By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

There are two types of mindsets. There is the “teenage” mindset and there is the “adult” mindset. And this time, the teens got it right.

The adult thinks as follows: I will schedule my COVID vaccination for a Friday! It’s so practical. This way, if I feel any adverse reactions from the vaccination, well, I can recover that night, on Shabbos, and on Sunday, too. Then I can be back to work on Monday.

The teenager thinks as follows: What?! Schedule it on a Friday and ruin my whole weekend? No way! If I take it on a Monday, I could miss school on Tuesday, Wednesday, and possibly even Thursday.

While the adult’s reasoning for delaying one’s vaccination to a Friday may be logical and practical, there is a question if it is halachically permitted.

Before we address that question, let’s get some more background.

What Are The Side Effects And How Common Are They?

According to the CDC, common side effects on the arm where you got the shot are: pain, redness, and swelling. Common side effects throughout the rest of the body are: tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. If you already had COVID then side effects are more common than in others who have not had COVID. According to other studies it’s 50% more common. According to the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI.org), 33% of those who had COVID previously had adverse reactions, and only 19% of people who have not had COVID had adverse reactions.

This author’s unofficial polls show that adverse reactions are in the 66% range in those who have had COVID, but this was not a scientific poll.

The Concepts Of Oneg And Kavod Shabbos

There is a concept called oneg Shabbos, enjoying the Shabbos. There is a debate as to whether this concept is a Torah commandment or a strong rabbinic enactment that they attached to a verse in the Navi: “V’karasa l’Shabbos oneg—And you shall call the Sabbath a delight.”

There is a second concept called kavod Shabbos, honoring the Shabbos. Is it really an honor to the Shabbos to utilize it for a recovery time?

Scheduling An Operation On A Friday

Many poskim forbid scheduling an operation on a Friday (in a non-life-threatening situation) because it negates the mitzvah of oneg Shabbos. [See Shmiras Shabbos 32:33 for an exception when there is a better doctor available on a Friday.] This was also the ruling of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ob’m, (Sha’arei Halachah U’Minhag #129), and an oral ruling given to this author by the Debreciner Rav, Rav Menashe Klein, and other poskim.

Is A Vaccine As Bad As An Operation?

The question may arise as to whether this also applies to a vaccination. A vaccination might make a person ill, but it is not a definite side effect. An operation, on the other hand, always makes a person feel worse. To answer this question, perhaps a certain Gemara is instructive here.

The Gemara (Shabbos 19a) cites a prohibition forbidding departure aboard a ship within three days of Shabbos. The Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos chapter 30) and the Rif explain that boarding a ship causes a negation of the mitzvah of oneg Shabbos as it takes three days to recover from seasickness.

The Idea Of Following A Majority

Here, however, one might differentiate in that there is only a likelihood of suffering ill effects, not a definite outcome.

The Torah gives us permission to follow the majority (rov) in the verse “Acharei rabim l’hatos.” According to the Gavi.org website, it would seem to be permitted to follow the rov, at least in regard to the concept of oneg Shabbos.

The aforementioned Gemara in Shabbos, however, is also instructive. Not everyone gets seasick, yet there is still a prohibition against going on a ship in that timeframe. So we see that one follows a majority to prohibit something. Does one also follow a majority in permitting something?

There is another factor. While this may be true for oneg Shabbos, is this not a violation of kavod Shabbos?

Both of these questions were posed to Rav Hershel Ausch, the former av beis din of Dayan Roth from the Satmar Rebbe’s beis din. Dayan Ausch held that there is indeed a problem of abnegating oneg Shabbos when one plans for a vaccination that will cause possible adverse reactions on Shabbos. He also ruled that if done purposefully, it would also be a negation of honoring Shabbos. He explained, however, that we can assume that when it was planned to take place on a Friday, it was not done to show disrespect to the Holy Shabbos. Rather, we can assume that the person was not thinking about kavod Shabbos at the time. But chalilah to think that anyone would purposefully denigrate the Shabbos, chas v’shalom.

When Dayan Ausch was consulted, a young lady posed the following question, too. Once a month, I get my braces tightened. Usually, I have the appointment made on a Friday so that I will not have to miss school. However, there is serious pain from the tightening every Shabbos and Shabbos day, and I suffer miserably. Should I reschedule it for a weekday?

Rav Ausch answered in the affirmative.

When asked about doctor appointments and other shots that produced more mild reactions, he explained that for redness and slight soreness one can suffice with taking Tylenol or Advil.

One more thought to keep in mind: The author of Lecha Dodi writes that Shabbos is one of the most important sources for receiving blessing. It states, “Ki hi mekor ha’berachah—for she is the source of all blessing.” 

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.

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