Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine Is a Jewish Imperative

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By Rabbi Micah Peltz

Vaccines against COVID-19 have been invented and approved for use at a record pace. While polls indicate that Americans in overwhelming numbers are ready to take the shot — and are already doing so — there are some holdouts. We must consider as a community what our position is regarding vaccination and other precautions against the pandemic.

Now that a vaccine is available, there arise inevitable questions about the moral-religious obligation to receive the shot, whether our Jewish institutions should mandate it for workers, congregants and students, and how we can ensure the fair distribution of this lifesaving intervention.


The Conservative movement, along with the other dominant streams of American Judaism, leaves very little room for ambiguity on these matters.

As I recently wrote in a teshuvah (rabbinic response) that was unanimously approved by the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, vaccination is a Jewish imperative when recommended by medical professionals. Even when vaccines are approved by an emergency process, as the COVID-19 vaccines have been, they meet the halakhic standards of a refuah b’dukah, an established treatment.

This is especially true in the midst of this terrible pandemic, which has claimed more than 420,000 lives in the United States and over 2 million lives worldwide. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, approved for use in the United States and now having gone into the arms of more than 10 million of our citizens, including my own, clearly meet these standards.

The Conservative movement has been accompanied by the main bodies for Reform and Orthodox rabbis in stressing the necessity and justice of being so vaccinated. And for good reason: Jewish law is replete with injunctions to take steps to protect our health and avoid danger.

“Be careful and watch yourselves” (Deuteronomy 4:9), Moses instructs the Israelites. The Torah even commands us put guardrails on our roofs (Deuteronomy 22:8). Maimonides extrapolated from this specific case that we should take measures to protect ourselves and others.

Rabbi Moses Isserles, in the great code of Jewish law the Shulhan Arukh, insists that we are to avoid all things that endanger ourselves and instructs us that these concerns are to be treated “more stringently than ritual prohibitions.”

Leviticus (19:16) echoes these same messages, with its exhortation to “not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” This is understood in our tradition to mean that we do everything we can to safeguard the health of others.

One would think that none of this should be controversial, that there would be unanimity among rabbis and Jews on these points. Common sense practices that prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and washing hands are not just recommended but are obligated by Jewish law. Nevertheless, there have been well-publicized cases of physical distancing being ignored at large weddings and funerals, and even protests against wearing masks in some communities.

There is a strong consensus among mainstream Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Jews. Jewish law and tradition include ethical obligations to pursue healthy living and to embrace established scientific practices that contribute to the well-being of all. That well-being can be physical, and it can also be spiritual. To that end, many of my Conservative rabbi colleagues have written prayers and meditations to help people who are coping with illness and who are receiving or administering vaccines.

Our movement’s religious opinion on these matters stipulates best practices for this time.

Taking preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, washing hands and physical distancing are to be regarded as mitzvot and mandated by Jewish law. Vaccines approved by government health agencies are to be regarded as refuot b’dukot, established medical procedures, and with proper medical guidance Jews are obligated to be vaccinated. Jewish institutions are permitted by Jewish law to require employees, students and congregants to be vaccinated against COVID-19, though secular legal counsel should be consulted.

On a more collective level, we are obligated to ensure the ethical distribution of vaccines globally and nationally. We should favor the most vulnerable, and we should maximize the social benefit by prioritizing first responders and those who can set an example by receiving the vaccine that will encourage others to be vaccinated. Jewish ethics prohibit us from using personal connections, wealth or influence to receive the vaccine sooner than triage criteria would indicate. Effectively, “jumping in line” is prohibited.

We have made it through an awful period of plague, but we might be able to soon turn the corner thanks to vaccination. Let us do our part as members of the Jewish community, Americans and citizens of the world.

Rabbi Micah Peltz is the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He is a member of the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which sets halakhic policy for Rabbinical Assembly rabbis and for the Conservative movement as a whole.

