Wednesday, August 18, 2021

‘You’re crazy, a heretic’: Senior Haredi rabbi kicks out anti-vaxxer student

Leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi kicked out a man attending his lecture on Sunday evening due to the man’s opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine.

In video footage of the incident published Tuesday by Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, the rabbi can be seen repeatedly calling the man “crazy” and “evil.” He later said he stood behind those descriptions.

After the anti-vaxxer started loudly voicing his opinions against the vaccine, Mutzafi, who ordered all his followers to get the vaccine earlier this year, was seen shouting: “More than 6,500 people died, stop making things up. Go, get out of here, you’re crazy.”


  1. What's fascinating is that one of the principles of this community is "We do what our Gedolim say!" Well the Gedolim said to get the vaccine. Oh well, suddenly...

  2. Well, no, one is not required to follow a Psak if one knows the facts are other than what was ruled on.


    Someone brings a chicken post-slaughter to the Rabbi of the city with a question about the chicken's Kashrus status. The Rabbi rules the chicken is Kosher.

    Next the person brings a different chicken to someone who is learned and lives in the same city with a question about its status and the learned person rules this second chicken is not Kosher.

    The Rabbi finds out about the learned person's ruling and mistakenly thinks the learned person ruled on the same chicken the Rabbi ruled on. To establish the principle that the Rav of the city must be followed in these matters, the Rav orders the learned man to eat the second chicken.

    So the Rabbi has the facts wrong. Is the learned man required to eat the chicken?

    The answer is he is not required.

    I do not want to wade into the question of the safety of the vaccines. But if someone had solid evidence the vaccines were dangerous and/or ineffective, he would not be required to vaccinate despite his Rav ruling he must.

  3. And what happened to "And thou shalt listen to them even if they tell you right is left and left is right?"

  4. "if someone had solid evidence the vaccines were dangerous and/or ineffective, he would not be required to vaccinate despite his Rav ruling he must."
    He cannot have evidence the rest of us lack. All the evidence is public knowledge. You defend a fraudulent approach to Judaism.

  5. The TZaddikim of the Yerushalmi rejected it as false, brainwashing anti-Torah hogwash!

  6. Nothing. If the Rabbi examines the second chicken and rules it is Kosher, then it is Kosher despite the learned man saying it is not.

  7. What didn't you understand?
    "If someone has solid evidence" is a false premise.
    We all have the evidence. It's all public. All the evidence points to the lack of danger from the vaccinations. That is the understanding of infectious disease specialists that informed the Rav's opinion on the matter.
    Some regular joe saying, "I have special knowledge" does not qualify for the ruling you cited here that he could disobey his Rav because all that supposed "knowledge" spread by antivaxers is falsehood rather than actual facts.

  8. Are you serious?

    A sentence beginning with "If" is a conditional sentence, a premise as you put it.

    Do you believe it is impossible that ongoing research cannot discover something that would contribute to the understanding of the effects of the vaccine?

    Science in general, and medical science in particular, is full of cases where the accepted wisdom, based on available evidence, is overturned either by new evidence being discovered, or the old evidence being reexamined in a more rigorous way.

    I never said that he "could" disobey. I said, as you yourself quoted me, "if someone had solid evidence."

    Now let's quote you. "We have all the evidence." We do? No, we do not. Here is a piece of evidence we don't have. We don't know the longterm effects -- if any -- of the vaccines.

    What we do have is a track record of other vaccines being generally safe. And while other vaccines, like this one, sometimes harm people, in rare cases giving someone the very condition which they are being vaccinated against, something not possible with the covid vaccines, or causing death or serious side effects, something which has happened with these covid vaccines.

    These serious side effects from the covid vaccines have appeared soon after the vaccine was administered. One could imagine that a researcher, using a computational model, might be able to find possible serious longterm effects. Were such a scientists research to pass peer review and be published, it would be new evidence we don't currently have.

    But as I said, at a minimum we do not know there are longterm side effects because the only way I believe one can know the longterm side effects is to wait several years.

    So, again, your statement that all evidence is in is patently false.

  9. This is exactly what I'm talking about. All the evidence available leads to recommendations of ID specialists that people should get vaccinated, the rav paskens accordingly, and you sit here saying that some guy in his garage is going to make a discovery (on an acid trip or what?), or there is some "unknown" and unknowable factor that we should all worry about that the ID specialists for some strange reason pretended didn't exist or overlooked, even though they know more about the topic than you or the guy in his garage, and this guy in his garage has special knowledge that means he can disobey his Rav. Nope! No special knowledge is in his potato chips bag on his couch.

