Tuesday, March 08, 2016


Are Vaccines, or even Doctors, Permitted by Jewish (Religious) Law?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

image Frequent commentor Neshama wrote the following on our vaccine articles…

…HaShem gave each of us an immune system to fight off disease. Your subtlety about taking nutrients is less than honest, when it has been found that cancer cells were included in vaccines. It's a disservice to readers to present flimsy anecdotal info to present as positive a negative. I realize this may be what you really believe, but Rabbi Mizrachi stated clearly that illness comes from a spiritual source and from HaShem, and one should beseech HaShem for forgiveness and healing BEFORE going to your doctor. "Once upon a time" medicine was less lethal than it is today.

This leads to some very valid Jewish Torah related questions (together with the picture quote, which is “I am G-d your Healer” from the Torah)…  WHEN do we go to the doctor, WHEN do we trust the doctor, WHEN do we only trust in Hashem to heal?

And at the time I’m writing this, please say some tehillim from HaRav Chaim HaKohein ben Eshter, my rav who is undergoing a heart procedure today.

(via Chabad.org, by Rabbi Aryeh Citron)  The Book of Numbers 1 relates how the Jews spoke out against G‑d and Moses. Their punishment was an invasion of poisonous snakes. When the Jews asked Moses to pray for them, he did, and G‑d told him to place a copper snake upon a high pole. Anyone who had been bitten by a snake would look up at the copper snake and survive.

The Mishnah 2 says that it is not that the snake gave healing or death. Rather, the Jew would look up at his Father in heaven and devote his heart to him, and in this merit he would be saved…

While we must recognize that every illness is a message from G‑d and take appropriate spiritual action, trusting that healing ultimately comes from G‑d alone, at the same time, we may, and must, use medicines that have healing powers. 5

The Torah gives permission to a doctor to heal, it is mandatory for an ill person to go to a doctor to be treated, and not rely on a miracle. One who does not do so is considered to be spilling blood. 6 While it is true that had the person merited, he would not have become sick in the first place, now that he is sick, he needs to seek treatment. 7

There is discussion amongst the poskim (halachic authorities) as to whether the Torah recognizes the validity of one system of medicine over another.  Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, said that generally the Torah allows one to choose which form of treatment one wishes to use. However, when it is a life or death matter, and the two forms of treatment are mutually exclusive, then the Torah gives primacy to the form of treatment that is used by a majority of people (in accordance with the principle of acharei rabim lehatot – follow the majority), which today would mean Western medicine.

1. Chapter 21:4-9.  2. Rosh Hashanah 3:8.  5. Brachot 10b and Maharsha.  6. Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh De'ah 336.  7. Taz on the Code, ibid.

We’ve established that doctors are allowed to heal, as long as the patient realizes that the cure is ultimately via G-d.  When must a patient go to the doctor?

(From The Torah Physician, 1.1) Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 26:11, condensed :  The righteous of the earlier generations did not consult physicians. Since they realized that sin causes sickness, they would go to a prophet to find out what transgression caused their illness. Thus, we see that King Chezchiyahu consulted the Prophet Yeshaya when he was sick.(Melachim 2 20:1-3) He did not consult a physician. Even after the destruction of the Second Temple there were those who conducted themselves in this fashion. The Gemara (Horios 14a) states that during the twenty-two years that Rabbah led the Jewish People, Rav Yosef never consulted a physician. In the ancient world, the righteous would rely solely on Hashem to heal them.

Those who were not as righteous would consult physicians concerning their health and seek natural means for cure. Hashem would bring their cure through natural means. Hashem conducted Himself with each individual according to the path that the individual chose for himself. (Berachos 60a)  The Torah gives a physician permission to heal. It does not give a patient explicit permission to consult a physician.

Tzitz Eliezer, Vol. 8, simmon 15, ch. 17 : In our generation, it is not possible to conduct ourselves in this manner (at the very least, no prophets to clearly identify the spiritual cause). To rely on solely spiritual means for cure would be to rely on miracles. The Torah forbids a person to rely on miracles. Therefore, when a person is sick the Torah expects him to seek appropriate medical care. This is the proper course of behavior. "A person who does not conduct himself in this fashion is foolish, negligent, and will be required by Heaven to give an accounting for his behavior."

Chovos haLevavos, Sha’ar haBitachon, Ch. 4 : The patient and the doctor must always remember that the cure is neither dependent on the skill of doctor nor the strength of medicine. One’s life and death and health and sickness are in the hands of Hashem. What happens to the individual is what the Creator deems as the best choice for him. Nevertheless, it is a person’s duty to strive to maintain his health by means that are naturally conducive to that end.

We have now further established that since we are not in the time of the prophets, we are required to see doctors if ill...and take steps to maintain health.  (Of course we should pray for recovery and repent of sins when illness occurs as a first step.) 

What about when doctors opinions differ, or when the majority says one thing (vaccinate for example) while a minority says no?