1 COMMENT

  1. So many assumptions in this article I don’t know where to start so I’ll just highlight the primary things. I have not looked into J &J or Astra Zeneca at length so will only discuss the other two, the primary ones given in the US so far.
    The Pfizer and Moderna shots are not vaccines in the traditional sense of the word; they are genetic therapy. mRNA therapy has never before been used for vaccination in humans. They are NOT recommended by hundreds of medical professionals/researchers, and at least half of medical personnel are refusing to take them. These reasons alone mean they do not meet the halakhic standards of a refuah b’dukah, an established treatment. They are not established treatment. Additionally, they are authorized for emergency use only, not yet approved by the FDA, and are still in clinical trials not concluding for several years. By definition, these medical devices/procedures/products are experimental. We do not know long term effects because we are still experimenting and gathering data.
    They also both contain PEG, to which an estimated 70% of the population is allergic. Hence, the high number of reported anaphylaxis events post-Covid injection.
    The author and by extension, the Conservative movement he references, is treating the injections as if they are not still experimental, and as if they prevent infection and transmission of SarsCov2. They do not–which is why Fauci is still promoting masks. I go over research almost daily, and as of yesterday, these experimental injections have not been show to do anything except reduce symptomatic COVID. The (disputed) 95% relative risk reduction does not mean that 95% of people won’t get sick. Relative risk is something everyone should understand, I won’t address it here, but the propagandists are counting on the fact people don’t understand the concept. Additionally, if I recall correctly, this 95% was based on 39 people, none over 71 and 31 were under 55. This is all documented. Did the author read the EUA documentation, the Phase 1 &2 documentation, and listen to all the conference calls on the FDA site? Does the author know the outcome of coronavirus and SARS animal vaccine attempts in the past 2 decades?
    There are very inexpensive and much safer, historically well-tolerated medications that do more than reduce symptoms, they prevent and treat all variants of COVID including post-acute viral syndrome aka “long covid”. There are multiple treatment modalities; Ivermectin seems to be the most effective and well-tolerated. Here is merely one site that covers this https://covid19criticalcare.com. This removes any need for an experimental medical procedure, which, to date, is correlated with a high rate of adverse events including death (half of the deaths occurred within 48 hrs). According to a study funded by HHS done by (Harvard if my memory is correct), less than 1% of adverse events after vaccines are reported. I’m sure it’s more than that with these injections due to public awareness–VAERS data is updated every Friday. As of 3/26/21 there reported 2249 deaths/1140 Life Threatening reactions/7726 serious reactions/911 disabled/4824 hospitalized/50,861reported events in all. https://medalerts.org/
    It is unconscionable, as well as illogical, for anyone to advocate REQUIRING an unapproved experimental product for an illness with over a 99% recovery rate world-wide with inexpensive, effective treatment available. Furthermore, everyone has a G-d-given right to privacy and personal autonomy, even in community. I am no Talmidah, nor a Torah scholar, but I recall from studying that if it comes down to saving one’s own life, or that of another, it is permissible and/or required to save oneself first. Additionally, with all the known and unknown dangers of the experimental injections, and since the known risks of COVID are very small unless one has certain high-risk factors, there is absolutely no way taking the COVID shots can be interpreted as pikuach nefesh. Especially since it is impossible that they would create herd immunity if they do not prevent infection. Vaccine-created herd immunity is a myth, anyway. Herd immunity is a theory (and I think probably a true one) based upon historical observations of wild viral illness and subsequent lessening of illness in the population. It has never been proven to occur as a result of vaccination. This is merely an assumptive leap.
    Most of this information goes against commonly held beliefs and assumptions. I assure you, it is all factual. In the spirit of pikuach nefesh, I am obligated to tell the truth. If your WAZE gps app said there were no cars on the road at all, and you believed them, yet with my own eyes I could see a car barreling around the corner and headed your direction–pikuach nefesh (and common human decency) says I should warn you or even shove you out of the way, depending upon how close the car is and how nimble you are. These experimental shots are knowingly causing a higher rate of adverse effects than COVID illness. They can kill you. So can COVID. so can driving. Death is a risk of living. So far these shots are higher risk than COVID. I can’t stand idly by and at least not make sure people understand this. The media isn’t telling you, and is in fact censoring and deplatforming most who tell the truth on this topic. There are many reasons, I’ll only point to an obvious one. The media is 70% supported by pharma. The Pfizer shot is the second highest grossing medical product in history. You do the math.
    If anyone feels compelled to take part in these experiments/clinical trials, and is giving fully informed consent, that is their right. But to require it? And so many people are so ill-informed? And Jews are not speaking out–and indeed are perpetuating falsehood–not to mention actually heading up Pfizer itself. These “vaccines” (and the masks) have been elevated to idol status! It is a chillul Hashem!!
    Finally, but most importantly, my warning is not about your own health only. Israel is requiring these medical experiments to fully participate in society. The Yarok Tav has become the yellow star, and all of Israel is one giant ghetto, since no one can leave or enter without submitting to their medical procedures. Holocaust survivors are speaking out! Vera Sharav is the first one that comes to mind. I have, for a year, made the Nazi/Holocaust comparison to what is going on world-wide, and cannot believe, while some survivors of the Shoah are still living–Am Yisrael, for the most part, is lining up for the cattle cars one more time. And most of the movements of Judaism support this travesty. Wake up people!!! SECULAR courts..including the international criminal court at The Hague are investigating this (or considering investigation, depending on court) as CRIMES against HUMANITY. Yet this Jewish author and his supporters are advocating REQUIRING these crimes. See for yourself what an Israeli law firm has filed in in that court on behalf of Anshei Emet–which includes medical doctors!
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DCa5YXQXdA3jlDa0t2wGV23CJajjG-cj/view?fbclid=IwAR1MVxyyWWSEr2PuACy4ejxkUnP1JbUnQxnUDb0D4qpdlSqM0lQTI6ejnHo

    My friend Reinette interviewed 2 Israelis yesterday about what is going on in Israel. YouTube deleted it and terminated her account. This is why people aren’t hearing as much Truth as they need: censorship. So I can’t link to the YouTube video and it is not avail on her Bitchute channel yet. So I will link to the FB post here. I suggest everyone educate themselves. Even if you do not agree on every point.

    Shabbat Shalom, may we realize Hashem brought us out of Egypt not to be enslaved, but to be free, with Hashem as G-d. Next year in Yerushalayim.

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