    Bla bla bla long term side effects shmide effects. Antivaxers are all the same. Spouting off nonsense.

  10. You have conflated "data" with "evidence" and have as well discounted historical evolution both of evidence and of he operative decision framework(s). Two-to-three fallacies in one fell swoop. I've come to expect nothing less from you!

  11. Data in science is subject to interpretation, analysis, statistical inference etc. But there has been enormous work on that. In clinical trials, the study design is important, as the data might not be meaningful in poorly designed trials.
    So you are speaking on a phenomenological level, but that alone does not dispel the validity of the evidence.
    We are entering the phase of 2nd generation covid vaccines - which are designed to deal with more variants of the virus.

  12. Where do you expect this average Joe to scrap up his "evidence" from???? Data is the type of evidence used to evaluate medications and vaccinations. Not fantasies, not theoretical fears, and not baloney in the latest youtube videos of the frum self-styled so-called "covid experts." And not meaningless anecdotes.
    Rather than cite some more philosophy of science woo woo to sound authoritative, why don't you make your argument here explicitly? Say what you want to say. Tell me about your secret evidence that no ID specialist is aware of

  13. Ranting as usual.... No time for that.

    A sincere Jew, I hold out hope that individuals can change. Suspect I'll be waiting a while, though!

  14. He's not ranting - are you disputing the safety of the vaccines or their effectiveness?

  15. Of course I'm not. You don't need me to tell you that; reading the thread suffices.

    But imagine you went to a doctor for a professional opinion, and he not only opined but told you there be no room for a second opinion and whoever says differently is a fraud. Such a quack not to be trusted... and, yes, it would be because indeed he's launched into a far less-than-professional rant.

  16. That example is correct.
    But there is a lot of anti VAX quackery which you also must scrutinize.

  17. Not a rant in any part of my comment. A direct challenge to you though. And a cowardly response that avoided directly answering it. Oh, well.

  18. This is a false analogy which reflects your misunderstanding of the topic.
    I am not referring to any one doctor's lone opinion.
    In addition, when a doctor/patient gets a second opinion, it does not come from the patient himself (and whatever he cooked up on youtube), but from *Another Expert* ie Another specialist. These are now 2 areas in which you completely misconstrued the discussion.

  19. It's right there in your Comment: you engage in a whole dialectical maasa umattan on a claim that no one's making. (Recall that I wasn't trying to defend not taking vaccines. It so happens I'm long vaccinated myself, but that's beside the point....)

    The point at issue is whether your blanket dismissal in principle is remotely defensible. All that stuff you were replying to was projected by you yourself....

    Now, what's that called, when someone gets triggered into a whole back'n'forth with themselves alone, as if they're engaged with others but missing them & the point entirely...? Is there a verb for that, I wonder...?

  20. 2) Is not false, he is saying that data is in the public domain. The question may remain for various subgroups - eg do children under 18 need it? And if so for themselves or to prevent it spreading?

    What if someone already had covid and has antibodies? what if the individual had litlte symptoms with covid?

    So for the set of people who are covid naiive (in a clinical sense as opposed to psychological) and are adults and thus at risk, you would struggle to find a respectable anti-vax opinion. There might be one, but it is far out of the mainstream and consenus.

    Also, your analogy of Talmudic reasoning is very nice and grand, but may also be fallacious. There is not much reliable science in Talmudical argumentation, and there is - AFAIK - no discussion of vaccination. Presumably sicne vacicnes had not yet been discovered.

    BTW - a year ago people were still blabbering on about hydroxychloroquine - even a few medical practitioners. Today, it is no longer being touted by anyone, not even Bolsonaro.

    Why did all the anti-vaxxers latch on HCQ, when there was no evidence to support it? The argument was that it is a cheap, safe, proven treatment. The argument was fallacious, except for the cheap part.

    I am not acusing you of supporting HCQ, but pointing out that you are missing certain things about science, and in particular pharmaceutical science.

    Also, scientific scrutiny does not always follow philosophic or talmudic logic, but often has its own logic , which is perhaps more robust. Philosophy has not really produced much in the last 100 years, whereas science has. So one of the leading philosphers in America had to adopt a neuroscience appraoch to the mind-body problem which has dogged philosophy for the last 200 years.

