Shalom aleichem!

Mazel tov to Queens College alumni Daniel & Dee Epstein on the birth of a daughter!

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By now you’ve certainly heard that a disease which was nearly eliminated from our country has made a resurgence. Scientists tell us that vaccinations can prevent such an outbreak, yet some have chosen not to vaccinate their children.

What does Judaism say about the issue? For this email, I have drawn on two letters written by the Rebbe, here and here.

In general, one can posit that there are two types of medicine: therapeutic and preventive. While both are necessary, it is certainly preferable that one should be able to maintain such a high level of health that one never need resort to therapeutic medicine.

In 1986, the Rebbe wrote: “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 Kashrut of foods and beverages, and it is well known how it affects mental and physical development.”

As was the Rebbe’s approach in nearly every issue, he also looked to draw a spiritual lesson from the topic.

What lesson can be gleaned from the concept of vaccination?

Permit me to paraphrase the Rebbe’s words in a 1955 letter to a Chicago rabbi: “In order for the body to resist certain very powerful illnesses, doctors inject a weakened form of the virus into the body. This enables the body to build a weaponry, per se, to fight off the disease, should it ever be encountered. A similar process takes place in our spiritual lives, when we encounter minor challenges. It is these very challenges which give us the opportunity to strengthen ourselves, should we ever encounter something larger and more difficult.”

In other words, the small bumps of life can actually be viewed as a “spiritual vaccine,” strengthening ourselves for the rest of our lives.

May we all be blessed to lead healthy lives, materially and spiritually.

Shabbat Shalom,