The following guidance was prepared by the Faith and Halakhic Standards Committee of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council

covid 19 vaccineRevised February 22, 2021

The global coronavirus pandemic is the greatest health challenge of our time. It has left a tragic (and still-rising) death toll and has radically disrupted our communal way of life. Meanwhile, the worldwide scientific endeavor to find solutions for COVID-19 immunity has yielded numerous vaccines in various stages of clinical trial. A number of vaccines have been given emergency use authorization and are being administered worldwide with successful results. According to public health experts, ending the pandemic in the most effective manner requires that a substantial proportion of the population be vaccinated. While there is a minority of dissenting positions on COVID-19 vaccinations and other preventative measures, we present the following recommendations based on Torah, our traditions and the consensus of public health experts.

Torah and Traditions

  • Torah teaches that we are required to protect our bodies, maintain our health, and take action to avoid mortal threats: “Take utmost care and guard your lives diligently.”​ [1]
  • Torah forbids us from putting others in danger: “When you build a new house, you shall make guardrails for your roof...” [​2]​ According to Maimonides, this includes a general obligation to safeguard against setting up any potentially lethal hazard.​ [3]
  • Our tradition teaches that when an illness has a proven remedy (refuah bedukah), we have an obligation to accept it. A person may not refuse medical intervention if their life is in danger and there is a treating physician who can save them. [4]​ The criteria for identifying a refuah bedukah prioritize both safety and efficacy in degrees similar to the Emergency Use Authorizations issued by contemporary secular authorities. [5]
  • Pikuach nefesh, the halakhic obligation to save a life in grave or immediate danger, applies to immediate threats to a person’s life as well as to situations that have the potential of becoming a serious threat to one’s life. The obligation of pikuach nefesh supersedes virtually all other commandments, demonstrating the high value Judaism places on the preservation of human life. [6] Messiah Yeshua expresses the magnitude of this value in his teaching that to “love your neighbor as yourself” is the second greatest commandment in the Torah. [7] COVID-19 vaccinations provide an opportunity to preserve life (pikuach nefesh) and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Contemporary poskim (halachic decisors) rule that in light of Torah obligations to care for our lives and the lives of others, halacha requires and even obligates us to be vaccinated during an epidemic or pandemic. [​8]​ 

Additional halakhic considerations regarding vaccination include:

  • Non-kosher ingredients: ​Consistent with MJRC Standards decision 3.6 (permitting consumption of medicines derived from non-kosher ingredients in capsule or elixir form), medicines containing such ingredients would also be halakhically permissible when administered through injection, nasal spray, etc.
  • Ethical concerns regarding cell lines from aborted fetal tissue: ​Contemporary Orthodox Jewish halakhic authorities draw a distinction between deriving benefit from such tissue (which is permitted) and colluding in its original procurement (which may be problematic).​[9]​ ​It is also important to note that n​ot all vaccines are created from fetal cell lines.​ [10]

Public Health Care

  • Governmental health authorities in Israel and the US—federal, state and local authorities—based on the established scientific consensus, recommend the COVID-19 vaccination, along with wearing masks, frequent hand washing, and social distancing, to slow and prevent the spread of the virus. [11]

In light of the above information, we strongly recommend that:

  1. Medical questions and concerns about COVID-19 vaccination should be addressed in consultation with one’s personal physician, a licensed medical doctor, whose recommendations should be followed.
  2. Ethical and religious issues concerning the responsibility to be vaccinated and the vaccinations themselves be discussed with your local Rabbi, taking into consideration the halakhic information provided above.
  3. Pursuant to the advice of one’s personal health care provider, every physically able person be vaccinated.
  4. Official health guidelines regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and the continued practice of social distancing, wearing of masks, and frequent handwashing to mitigate the spread of infections, be heeded. [12]

Notes

  1. ​Deuteronomy 4:9,15;​ c.f. ​B’rakhot​ 32b.
  2. Deuteronomy 22:8.
  3. Mishneh Torah, ​Hilchot Rotzeach​ 11:4.
  4. Rabbi Jacob Emden, ​Mor u-Ketzi’ah​, ​Orach Hayim​ 328.
  5. ​For more on the history and application of refuah bedukah, see pp.2-4 of the Rabbinical Assembly responsum from Rabbi Micah Peltz, “Vaccination and Ethical Questions Posed by COVID-19 Vaccines” (January 1, 2021)
  6. Pikuach nefesh is based on Lev. 19:16, “You should not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake” (NET). In the halakhic system, a life-threatening circumstance justifies overriding Shabbat (Yoma 85a-b), Yom Kippur (Yoma 82a), kashrut (Yoma 83a), and any other negative commandment in the Torah, with only three exceptions: worship of idols, incest, and bloodshed (Ketubot 19a; Sanhedrin 74a).
  7. Mark 12:31, quoting Leviticus 19:18.
  8. ​Additional statements and responsa pertaining to COVID-19 vaccinations include: the ​Orthodox Union / Rabbinical Council of America’s ​“COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance” (​December 15, 2020​);​ from the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative Judaism), Rabbi Micah Peltz’s “Vaccination and Ethical Questions Posed by COVID-19 Vaccines” (January 1, 2021)
    Vaccination and Ethical Questions Posed by COVID-19 Vaccines​ and Rabbi David Golinkin’s “Does halakhah require vaccination against dangerous diseases such as measles, rubella, polio and Covid-19?”​ (January 5, 2021); the Union of Reform Judaism’s “Special Covid-19 Message” (January 8, 2021) and “Resolution on Mandatory Immunization Laws” (January 10, 2015) 
  9. ​See ​Rabbi Dr. J. D Bleich in ​Contemporary Halachic Issues​, vol. 4, chapter 10 “Utilization of Scientific Data Obtained Through Immoral Experimentation.” Christian groups with strong ethical and religious objections to the practice of abortion have also judged the vaccines currently available to be ethically permissible; see the Vatican’s Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines​ as well as ​statements by ethicist Dr. Jeffrey Barrows​, senior vice president of bioethics and public policy for the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.
  10. ​This includes the two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna currently approved in the United States and Israel, which are synthetically created. See "Covid 19 and aborted fetuses"  
  11. E.g. U.S. CDC ​https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/​ , State of Israel Ministry of Health https://govextra.gov.il/ministry-of-health/corona/corona-virus-en/. On questions concerning vaccinations, see for here.
  12. ​This exhortation is based on the halakhic principle of ​dina d’malchuta dina, דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא, ​“The law of the king is law,” which refers to the law and authority of secular governments and their authority.

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The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (MJRC) consists of a group of ordained Rabbis and associated leaders who endeavor to promote a life of covenant faithfulness among Jewish followers of Messiah Yeshua. 

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The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (MJRC) was formally established in May 2006. It consists of a group of ordained Messianic Jewish Rabbis and associated leaders who share a common vision for Messianic Judaism rooted in Torah, instructed by Tradition, and faithful to Messiah Yeshua in the twenty-first century.

The MJRC had its beginnings five years earlier. At that time a set of Messianic Jewish leaders from New England invited some of their colleagues from outside the region to join them in working on a common set of halakhic standards for themselves and their congregations.