    One last word - and since you are talmudically inclined - Rav Yaakov Emden, the towering Torah giant, was a great admirer of science, but a great opponent of philosophy!

  21. It's always interesting to read your posts even /especially when you disagree with me.
    Briefly , as I'm on my treif phone, rav Emden opposed moreh hanevuchim - which brings logical arguments as well as philosophy - so you'd need to point out your lines of distinction.
    On Philosophy of science - do you think scientists don't learn their trade in science classes and instead approach philosophers of science on how to do research? Philosophy of science is fun , it is often science educated authors who switch disciplines to become philosophers. Popper and Kuhn fell into thus category, whereas imre Lakatos did a philosophy and physics degree, then went into Phil of science and mathematics.
    There is a rabbi in Jerusalem who used to be a philosopher of mathematics, and in fact he once wrote that ontology is the step child of philosophy.

    I'll try to address your more substantive points later, but thank you, as always, for your critique of my comments.


  23. It's great to be called creatively stupid. ..

    Alas "The only points one need understand for scientific work is the difference between principle, fact, & definition; within principles the difference between axiom, assumption, & conclusion; and how, via elementary reasoning of propositions or of terms, reasoning can attest to a principle underlying a set of facts"

    I'm not convinced that helps you to understand science, or even how to reach a conclusion from data. Perhaps it is your version of searle's Chinese room thought experiment. It will help you to identify or classify information, but not to understand the science. For example, in thermodynamics, you can isolate principle, Eg laws of thermodynamics, facts , Eg temperature, pressure , energy levels of atoms and particles, - definition , well that can apply to many things. But distinguishing between these alone won't help you understand or predict whether a particular chemical reaction will take place. Aristotle wouldn't understand based on his knowledge alone, and neither did Rambam the scientist. Without a modern scientific education, one will be confused and arrive at erroneous conclusions.

  24. "whether your blanket dismissal in principle of someone being on the fence or weighing alternatives is remotely defensible"

    Did you read the previous parts of the thread before chiming in? Because this isn't what the thread is about.
    My responses were to Joseph Orlow. Perhaps you should read his post again. Since you were defending his comments/argument, it was reasonable to assume you understood what was being discussed, but it's now clear this was a bad assumption.

    Nowhere did I say a person cannot take time to weigh alternatives or think about the matter.
    Joseph Orlow's original premise was, as clearly stated in his original comment: "Well, no, one is not required to follow a Psak if one knows the facts are other than what was ruled on."
    Bold added for emphasis because that is the key part I argued against.
    He suggested this is applicable to the question of Covid vaccination, when it isn't. (And it implies that indeed the matter was weighed, and the individual has some special knowledge or secret evidence that wasn't available to the ID specialists on which the psak was based. Otherwise you'll have to explain what are the "facts other than what was ruled on"). You lost the plot. "Self-styled experts" are exactly at issue with Joseph Orlow's formulation and defense of frum antivaxers. The fact that you didn't recognize that makes me believe you either attacked without carefully reading the thread, or you didn't understand what you were reading.

    It is funny what you cite as your prior examples of my reasoning being bad. Among other things, you listed Aish kiruv as the supposed "support" for Rambam's dietary advice being sacrosanct to a reasonable person. Where they review the book that you also cite.
    Except there too it's all an amalgam of woo woo, as you added to this thread. It is a complete straw man that "modern medicine/doctors" eschew nutrition. It is modern *people who do that, and become unhealthy, in many cases forcing modern medicine to need to treat them.
    Whatever is correct about Rambam's dietary guidelines, we know to be correct from modern scientific understanding. Don't overeat, don't gain weight, and regularly exercise are all common knowledge today proven to be better for people's health and there is not a doctor who will say otherwise. Presenting it as a chiddush is disingenuous. The logic here that because Rambam said it, it's true, not because of all the modern day evidence we have for it, is folly. The basis for anything else he claimed medically needs to be evaluated and it'd make about 0 sense to assume all other things true because some of the other medical things he might have said align with our modern understanding. You referred to "accepting" the Rambam's health recommendations (which implies wholesale acceptance of all, like a chasid) in a defense of smoking, in the face of a mountain of evidence we have today that it is harmful. And my reasoning is bad! lol.
    Rambam was right that you shouldn't overeat, therefore I should accept his advice about smoking tobacco because we have to be devotees about whatever he said? And you expect me to call this intelligent thought?

