,” and his license to practice medicine in Britain was revoked.

Judaism places the highest value on preserving human life. It is well known that those facing even a potential life-or-death situation are instructed to set aside the Sabbath and other key tenets of halachic (Jewish law) observance until the emergency has passed. Prayers for good health and for the complete and perfect healing of the ill are an ages-old aspect of Jewish tradition. But prayers must go hand-in-hand with availing oneself of medical science, including vaccination.

There are halachic obligations to care for one’s own health as well as to take measures to prevent harm and illness to others, and Jewish law defers to the consensus of medical experts in determining and prescribing appropriate medical responses to illness and [for] prevention. Therefore, the consensus of major poskim (halachic decisors) supports the vaccination of children to protect them from disease, to eradicate illness from the larger community through so-called herd immunity, and thus to protect others who may be vulnerable. The vaccination of children who can medically be vaccinated is absolutely the only responsible course of action.

Stephen Steiner

Director of Public Relations


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