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Joshua Cypess
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JoshuaCypess PhD social scientist & Orthodox Rabbi. We're all in this together. He/him. #BlackLivesMatter #Steelers #Mets #Resist Jul. 02, 2021 2 min read

1/ Today was a big milestone day. My oldest had his first driving lesson, something that was put on hold for the pandemic (these poor kids growing up in this strained world), but a bigger step was that I was able to go maskless to shul.

2/ As of today, my whole nuclear family has had our full course of the vaccine (#PfizerFamilyForTheWin) and my area doesn't have community spread, so it was safe (enough) to go maskless.

I had planned to do this in order to demonstrate an object lesson.

3/ I have no idea if people actually look at me for guidance. But being frum, & kal v'chomer a rabbi, means that all of my behavior should be an object lesson.

Even more: I'm a sociologist of health, which means I need to teach/act out lessons about medical halakha.

4/ So I waited until my family was all vaccinated to remove my mask in order to demonstrate that it was possible to be safe even if it took longer than many wanted. I wanted to teach patience by saying permissibility came through restraint.

5/ Permissibility through restraint is the definition of holiness. It's supposed to be the way of the Torah. Halakha says "no" a lot, which makes the "yes" moments important. And it also makes the "no" a purposeful & meaningful act. Kedusha, holiness, is what the Torah is about.

6/ My medical halakha knowledge teaches me that medicine is as much part of Torah as the rest of the 613. Halakha teaches us to avoid danger with the same stringency as any other commandment.

So I followed medical advice like I keep Shabbas or kashrut. 

7/ The American frum community did not do well during the pandemic, relying on miracles and segulas, and ignoring - in my informed opinion - the guidance from our tradition to treat medical advice as if it were black-letter law.

8/ I don't expect my behavior to change the recalcitrant, rebellious or resentful. I hope to give chizzuk - support & strength - for those who struggle and want to be frum in medical halakha, but who feel the peer pressure to be reckless.

9/ This was why I put up Clinton and then Biden signs on my lawn - for the first time in my life - in order to give strength to those who dissent from the authoritarian frummy norm but who are isolated & whose strength is sapped swimming upstream.

10/ Please God we'll be able to keep the mask off and the pandemic can truly end. But I need to understand better why the frum community failed so badly at what should have been an easy call: pikuach nefesh doche nearly every mitzvah there is.

11/ #ReshetKeshet.


please compile.

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