  25. "Look, it’s pretty simple: If someone mistakes a counter-example for an
    analogy, they’ve erred in their formal reasoning, not their material
    beliefs, and have “committed a fallacy”."

    That is true -

    in pharmaceutical science - which deals with (amongst other things) drug -disease interaction, there will always be counter examples. There will be people who are seemingly immune to the covid virus; those who do not get serious symptoms , and also those who react badly to the vaccine , or those who die from it.
    When drug developers and doctors say that a drug is "safe" , they mean for a majority of the population, or maybe a large majority, eg 95% or more.

    But is your point only that he made a formal error in dismissing your counter-example as an analogy?
    In which case we are at risk of entering a technical debate which is good to a degree but is not neccesarily consequential. Perhaps it would be consequential if his intepreation of scientific data was falalcious, but i don't think it is. BTw, i had a similar discussion about HCQ in its last days with Biotech O, and he dismissed my comments, quite correctly - although technically it was possible that the final trials might uncover some benefit. I think that last trial was called off. There is a concept of a futility study in clinical trials, it is a kind of pseik resha, where there is no point in conducting any further research in an area which is already demonstrated as being dead.
    There are other vaccines which have a possibly higher rate of adverse events, and have allegedly caused neurological damage to a number of young people. it is not proven conclusively whether this in fact is caused by the vaccine, and it is "difficult" to do this for commercial and psychological reasons.

  26. great article, here he points to both philosophy and logic.

    And both accuses and then absolves Maimonides of having written such bad book.

  27. what did Rambam say about about smoking tobacco, as it was introduced from America? Perhaps smoking other herbs, which is probably also dangerous. Who made the jump to tobacco?, which was not introduced to Europe/old world until Columbus came back from the Americas.

  28. Not sure if anything specifically but passaic friend claims in that thread that because it has digestive benefits, therefore Rambam *would have* recommended it on that basis, and if one chooses to be a chasid of Rambam's medical advice.... and all the understanding of its harms is so new and recent... and some such....

  29. It's great to be called creatively stupid.Well, in all fairness to me it was a fairly ludicrous argument. I stand by my assessment... so am mightily pleased that, ever the gentleman, you're cool with it. Hat off to you... And at least it's creativity you're channeling. Today's stupidity may pave way for tomorrow's ingenuity, eh?

    So what’s with this fixation on philosophy? Surely didn’t proceed from me in this thread. I broached the subject as an aside in reply to you, you’ll recall... I had deemed your reference thereto entirely fallacious (part of a “creatively stupid” argument, to be precise!), but, not one to leave you hanging in misconception, I decided to branch off digressively just to let you know how misinformed the statement was as well, even though, ebing fallacious, that didn't really matter.

    Anyway, since you ask… of course, what you say is true. I hadn’t actually contemplated it myself, had never thought to ask whether schooling in philosophy of science would make one a more effective scientist.

    But why should philosophy of science differ from any other branch of philosophy?! After all, does being versed in philosophy of language improve one’s ability to self-express verbally, or to learn/teach languages? Does philosophy of mathematics make one a better solver of problems in calculus or a more insightful proof constructor in geometry? Philosophy is fundamentally un-productive. In fact, one needs to cease the productive activity one is engaged in doing in order to begin contemplating that activity philosophically.

    This feature, of course, is right there in the name from ancient times: Gk. philo-sophia = Heb. chokhma [sought/acquired] mei-ahava. It is that which is intrinsically worth investigating, as it assesses the meaning of things -- a pursuit ‘valuable’ in itself by itself, and one that, in the vocabulary ofChaz”l, is engaged with lishma.

    (Perhaps this helps explain why the Rambam would identify it -- however it is he that means that identification -- with sisrei Torah?)

    So what you observe is not un-true… except that it’s trivially true. What you’ve concluded is true of all philosophy, not just philosophy of science, and is true pretty much just on principle. Thus, in two regards: No chiddush to be found here!

    Besof sof, philosophy is intrinsically beautiful, giving meaning to our endeavors. And each of us either appreciates that or not, just as we either have an ear for music or not. And art, etc… As the saying goes: "No accounting for tastes!" (Al taam vereiach, etc...)

