MJRC Guidance Regarding COVID-19 Vaccination

Title
MJRC Guidance Regarding COVID-19 Vaccination
Description
The following guidance was prepared by the Faith and Halakhic Standards Committee of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council.

The global coronavirus pandemic has left a tragic (and still-rising) death toll and has radically disrupted our communal way of life. Meanwhile, the worldwide scientific endeavor to find solutions for COVID-19 immunity has yielded numerous vaccines in various stages of clinical trial, two of which have been proven (through rigorous testing and approval processes) to be both safe and effective​.​ According to public health experts, ending the pandemic soonest and most safely requires that a substantial proportion of the population be vaccinated.

What does the Torah and our tradition ​teach regarding the obligation to be vaccinated against a virus spreading pandemically?
Date Created
February 4, 2021
Community
Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council
Denomination
Messianic Judaism
extracted text
 

Guidance Regarding COVID-19 Vaccination
The following guidance was prepared by the
Faith and Halakhic Standards Committee of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council
The global coronavirus pandemic has left a tragic (and still-rising) death toll and has radically disrupted
our communal way of life. Meanwhile, the worldwide scientific endeavor to find solutions for COVID-19
immunity has yielded numerous vaccines in various stages of clinical trial, two of which have been
proven (through rigorous testing and approval processes) to be both safe and effective​.​ According to
public health experts, ending the pandemic soonest and most safely requires that a substantial proportion
of the population be vaccinated.
What does the Torah and our tradition ​teach regarding the obligation to be vaccinated against a virus
spreading pandemically?


Torah teaches that we are required to protect our bodies, maintain our health, and take action to
avoid mortal threats: “Take utmost care and guard your lives diligently.”​1



Torah forbids us from putting others in danger: “When you build a new house, you shall make
guardrails for your roof...”​2​ According to Maimonides, this includes a general obligation to
safeguard against setting up any potentially lethal hazard.​3



Messiah Yeshua famously taught that “love your neighbor as yourself” is the second greatest
commandment in the Torah.​4​ When other people’s lives are in danger, we must do what we can to
save them: ​“Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”​5



When an illness has a proven remedy (​refuah bedukah​), we have an obligation to accept it. A
person may not refuse medical intervention if their life is in danger and there is a treating
physician who can save them.​6



Pikuach nefesh​ (the halakhic mandate to save a life in danger) supersedes virtually all other
commandments, demonstrating the high value that Judaism places on preserving human life.​7

In light of the above, as well as the established scientific consensus on the effectiveness of vaccines to
prevent outbreaks​, contemporary decisors rule that halakha encourages and even obligates eligible Jews to
be vaccinated against COVID-19.​8​ In the current health crisis, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a crucial
​Deuteronomy 4:9,15;​ c.f. ​B’rakhot​ 32b
Deuteronomy 22:8
3
Mishneh Torah, ​Hilchot Rotzeach​ 11:4
4
​Mark 12:31, quoting Leviticus 19:18
5
Leviticus 19:16; c.f. Sanhedrin 73a
6
Rabbi Jacob Emden, ​Mor u-Ketzi’ah​, ​Orach Hayim​ 328
7
In the halakhic system, a life-threatening circumstance justifies overriding ​Shabbat (​Yoma ​85a-b), Yom Kippur
(​Yoma​ 82a), kashrut (​Yoma ​83a), and any other negative commandment in the Torah, with only three exceptions:
worship of idols, incest, and bloodshed (​Ketubot 1​ 9a; ​Sanhedrin ​74a).
8
​Additional statements and responsa pertaining to COVID-19 vaccinations include: the ​Orthodox Union /
Rabbinical Council of America’s ​“COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance” (​December 15, 2020​)
https://www.ou.org/covid19/​;​ from the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative Judaism), Rabbi Micah Peltz’s
“Vaccination and Ethical Questions Posed by COVID-19 Vaccines” (January 1, 2021)
https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/2021-01/Vaccination%20and%20Ethical%20Questions%20P
osed%20by%20COVID-19%20Vaccines%20-%20Final.pdf​ and Rabbi David Golinkin’s “Does halakhah require
1
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way of showing love and regard for our neighbor.
Additional halakhic considerations regarding vaccination include:


Non-kosher ingredients: ​Consistent with MJRC Standards decision 3.6 (permitting consumption
of medicines derived from non-kosher ingredients in capsule or elixir form), medicines containing
such ingredients would also be halakhically permissible when administered through injection,
nasal spray, etc.



Ethical concerns regarding cell lines from aborted fetal tissue: ​Contemporary Orthodox
Jewish halakhic authorities draw a distinction between deriving benefit from such tissue (which is
permitted) and colluding in its original procurement (which may be problematic).​9​ ​It is also
important to note that n​ot all vaccines are created from fetal cell lines.​10

We strongly recommend:
1. Medical questions and concerns about COVID-19 vaccination should be addressed in
consultation with one’s personal physician, a licensed medical doctor, whose recommendations
should be followed.
2. During the pandemic, individuals whose doctor recommends vaccination against COVID-19
should see themselves as having an ethical and religious responsibility to be vaccinated, based on
the Torah’s teachings concerning the preservation of life and Yeshua’s emphasis on love for
neighbor.
3. We should ​continue following government health guidelines​11​ and local health official
recommendations regarding COVID-19 vaccination and safety.​12​ We also commend the practices
of social distancing, wearing of masks, and frequent handwashing to mitigate the spread of
infections.

vaccination against dangerous diseases such as measles, rubella, polio and Covid-19?”​ (January 5, 2021)
https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/2021-01/Golinkin%20vaccination%20final.pdf​; the Union of
Reform Judaism’s “Special Covid-19 Message” (January 8, 2021)
https://www.reformjudaism.org.uk/a-special-covid-19-message-from-reform-judaism-january-2020/​ and
“Resolution on Mandatory Immunization Laws” (January 10, 2015)
https://urj.org/what-we-believe/resolutions/resolution-mandatory-immunization-laws

​See ​Rabbi Dr. J. D Bleich in ​Contemporary Halachic Issues​, vol. 4, chapter 10 “Utilization of Scientific Data
Obtained Through Immoral Experimentation.” Christian groups with strong ethical and religious objections to the
practice of abortion have also judged the vaccines currently available to be ethically permissible; see the Vatican’s
Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines​ as well as ​statements by ethicist Dr. Jeffrey Barrows​,
senior vice president of bioethics and public policy for the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.
10
​This includes the two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna currently approved in the United States and
Israel, which are synthetically created. See ​https://factcheckni.org/articles/covid-19-vaccines-and-aborted-fetuses/
11
E.g. U.S. CDC ​https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/​ , State of Israel Ministry of Health
https://govextra.gov.il/ministry-of-health/corona/corona-virus-en/
12
​This exhortation is based on the halakhic principle of ‫ִדּיָנא ְדּ ַמְלכוּ ָתא ִדּיָנא‬, ​dina d’malchuta dina, ​“The law of the king
is law,” which refers to the law and authority of secular governments and their authority.
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