The great vaccination debate:
Why we need to remember that other parents are not the enemy
In the past few years, an increasing number of Jewish families have been choosing to opt-out of vaccinating themselves and their children. Nearly always, this decision has been made after the parents spent a great deal of time educating themselves about the subject, and doing an awful lot of research. Unfortunately, some families came to this decision after having to deal with the fall-out from vaccine injuries, which caused them to take a new approach towards vaccinations, and begin the long journey of healing.
Some of these families were subsequently judged and criticized for their decision to opt-out of vaccinating, even after their child had suffered a serious vaccine injury. They were humiliated, shamed and embarrassed for their decision, and in some cases were also asked to find a new school for their children. When it comes to these sorts of issues, there’s a very clear Mitzvah, or obligation on us to avoid judging other people when we don’t know all the facts, and to avoid speaking lashon hara even in those rare instances when we think we really are fully informed about what’s actually going on, and why.
I personally started researching the topic of vaccination 8 years ago, and right from the beginning, I didn’t take this subject at all lightly. I always wanted to make sure my children had the best I could provide: healthy food, a secure place to live, and plenty of care, laughter and love. I started connecting with Hashem around the same time I began researching vaccinations and asked Hashem for guidance and clarity about this very complex topic.
I started doing a lot of research on the topic, and I started learning that many of the diseases that people are inoculated against started declining on their own, just as a result of more people enjoying the benefit of having access to clean water and healthier living conditions – way before vaccines were introduced. My research also turned up some interesting statistics that showed that unvaccinated children are measurably healthier than vaccinated kids. There’s a lot of medical research that shows that unvaccinated children rarely get sick, or need antibiotics, and you can see some of that information for yourself, here. I also highly recommend reading Dr Suzanne Humphries book: Dissolving Illusions.
Hashem blessed human beings with a strong immune system, and as long as we keep our bodies healthy, our immune systems will fight off most diseases. The single best way to avoid illnesses and attain good health is to keep our immune system strong. So the question for me became: ‘How can I keep my kids’ immune systems strong? And is simply being informed about vaccinations and eating healthy really enough?’
Recently, I was thinking about all the facets that contribute to good health when I bumped into a friend of mine who asked me if I knew of any good immune boosters for her son, to keep him healthy in the winter months. Her son is unvaccinated and is on an extremely healthy diet, and my friend is also giving him supplements to strengthen his immune system, too.
So I was a little surprised to hear that her son was still under the weather, because it seemed like on the physical level, she was doing everything she could to keep her son healthy. That’s when I remembered that what we do for our children’s health on the spiritual level is the most important thing of all.
I asked my friend if she was setting aside time to talk to Hashem (aka ‘hitbodedut’)? She replied that no, she wasn’t I gently reminded her that if Hashem is not in the picture then there is no picture at all.
Because Jews are not bodies; rather, we are made up of a body, mind and soul. And we need to nourish all three of these parts in order for us to feel our best. We can start by taking good care of ourselves on a physical level, but we also need to make time to take care of our emotions, too, by creating a healthy environment, and most importantly of all, we need to maintain our neshamas by talking to Hashem. Only then can we attain good health for ourselves and our family.
I personally set aside time every day to talk to Hashem about my children’s health. I ask Hashem to keep my children healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually! The idea is to try to talk to Hashem in your own words, but if that sounds a little too challenging to begin with, you can also say some of the tefillos which are written in various religious blessing books, such as The Aneni book, which offers prayers such as “A Parent’s Prayer” and “Prayers for Health.”
Hashem can ultimately protect us from any illness or disease. He created all harmful influences, and protects humankind from being hurt by them, as it is written: “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you… no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plaque come near you in your tent. For He will give his angles charge over you, to protect you in all your paths.” (Shelah HaKadosh’s Siddur).
If a person is making a real effort to include Hashem in their family’s healthcare, and to help their children ‘stay healthy’ across all three levels of body, mind and soul, then that is the single best thing they can do to boost their immune system and give them the best shot of avoiding serious illnesses, G-d forbid.
But whatever route we take to try to do the best for our children, the key thing to remember is that we can’t judge another person’s choices, and we certainly shouldn’t speak badly of other Jews, even if they have chosen a different path towards health for themselves and their families.
May we all be zoche to have Hashem’s angels protecting us and all of our family and keep us healthy till the end of our days.
Miriam Mandel is a children’s health activist who works alongside Enrichedparenting.org, a non profit organization focused on informed parenting and how to promote children’s life-long physical and mental health.