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Feb 16, 2021

it isn't a parnassa question

Rav Baruch Dov Povarski, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevez, made an interesting comment that made me wonder.

Kikar reports that a school administrator went to Rav Povarski to discuss he can force his teachers to vaccinate against COVID-19. Alternatively, could he put any teacher who refuses to vaccinate on furlough or unpaid vacation - and this possibility would possibly be used to persuade teachers to vaccinate.

According to the report, Rav Povarski responded that this is not a Choshen Mishpat question - it is not a financial question of whether or not it is ok to affect someone's job and income in this way, but it is a question of whether or not such a person is appropriate for being a teach of children. Someone like this has no sense of responsibility, he might cause his students and their families to get sick and get injured and damaged, perhaps such a person is not worthy of being an educator.

Furthermore, Rav Povarski said, the gedolim have said that everyone should get vaccinated. This teacher thinks he is smarter than the gedolim - such a person is not appropriate for being an example in the education of children.

On its own, in its own right, this is an interesting position to take.

But the way he said it made me think of something else. The way he discussed about it not being a parnassa, a choshen mishpat, question but one of education made me think about another situation in which these issues adversely overlap at times.

I am talking about abuse in schools by teachers against students. Physical, verbal, and especially sexual abuse. When we hear of such accusations, often the response has been to be extra "cautious" and protective of the accused teacher so as to not harm the parnassa of the teacher. Often it has been dealt with quietly, with the teacher quietly being sent packing but to another town to get a teaching job somewhere else (aka NIMBY - not in my backyard). Rav Povarski's approach to teachers and vaccines if applied to those situations equally would say it is not a parnassa issue, such a teacher is not worthy of teaching Jewish children and of being an example for them.


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  1. You are 100% correct, and in the past many (not all) have given insufficient consideration to the interests of the children.

    That said, there is one difference here. In most abuse cases, the teacher denies it, so it is not clear what really happened. It has happened that teachers have been falsely accused, and it is too easy to ruin someone with a false accusation. (This happens quite a lot in divorce cases.)

    In the vaccine cases, there is rarely going to be a doubt -- the teacher either did or did not get the vaccine. It would be a very odd case where the teacher said, "I got the vaccine," and someone else says, "you're a liar, you didn't."

  2. When I was with Rav Reuven Feinstein on Sukkos, many people came from Lakewood to see him - not for a shailah or eitzah or to be mushpah by being near a yerei shamayim, basically Chol hamoed tourism. I told them they had to wear masks. Some said "I don't have to, I already had it." When I would ask them to take a chumash and state "On this Chumash I state that I will not cause Reb Reuven Feinstein to catch Covid," the whole attitude changed.


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