Import jQuery

Is the COVID Vaccine Biblically Kosher?

Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receiving his COVID-19 immunization
Israel's former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being immunized against COVID-19. He tweeted this photo and recited the Shehekianu blessing.

I recently was asked by a reader,

My husband and I are not convinced that the current endorsed pokes are biblically clean. What has the Counselor shared with you?

“Biblically clean” is Hebrew Rootish for “kosher according to the plain text meaning in the Bible, excluding any later rabbinic stringencies.” 😊

Here’s my answer:

There are three parts to this question:

  1. Do the various COVID vaccines contain Biblically non-kosher ingredients?
  2. If yes, do kosher laws apply to non-food substances? (e.g. do kosher laws forbid receiving a heart valve transplant from non-kosher animals?)
  3. If kosher laws do apply to non-food substances, can one still receive a non-kosher substance to save one’s life?

Do the COVID vaccines contain non-kosher ingredients?

For the first question, I don’t see any Biblically-forbidden ingredients in the COVID vaccines. Here are the ingredients for the three major COVID vaccines. There are no Biblically-forbidden ingredients in the COVID vaccines.

One might argue that some of the vaccines are morally tainted in other ways unrelated to kosher. For example, some of the vaccines were tested on cells derived from an embryo believed to be aborted in the 1970s. This is a legitimate objection; a few pro-life organizations have publicly stated, “Still get the vaccine because lives will be saved, but we are petitioning the government to ban the use of embryonic cells during testing.” I agree with that sentiment and hope they succeed.

But to answer the question directly, no, the COVID vaccines do not contain non-kosher ingredients. Israel's head Rabbinic authorities, whose kosher stringencies extend far beyond most Messianic and Hebrew Roots kosher practices, affirm the vaccine is kosher. More on that in a minute.

Do kosher food laws apply to non-food substances?

Suppose for a moment the COVID vaccines contained a non-kosher ingredient. Would it be permissible to get the vaccine?

It’s a trickier question than you might imagine. For example, burn victims often require skin graft meshes made from skin of non-kosher animals. Is that permissible? Or, can one receive a pig’s heart valve transplant?

Choice quote:

“There is no halakhic problem with pigskin and pig heart valves. Beyond that, there’s a very important tenet of Judaism called pikuah nefesh, or, preservation of life. According to Jewish law, any of the mitzvot in the Torah (except idolatry, murder, and forbidden sexual relationships) can and in fact should be violated in order to save a person’s life; the pikuah nefesh principle is that strong. This means that even if the use of pig parts wasn’t generally allowed by halakhah, when people’s lives are at stake, we are commanded to do whatever is necessary to save them.”

This principle addresses part 2 and 3 of the question: even if the kosher laws pertain to non-food items, kashrut laws themselves can be broken for the sake of preserving a life.

This principle – saving a life is more important than other commandments – is reflected in Yeshua’s teaching in the Gospels, too. When asked whether it was Torah-permitted to heal on Shabbat, Yeshua said yes, just as it is permissible to break shabbat to save the life of an animal, likewise it is permitted to heal a person on shabbat. Preservation of life takes precedence over other commandments.

One can extend this to immunizations. 

Even if the vaccines contained non-kosher substances – and they do not – preservation of life takes precedence over kashrut laws. Just as one can break Shabbat to save an animal’s life, one can break kashrut to save a human life. Indeed, many Jews survived the Holocaust by eating whatever food was available – even if not kosher – and they did not sin in doing so.

Israel’s example

As a general philosophy, we believers in Yeshua should, where possible, avoid diverging from the people and practices of Israel. 

For too long, our faith in the Jewish Messiah has been foreign to the Jewish people because we’ve abdicated our place among the people of Israel and rejected the norms, people, practices, and land of Israel. It is due time we repair that.

And what is Israel doing today?

In Israel, the chief religious leaders have stated that Pfizer’s COVID vaccine is kosher and should be taken to preserve life. This includes Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, as well as leading Ultra-Orthodox rabbis Chaim Kanievsky and Gershon Edelstein, all of whom have backed the Pfizer COVID vaccine and encouraged Israelis to get immunized and end the pandemic.

Likewise, Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got immunized and encouraged all of Israel to do the same. The new Prime Minister Naftali Bennet also chose vaccination and even stated that refusal to immunize puts other citizens of Israel at risk of serious disease and death.

Disciples of Yeshua should do the same. We should prioritize preservation of life -- emulating the Master Yeshua -- over our smaller quibbles about the vaccine. We ought to join the rest of Israel in embracing the medicine that will end this global pandemic. It is Biblically kosher and preserves human life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Appending "You might like" to each post.