Rabbi Bleich’s New Volume: a Potential Life-Saver
Rabbi Dovid Bleich’s volumes on Contemporary Halakhic Problems are the gold standard in evincing the ability of our mesorah and the timeless halachic tradition to respond to changed conditions and advances in knowledge. Volume 7 is now available. Like all its predecessors, each chapter marshals a breathtaking command of the related core sugyos, the responsa, and the full sweep of the growing number of quality halacha journals. In most cases, the penetrating lomdus of mori ve-rabi Rav Bleich adds immeasurably to the discussion.
The first volume in the series appeared some forty years ago. Some day, someone will write a paper on the changes in the Orthodox community that can be discerned simply from an examination of the tables of contents of the different volumes. Earlier ones dealt with the some of the first modern treatments of core issues like intermarriage, electricity on Shabbos, war ethics, conversion, abortion, copyright. These early chapters remain invaluable jumping-off points even today for those interested in serious consideration of the halachic issues. With the passage of time, the articles keep up with the dizzying scientific and technological progress of the decades that followed. The new volume includes considerations of stem-cell burgers, determining maternity in the case of mitochondrial DNA replacement, and posthumous paternity from frozen sperm.
While it is unlikely that any of the books in the series will ever become a Hollywood feature film, the new volume – like its predecessors – belongs in the can’t-put-it-down category for anyone with a passion for serious halachic discussion.
One chapter moves beyond recommended reading to the role of life-saver. Measles is back, and the word is out in the street – and in the media – that members of Orthodox Jewish communities have often joined the ranks of the anti-vaxxers. By not immunizing their children, they have compromised the herd immunity that all but abolished diseases like measles and whooping cough. Schools have wrestled with the legal and halachic issues in barring children who have not been immunized (or incompletely immunized) from the classroom, in order to protect the other children. Misinformation abounds about several facets of the issue: the risks involved in immunization; the risks to others (including children who have been immunized, and those who cannot for various medical reasons); the legal exposure of schools which bar non-immunized children from attending. This chapter addresses all the important angles with the comprehensiveness, the depth, and – most importantly – the authority of Rabbi Bleich, which simply knows no peer in America. This makes it an important tool in restoring safety to our communities. Parents need to read it, and to hold the feet of their local school administrations to the fire if they are making “concessions” to anti-vaxxers that endanger others.
Rabbi Bleich’s bottom line is unequivocal. “Vaccination of one’s children is unquestionably a parental responsibility.” Let us hope – and work together – to ensure 100% compliance.
Sure. ” Parents need to read it, and to hold the feet of their local school administrations to the fire if they are making “concessions” to anti-vaxxers that endanger others.
but in at least some communities there are poskim who are quoted as supporting the opposition. Who is doing out reach to them? isn’t going directly to the parents undermining the general authority of poskim?
I hope not.
Because we’re believers, we can also have a tendency to believe in quackery disguised as frumkeit, and put ourselves and others at risk.
“Because we’re believers, we can also have a tendency to believe in quackery… ”
Jonathan Rosenblum mentioned this in “Lessons from a Tragedy” (6/06), “Torah Jews base their lives upon their intense belief in Hashem, Whose existence cannot be demonstrated by our five senses. Sometimes that leads us to the logical fallacy of concluding that the less empirically supported or scientifically-based a particular therapy is the better. That can be a fatal fallacy.”
He also quoted Rabbi Nachman Bulman who commented about ” someone he observed going from one alternative remedy to another that such behavior had the taint of avodah zara about it”.
My nature is such that when it comes to studying Torah books, I much prefer those that are historical, philosophical, and/or theological in nature, so that, for example, I enjoy reading what little of the more philosophical works of the Rambam that I have read so far, and within the Talmud, I find the Aggadic portions of it far more interesting than its major component, which of course is Halacha. Nevertheless, Rabbi J David Bleich’s works on Halacha are so compelling, that if I am going to read any work on the intricacies of Jewish law, it will be his books…as well as the Rambam’s Mishna Torah, if only I had more courage to do so.
As for the specific issue of contagious diseases breaking out within the Orthodox Jewish community thanks to the reluctance of some of its members to take immunity shots, hopefully such outbreaks of such serious diseases will bring those people back to their senses. I am no health expert, of course, but common sense, combined with what little I have read on the subject, tells me that taking such shots on a consistent basis is a really good idea.