Lubavitcher Rebbe, Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 50 :  …our Sages, of blessed memory, have stated that healing comes through “a specific medication and a particular healer,” etc., without [his ability to succeed in healing] being limited to his greatness and renown…

Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIV, p. 185 : With regard to that which you write about your health [and the differing opinions of the doctors as to which course of action to follow]:  In a situation where there is — such as you write — disagreement between doctors, you should make a consultation with three doctors and follow the opinion of the majority.

Letter of 15th of Tammuz, 5746: The connection between medical science and Halacha is already inherent in the Torah itself, as our Sages declare, “The Torah brings רפואה to the world.” The meaning of it is not that the Torah negates medical science in any way. On the contrary, the Torah declares that in matters of health, it is necessary to consult a physician and follow his instructions—at the same time not forgetting, of course, that the True Healer is HaShem, and the physician is no more than the agent of “The Healer of all flesh Who works wondrously.”

In medical science there are two basic areas of approach: (a) therapeutic medicine and (b) preventive medicine. The first deals with medical disorders brought to the physician’s attention for actual treatment. The second, which has been gaining an increasingly greater role in modern times, is to attain the highest possible level of public health through the prevention of sickness by such methods as vaccination, public and personal hygiene, wholesome diets, and by various other ways and means.

Needless to say, while there is no getting away now from the need of therapeutic medicine, preventive medicine is, ideally, the more desirable method. In the long term, it is surely also more desirable from every point of view, including cost, etc., not to mention the prevention of pain and suffering, G‑d forbid. Also, in preventive medicine there is no need for recourse to radical means, such as surgery and the like, which, unfortunately, is part of curative medicine.

For preventive medicine to be most successful and effective, it is necessary to start it from earliest childhood—beginning with vaccination, brushing one’s teeth to prevent cavities, a balanced diet, and so forth. In regard to Jewish children, it calls for strict observance of the laws of Kashrus of foods and beverages, and it is well known how it affects mental and physical development.

Thus, when our Sages declare that the Torah brings a רפואה to the world, it refers not only to spiritual health, but also to plain physical and mental health as well. Indeed, so we find it explicitly in the Divine promise in the Torah: “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of HaShem, your G‑d, and will obey His commandments and keep all His statutes—none of the diseases . . . will I put on you, for I, HaShem, am your Healer," (Exod. 15:26). Here is a clear assurance that the Torah and Mitzvoth are the real preventive Refuo. Moreover, while the Torah is the most effective preventive medicine, it is also the most pleasant one, as it is written, “Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.”

Needless to say, this is not the only, nor the main, purpose of the Torah and Mitzvoth, which, essentially, have to do with קדושה and G‑dliness, and are primarily concerned with the eternal life of the נשמה, etc., etc. But we are speaking here of Torah in relation to physical health, especially that of children…

Western Medicine is by no means perfect, it does however generally learn over time and adjust appropriately  (example – salt in diet was bad until low-salt diets were shown to increase heart attacks more than the high salt) .  And yes, there’s too much money involved in the pharmaceutical industry, resulting in “cheating” with reformulations and new medicines that are barely better than the old ones at 10 times the cost.  BUT if there is no profit motive, there’s no interest in the extensive and very expensive research needed to find new health solutions. 

Lives are being lived longer every year (life expectancy increasing).  AND lives are being lived healthier, with diseases and conditions eliminated or controlled at a livable level.  Statistics from many countries clearly show this (and while statistics could be manipulated in a country, they couldn’t be in every country.) 

Vaccines have eliminated many of the most horrible diseases, particularly childhood diseases, from modern civilization.  Are some people hurt by them, yes.  But many times less than would be hurt by the diseases.

Can risk be reduced?  Can some vaccines be eliminated or avoided?  Seems to me yes.  But when the risk increases, so does the reason for the vaccine.

Advising a 75 year old man to avoid the flu shot – when flu and pneumonia induced from flu are the #2 killers at that age – is nuts!  On the other hand, few people from age 14 to 50 will die of the flu or get pneumonia (unless they have other conditions that make them susceptible – such as asthma), therefore it’s reasonable to avoid the (very low) risks of a flu vaccine.  (Though the flu epidemic of 1918 primarily struck and killed people ages 20-40.)

I should note this winter in Israel, the charedi news reported the deaths of at least 5 young to middle age MOTHERS from the flu.

Everyone will make their own best decisions, but the statistics do matter.  How many people died of the flu vaccine in Israel this year?  ZERO.  How many died of the flu?

In Israel – “Every year, about 20 to 30 percent of adults and five to 10 percent of children get the flu.  (In a normal year) About 90 percent of the people who die from flu are 65 or older.  (Death generally occurs because the flu leaves them vulnerable to other diseases, such as severe pneumonia.)”  AS OF 2013, ~500 people died of the flu & pneumonia in Israel (if I did the deaths per 100,000 statistics right).

Be afraid of the vaccine, or be afraid of the disease?  If you’re over 65 (or have any type of respiratory problems), the answer is clear.


