With Covid 19 stalking the planet, it is not surprising that people are looking out for medicines or devices that can prevent people from developing the virus, or cure them once they have done so. President Trump made his suggestion which has been rubbished by scientists generally, but a quite different solution has been offered by a charity in Israel, Kupat Ha’ir. For three thousand shekels (approximately eight hundred and forty dollars) they will supply an amulet which will protect the wearer against Covid 19, or any other disease for that matter. The protection extends it seems to all residents of his/her house. If effective, it is a bargain at twice the price.
That is fortunate because the price is non-negotiable. That is the amount the Almighty requires you to pay in order to benefit from His protection; no more, no less. It is the amount needed to help a family suffering from the effects of the disease. He will however permit payment by instalments up to thirty in all – presumably interest free. The amulet, and the protection it provides, has been promoted by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the leading Rabbis of the Haredi community. It was his edict that the Yeshivot should not close which led Haredim to resist the lockdown measures brought in by the government. Arguably this has been a major reason why the occurrence of the virus has been so much higher in the Haredi community than it is in the general population.
Much depends on the details. Is the rabbi telling us that the amulet does not absolve us from the need to take normal precautions like social distancing? In which case punters may not be certain that it is the amulet which is effective, and that they are getting value for money. Or is he saying that the amulet works on its own, in which case its wearers may end up taking risks they might otherwise have avoided. This could result in people catching the virus who might otherwise have avoided it. It is unlikely that this will trouble the venerable Rabbi. He has not been fazed by the consequences of his previous intervention.
Clearly his followers will not be troubled either. After all, these are people, who at the onset of the pandemic took advice, not from a virologist or an epidemiologist, but from a ninety two year old specialist in ancient texts whose knowledge of viruses would probably barely cover a postage stamp. This will not prevent them blaming the non Haredi world for their misfortunes. But as an observer of their community said, victimhood is embedded in their DNA.