Rabbi Ross. As my children are getting older, they’re beginning to read and hear things that my wife and I don’t agree with. This past week, my 15 year-old-son Yoni, decided he doesn’t want to wear a mask into stores anymore. He was convinced by some arguments he read from a Jewish person in a Jewish newspaper. He’s a good boy, and will listen if I tell him to anyways, but I think this deserves an explanation. How can I convince him it’s the right thing to do – he’s not a dumb kid and won’t fall for any tricks. TIA - Eli.
I would like to begin by pointing out that most kids don’t fall for “tricks”. Parents like to think that they’re fooling their kids at times. Here’s some great advice. Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. To answer your question, I would suggest telling your son the following, or better yet, let him read it himself.
The way I like to explain things to my own children is as follows. There are three main types of conspiracy theorists. The first type is the relatively harmless type. An example would be, the people that believe the earth is flat. I have a friend (we’ll call him Joe) who is completely convinced that the world is flat. He asked me to check out his website, and he is 100% convinced. He can actually prove it, (although his proofs are fallacies).
Joe likes to share his view with anyone who can listen, but he’s a pretty chilled out guy. Joe doesn’t hurt anyone and splits his time between telling people about the earth being flat, and the fact that he’s a vegan. Joe’s views aren’t dangerous, although he does run the risk of boring people to death.
The second type of conspiracy theorists are those that mainly harm themselves. An example would be those that are anti vaccines. I’ve spoken with many of these people, and we’ve come to an agreement of sorts. We all agree that putting chemicals into your body isn’t a smart thing to do. However, I go a step further and say the benefits of putting these chemicals into your body completely outweighs the minuscule (but possible) chance of having a serious or deadly reaction.
The ones that get harmed the most are the immediate family members who are unprotected from the deadly diseases that we’re taking the vaccine for. Nonetheless, there are some immune compromised people that are unable to take vaccines. These people are in danger because of these anti-vaccination theories. If a person that doesn’t get vaccinated is sick with any transmittable disease, and they come in contact with one of these compromised people, it can have a horrible consequence.
I’ve tried explaining this to many of these people, but they are guilty of the very same things they accuse everyone else of. Namely, they refuse to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They risk hurting others, but mostly they’re hurting themselves. I know the names of many people associated with this “movement”, and at least for some I do not impugn their motives, but my wish is that they at least agree to take the vaccines that can kill other people if there is no herd immunity.
The last group of conspiracy theorists are the deadliest. They are the people that will actively hurt others to prove a point. Here’s an example. People that refuse to wear a mask indoors (in a public place). To be fair, medical experts do not completely understand this pandemic, but all of the top experts in the field, such as the CDC, the NIAID, the IDSA and the state DOH (the alphabet soup of infection professionals) all strongly advocate that wearing masks will save countless lives.
I’m sure many of us have had doubts if this virus was dealt with correctly. There is a lot of false information being passed around, and it gets very confusing. To be brutally honest, I’ve wondered why I need to wear a mask if I’m Davening outdoors. However, and this part is critical, my doubts are unimportant! I’m not a doctor! Yes, Facebook and Google have ordained me at times, but there are people way smarter than me that are telling us that wearing a mask is mandatory.
I asked my doctor and my Rav. They both said to wear a mask. It’s that simple. I’m not a “sheep” nor do I follow blindly. I just believe that if there’s even a one in a million chance that I could prevent someone from getting sick by wearing a mask, I’ll do it! Even though the masks make my work more difficult, they’re irritating, and they are seriously uncomfortable, I’ll still wear them.
The ones that argue about this are plain old self-centered people. If it’s that hard to walk around inside a store with a mask, stay home! Some of these people have written the most eloquent and detailed arguments against masks. I’ve read them, and here’s the gist of what they’re writing. “I’m a selfish person and I’ll risk the lives of others so I can get some attention.”
At least with people that are against vaccinations, I understand their fears. They don’t want to inject chemicals in their body. The fact that these chemicals can save their lives ( as well as others), is what they’re arguing about. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re terribly mistaken. However, I can understand from their “viewpoint” why they think they shouldn’t vaccinate.
I can’t understand the argument regarding wearing a mask. Is it uncomfortable to that extent? When a 45-year-old father is barely breathing while on a respirator because some selfish person decided her mask was a hassle and coughed near him, something is wrong. Here’s the reply she’ll give. “If masks are so helpful, his mask should have protected him!” Well here’s the deal. Masks aren’t that helpful. Therefore, if both parties are wearing one, it’s much safer for everyone.
Throughout our history, there have been groups of Jews that fought against the Rabbanim and everyone else because they felt that “they knew better”. Each time the consequences were horrible, and yet history keeps repeating itself. These people delude themselves into believing that they are acting properly and “L’shaim Shamayim. Unfortunately, all that they’re doing is misleading others and causing harm to other Jews.
In any case Yoni, here are the facts. There are people that don’t wear masks. They’ll openly brag about it as if they’re doing the public a favor. They’ll write about it, post it online, and tell anyone who’ll listen. They’ll give reasons ranging from health to religion. Ultimately, they’re telling you as I wrote earlier, “I’m a selfish person, and I’ll risk the lives of innocent people so I can get some desperately needed attention.” I can’t tell you that wearing a mask will save you or anyone else. Nevertheless, if there’s a .01% chance that my mask will save someone else, I’ll wear one. I’m sure you will also.
Have a good Shabbos, YR
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.