    Btw, pure math is the same way. Math that’s applied is a small sliver of the whole (set of) field(s) that is math. Math by and large exists and is pursued by mathematicians mostly for its beauty, secondarily for its utility. And while logic may serve as “a canon for the understanding” (Kant’s phrase), it would appear from the writings of the Aristotelians that they regarded it foremost as just this kind of discipline as well, one that, like philosophy and (pure) math, is lishma, the byproduct of which was the tremendous utility we encounter from it, derekh agav.

  30. Well, you’re right that the Ya’avetz was clearly not on board with the Rambam’s use of logic. But I’m happy to live with that qasha. Unfortunately, the texts excerpted in the J. J. Schacter piece R’ Eidensohn thoughtfully provided us do not clarify very precisely the nature of the Ya'avetz' misgivings, but on one foot I’d think it most easily addressed by the fact that the Ya’avetz was a Mequbbal and the Rambam’s Moreh expressly connects philosophical principles to some hinted-at kabbalistic doctrine, and that that connection so vexed the Ya’avetz’ worldview as to convince him that it must be some forgery passed off in the Rambam’s name. In other words, I would think it’s the Kabbalistic claims that have triggered the Ya’avetz profound misgivings, not the philosophy per se. But of course that’s my speculation, and he does cite the Mishnah against the Rambam…. I admit I can't make much sense of it. This text is a curious read!

    Why “logic” would fall under the Ya’avetz’ curricular condemnation isn’t so clear from this explanation, but, again, as is readily evident from the text(s) excerpted, he doesn’t go into the details of his hesbara but rather just sorta proclaims how it is he holds….

    In any case, for the Rambam it would seem that logic & philosophy are indeed separate. He identifies philosophy several times as a helpful union of some central Aristotelian physics & Aristotelian metaphysics -- or, alternatively understood, as a core of doctrines that he can helpfully hint at to his reader with each of those, or that underlie them, or… well, pick your interpretation. But from several places it seems ‘physics’ (which includes zoology in that ancient scheme) plus ‘metaphysics’, for Rambam together equal ‘philosophy’. ‘Logic’, by contrast, is grouped with disciplines like mathematics both pure (geometry, arithmetic) & applied (astronomy, harmonics) that are preparatory disciplines, helpfully training the mind.

    Of note is that the Rambam authored a separate treatise just treating of the subject of logic. Is his first work, produced in his late teens.

  31. It's a very interesting question , and my feeling is that the Yaavetz was bothered more at Rambam's taamei hamitzvot - which leads to certain anti halachic conclusions. For example his pshat use of eye for an eye implies a karaite understanding of the law even if not explicit.
    On mysticism, they eventually were on the same page - did Rambam influence the yavetz?

  32. They all have their time and place , and actually I moved from philosphy of science to Economics of science and innovation, which then led me to study pharmaceuticals from an economic and policy perspective.

    Btw, in my current reading of Koheleth, I see it as a work of philosphy par excellence, and this becomes a a book to strengthen emunah in its conclusion - though I haven't found the logical step that leads to his conclusion.

  33. But is your point only that he made a formal error in dismissing your counter-example as an analogy?
    In which case we are at risk of entering a technical debate which is good to a degree but is not neccesarily consequential. Perhaps it would be consequential if his intepreation of scientific data was falalcious, but i don't think it is.Well, it’s a matter of removing ourselves from stupidity. If you, say, vote for the "right" person in every election, but only by virtue of drinking kool-aid to the point that you unknowingly flip-flop in your stated principles every four years to justify whom it is you want to vote for, is being that confused actually "of consequence", when in fact a clearer mind would not have changed your votes?

  34. OK, can you just help me, and point out what your counter example was , which he called an analogy? And what was it countering?

  35. The Rambam deems Sefer Iyov a sacred work of philosophy (Moreh III.22-23). The Malbim's perush (actually available in English by Weisberg & Kazarnovsky - Brand Name Publishing, 2012) runs with that mehalakh and explicates the philosphical discourse that unfolds with each line. It's an intellectual masterpiece that lays bare some of the most poetically beautiful lines ever written.

    Note: In line with what we've noted above, it will not succeed in making you "better" at life in any way. Only far closer to God.

  36. What struck me like a hammer was his statement that even just on the basis of the Rambam's rationlist explanation of qorbanos alone should the Moreh be burned.



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