Monday, August 17, 2009

The Fallout of the Meah Shearim Protests

What more proof does one need to show how foolish and reckless Meah Shearim type Charedim are. And how wrong-headed the Edah HaCharedis is.

A child was born with a serious medical condition a few weeks ago in Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim Hospital. The doctors there could not treat the child properly and advised the child be sent to – you guessed it – Hadassah Hospital. They are best equipped to handle this child’s medical condition.

The parent’s refused. Why? Because Hadassah is the hospital that was the subject of a huge protest that included threats of boycott. That was because they accused a Charedi mother of starving her child in the case of the so called Munchhausen’s mother. These parents are honoring the boycott. The price? Putting the life of their child on the line!

This is what the Chasidim of Meah Shearim have wrought. They bring misery upon an innocent child and his parents because of a preconceived notion of wrongdoing by the staff of the best hospital in Israel. Having called for a boycott of Hadassah Hospital they have in effect put a child in harm’s way. By the parents not doing everything they can to contribute to the child’s welfare – they are contributing to its demise.

It’s true that there are compromises being made where the child will be sent back and forth between Hadassah and Shaarei Tzedek - where they ended up transferring their child from Bikur Cholim. But doctors insist that all this traveling back and forth compromises the child’s care.

To his credit Yoeli Krauss who is the operations leader of the Edah HaCharedis has urged the parents to send their child to Hadassah. But they have refused. Krauss nevertheless does not fault the parents. He instead blames Hadassah saying it ought to apologize for its part in the ‘Munchhausen’s mother’ affair if it really cared about the child.

This attitude is yet another reason to consider the Jews of Meah Shearim no better them Reform Jews. They see Pikuach Nefesh as secondary to their issues with Hadassah. And they take no responsibility for the plight of this child or the stupidity of his parents.

Instead they lay all the blame at the feet of the hospital. Their ‘out’ is of course that they urged the parents to send the child there and that it was the parents who refused. They think this absolves them of any responsibility for the child’s welfare.

But in my view they are completely wrong. If they really cared for that child’s welfare - their rabbinic leadership would have Paskined that what the parents are doing is a violation of Halacha. Pikuach Nefesh comes first. The Torah tells us V’Chai BaHem (Vayikra 18:5). Our sages tell us (Yoma 85b) that this means one must live by them (the Mitzvos of the Torah) and not die by them. Except for the cardinal sins of murder, idolatry, and adultery one may violate any and every Mitzvah in the Torah to save a life. And one may certainly violate a boycott!

That they are merely ‘advising’ the parents to send to Hadassah and then blame the hospital for the parents refusal to do so is no better than a Reform rabbi telling a Jew that even though it’s a good idea - a Jew does not have to observe the Mitzvos. The Edah is in effect doing the same thing here with the laws of Pikuach Nefesh by not paskining that they must send their child to Hadassah.

The Edah must therefore take at least some of the responsibility here. Both for not taking strong enough measure in this case and for their reticence to condemn the idea of boycotting Hadassah - when their rabble-rousers called for it. It is therefore not a wonder that these parents are now honoring it to the point of compromising their child’s health.

As I recall it, at least one of the leaders of the Edah HaCharedis, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch cried out against boycotting Hadassah. He stated that the basic relationships between Hadassah and the Charedi community was good and that boycotting the best hospital facility in Israel would be counter-productive and harmful in the end.

How right he was.