  1. "Woe to those who say of the evil that it is good and of the good that it is evil; who present darkness as light and light as darkness, who present bitter as sweet and sweet as bitter." (Yeshayahu 5.20)

  2. טודֶּרֶךְ אֱוִיל יָשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו וְשֹׁמֵעַ לְעֵצָה חָכָם:
    A fool's way is straight in his eyes, but he who listens to advice is a wise man.
    (Mishlei 12:15)

    לבפּוֹרֵעַ מוּסָר מוֹאֵס נַפְשׁוֹ וְשׁוֹמֵעַ תּוֹכַחַת קוֹנֶה לֵּב:
    He who rejects disciplining advice (MUSSAR) despises his life, but he who hearkens to reproof acquires sense
    (Mishlei 15:32)

    טומַצְדִּיק רָשָׁע וּמַרְשִׁיעַ צַדִּיק תּוֹעֲבַת יְהוָה גַּם שְׁנֵיהֶם:
    He who vindicates the wicked and condemns the righteous-both are an abomination to the Lord.
    (Mishlei 17:15)

  3. (example – salt in diet was bad until low-salt diets were shown to increase heart attacks more than the high salt)
    Where is your Data? As far back as the 1970s they have linked Salt to High Blood Pressure, a major killer. The McGovern Report http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-mcgovern-report/

  4. Let's this blog fully disclose all its donors, who contribute to its financial support - and you'll surely discover some connections to the Big Pharma and maybe even to the government, who may pay them for influencing us in certan ways they like us to be influenced. Follow the money ! We can hear a sweet tune of the music of Big Pharma lies in every one of your misguided and misguiding words, Akiva ! You can't fool us !

  5. Yakov - Here's my source...

    Wall Street Journal, Aug 2014 - Current guidelines from U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and other groups set daily dietary sodium targets between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams or lower, well below the average U.S. daily consumption of about 3,400 milligrams.

    The new study, which tracked more than 100,000 people from 17 countries over an average of more than three years, found that those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day had a 27% higher risk of death or a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke in that period than those whose intake was estimated at 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams. Risk of death or other major events increased with intake above 6,000 milligrams.

    The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are the latest to challenge the benefit of aggressively low sodium targets—especially for generally healthy people. Last year, a report from the Institute of Medicine, which advises Congress on health issues, didn't find evidence that cutting sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams reduced risk of cardiovascular disease."

  6. Anonymous - sure, no problem, here's my disclosure...

    This blog receives no funding or financial support from any organization or business. This blog does not accept or post sponsored articles, nor sponsored key words.

    We occasionally receive a few unsolicited personal donations for support of the blog, via our "support our blog" button, via Paypal. These come with no message or instructions, just a name and donation. They are all personal donations, no organizational ones.

    We do run Jewish holiday charity campaigns for donations, and raise a few thousand dollars. Such donations, via Paypal, come with no message or instructions, just a name and donation. They are all personal donations, no organizational ones.

    I have never worked for any pharmaceutical company, nor has any member of my family.

  7. Move on, the troll is full of fear and endless conspiracies that full it!

  8. sorry, that's 'Fuel' it!

  9. Wall Street Journal, Aug 2014 A source for Medical Advice? How about NutritionFacts.org | The Latest in Nutrition Related Research http://nutritionfacts.org/ The latest in nutrition related research delivered in easy to understand video segments brought to you by Dr. Michael Greger M.D.
    This is a good start Where you can download the latest peer reviewed medical articles on health. Just Google lifestyle medicine.
    Big Food like Big Tobacco will pull the wool over your eyes to make a buck.Their main ingredients are subsidized Sugar and Salt. both Killers - Diabetes and High Blood Pressure.

  10. Yakov,

    I agree with you! The WSJ article was reviewing a series of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, stating that very low sodium diets were showing the inverse affect of increasing heart attacks. Seems the body needs a base level of salt to function optimally.

    The fact that people are consuming 2-10 times the amount needed for base functioning of course causes a problem. But the opposite, dropping to 1/2 the base amount ALSO causes a problem.

  11. Akiva, in support of the Torah's view that one should, as a second step, seek medical attention, see this article, Parents on Trial etc. I agree that at some point one should seek medical attention, being at least a diagnosis. If the diagnosis is benign then treat the ill with natural means; however, if the diagnosis is very serious, one is to seek medical intervention.

    This family was ignorant.

  12. @Yaakov Butterfeld

    A few things, Yaakov.

    1. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out, it is a Torah command to guard one's health. ...and, Dr's were given permission to heal. see here for starters, if you aren't familiar with it already.

    2. McGovern was a politician, not a scientist. Surely you don't think you can trust the government any more than Doctors?

    3. Here is an excellent presentation, in which a number of things we think we "know" are shown to be false. Also, he briefly mentions mentions McGovern's role in how that happened.


  13. Sorry, but I meant to include this short video of Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump on Vaccines and Autism, with which I completely agree.

    As to salt, I think Akiva has covered that adequately.



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