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As of late, there has been a controversy in various Jewish communities around the world. Certain Rabbis and certain individuals have actively circumvented the preventative measures to help stop the Coronavirus. In specific instances there have been leaders outright arguing Coronavirus is less dangerous than closing Yeshivas to prevent Coronavirus.

My question relates to the nature of murder in Jewish law. I understand that disease may have not been fully fleshed out (in terms of scientific understanding of diease at the time) when our murder laws were first codified and established. That being said, does Halacha exist which is specific to the spread of disease (the reckless spread of disease through a lack of care and the resulting deaths that may follow) and how a Jew may be held liable for disease death in the same way they would other forms of reckless death.

If a Rabbi didn't take the issue seriously enough and their community suffered deaths as a result of not following through on the virus prevention techniques, are they not considered responsible for not decreeing changes to practice for safety?

  • Weddings were held regardless of the gathering ban.
  • Minyans were held regardless of the gathering ban.
  • Yeshivas aren't closed even when local secular officials have declared a state of emergency and require closures.
  • Mikvahs were kept open regardless of the disease risk.

We now know how this is spreading and we know for a fact that certain types of behavior are causing this to spread faster. The Jewish community as a whole has suffered dearly from inflated infection rates and deaths have followed.

Is there a responsibility on the leadership (whether spiritually or otherwise) which actively ignored preventative measures? What does Halacha have to day about this?

  • We know that yoshiyahu hamelech made a mistake which costed him his life. I believe these 'certain rabbi' made the same mistake thinking that everyone learned like them. I dont think anyone says that yoshiyahu hamelech was responsible for most likely the many deaths he caused. @Michael. – interested Mar 31 at 19:33
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because. – Dr. Shmuel Apr 1 at 0:18
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    @Dr.Shmuel Because why? – DonielF Apr 1 at 1:01
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    Mordechai's answer was deleted, but it's worthwhile as a comment: Rabbi Kaniyevski and Rabbi Eidelstine, the ones who put out the original ruling to keep the schools open under extra sanitary and separation conditions, later came out with statements that one is required to keep to the health ministry's guidelines, and that one who doesn't is... even considered a rodef... So it was always agreed upon that endangering other people's lives is a very serious prohibition. These Rabbanim held at the earlier stages of the outbreak that it wasn't yet enough of a risk to warrant closing the schools. – Fred Apr 1 at 2:59
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    ^^^ Certainly, many people (both followers and critics) seemed to hear only part of what R' Kanievsky said, namely that bitul Torah is an underlying factor that makes the world more susceptible to danger, and that studies in yeshivos should continue. I suspect that R' Kanievsky's more recent ruling came partly because many people ignored the strict conditions of his former ruling. Regardless, I'm not commenting on the correctness of the original ruling, but it is important to point out the context. – Fred Apr 1 at 3:09
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When gedalai was told that someone was planing o killing him, Gedalia ignored it. He said oy, Lashon Hara, But it was letoelet. Many men died because of Gedalia's foolish actions.

The people who died are considered to be on his head. That is why the passuk says these men who gedalia killed.{rashi, Mtzudat david}

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  • There he did was what was wrong. Since he was blamed he most likely knew he was doing wrong. My example seems to prove the opposite. – interested Mar 31 at 21:13
  • Rashi, Mtzudat david where? – Tamir Evan Apr 1 at 4:46
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We should be cautious not to put the blame on any specific rabbi since coronavirus was a natural event. However, the Talmud (I forget the source but the point is definitely there) states that one who is killed due to irresponsibility loses share in the world to come.[1] As I have written previously here, the world works according to the laws of nature. One of these laws is that every act has consequences. Whether or not G-d forgives, the consequences do not go away. For example, David issued a census, announced it publicly, resulting in the murder of tens of thousands of Israelites following David ordering a census.

So in light of David's acts (David also repented), what do we make of the rabbis who refused to close yeshivahs because the "Torah protects"?[2] It is true that Rav Chaim Kanievksy and Rav Gershon Edelstein said that "cancelling yeshivah studies [is] more dangerous than being exposed to coronavirus," but the charedim do not have the internet or FaceBook to learn information about the virus.[3] Although charedim only make up about 10% of the Jewish population in Israel, they encompass 50% of cases. Partly because, despite government demands and Bibi's restrictions, they continued to attend yeshivahs, shuls, mikvahs, and street minyan. In short, Chareidi communities are devastated. This prompted Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Gershon Edelstein to rule that it is forbidden to davven, attend a street minyan, yeshivahs, and shul, and anyone who says otherwise is a rodef must be escorted to the authorities.

It seems that Chareidi Jews are finally taking the coronavirus crisis seriously. However, it is partly not their fault since Chareidi communities are mostly made up of crowded communities. Yet the rabbinic leadership failed to recognize the danger when everyone else was shouting for social distancing.[4] For example, prior to the Holocaust, many Charedi Jews said to stay in Europe because they possessed "Daas Torah." We all know the sad result of that. Now some are saying again that there is no real danger with the coronavirus.

In short, Rabbi Slifkin put it best when he wrote,

"What is "Daas Torah" worth, when the average non-charedi, non ben-Torah, was correct, and Daas Torah was wrong, in a life-and-death matter?!"[5]

[1] For example, reckless driving.

[2] See essay another here (All essays were written by Rabbi Natan Slifkin)

[3] For example, "kosher" phones do not have internet.

[4] See essay here

[5] To see full essay, see here

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    While it's true many charedim lack access to Internet, many of the women do. I think it's an unsubstantiated claim that the initial charedi response to this pandemic was due to a lack of facts about the virus. – robev Mar 31 at 22:44
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    I'm not sure how you can say the coronavirus is "somewhat more deadly" than the Holocaust. – robev Mar 31 at 22:44

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