May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We are all decision makers—that is we make decisions—knowingly or subconsciously—even doing nothing is the result of a decision. Professionally, I’ve commanded or managed many decision teams, and sadly, I am disappointed by what I see going on today.

Let’s begin by looking at the general approach to a halachic question. One normally asks their rabbi. (Note that I said “their rabbi,” not “a rabbi.”) There are volumes written as to who to ask. If “their” rabbi is out of his width or depth (expertise), that rabbi in turn can reach out to others.

Your local shul’s rabbi is likely the prime choice for asking halachic questions. In contrast, many feel that in most circumstances it is inappropriate for someone in New Jersey to reach out to their Rosh Yeshiva in Israel for most shailahs.

Now let’s look at COVID related questions/decisions. Community rebbeim seem to be doing the right thing—reaching out to appropriate medical professionals and halachic authorities. Not everyone will agree with their decisions, but such is life.

Contrast this with what many members of the community are doing. We have people wandering around the internet and television and letting “Dr. Google” inform their decisions. Worse yet, some listen to various sources with a political agendas. AND, to add insult to injury, these individuals in turn “posken,” announcing what they do or plan to do—in hopes that others will listen and go along with them. (This is where the phrase “nobody asked you” comes in handy.)

I cannot design a “one size fits all” solution to this decision making quandary. We might try something analogous to the halachic decision process, but this often breaks down re: choice of “their Rabbi”/scientific authority, and who, in turn, this authority turns to. But it suffices to say that there are many sources to be discounted and/or ignored (a short list): politicians, television talking heads, plumbers, lawyers, electricians, your neighbor, store clerks and me.

Carl A. Singer, Ph.D.
Teaneck
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