Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a powerful ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi with hundreds of thousands of followers, a man often referred to as the Prince of Torah, endorsed the COVID booster shot this week. Throughout the pandemic, Rabbi Kanievsky has not always been supportive of measures designed to curb the pandemic in Israel. He initially refused to close yeshivas, arguing that the rampant spread of the virus made study and prayer essential. However, Rabbi Kanievsky, who, at 92 years of age has battled and beat COVID himself, eventually gave in and closed yeshivas. He has ordered his community to observe social distancing and stated wearing a mask is a religious obligation grounded in Jewish law. The rabbi equated those who failed to observe laws designed to protect the community from the dangers of COVID to murderers. Late last year, Rabbi Kanievsky and other ultra-Orthodox rabbis encouraged people to get vaccinated. In a statement, the rabbis said that the vaccine has been proven safe by the medical community and “anyone who has the option of getting the vaccine should do it.”.
Judaism urges us to do everything in our power to protect ourselves and those we love against dangerous diseases. Vaccinations are seen as an integral part of pikuach nefesh, the Jewish concept that the preservation of life takes precedence over virtually everything else. The Talmud teaches us: kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, all of Israel, we are responsible for each other (Shevuot 39a) When leading scientists, doctors and other health experts agree that a vaccine will save lives, getting the vaccine is the Jewish thing to do. This is why rabbis across the vast Jewish spectrum, including Rabbi Haim Kanievsky in Israel, where some can get a booster, and me right here in South Florida, actually agree and are urging people to get the COVID vaccine.
In our own neighborhood, hospitals are filling up with unvaccinated people of all ages infected with COVID. Health experts are asking those who are not yet vaccinated to get the shot. Cheryl and I know of too many people who chose not to get vaccinated who are now extremely sick, some of them in the hospital in very serious condition. We’re both asking you to protect yourselves, protect your loved ones, protect our community. Get vaccinated.

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