I have ties to the Lowcountry. Sometime in 2005, my in-laws moved from Boca Raton to Bluffton, SC. They were originally from Massachusetts. There is a term for this type of migration: “half backs”.
Bluffton is relatively small and sleepy – especially compared to South Florida. Things close early. Liquor isn’t sold on Sundays. The local newspaper, The Island Packet, is pretty light in weight. I occasionally pull up The Island Packet online just to see what is happening in Bluffton. In fact, I did so today and an op-ed by the local rabbi caught my eye. BTW – Bluffton has a very, very small Jewish community.
I probably would get sued for reproducing this article in its entirety on this blog, but I felt so moved by what I read. So here it is:
God asks us to love, protect our neighbors. That means getting vaccinated for COVID
BY BRAD BLOOM SPECIAL TO THE ISLAND PACKET AND BEAUFORT GAZETTE
Long ago, a story from the Talmud goes, a group of men were sailing toward their destination when one drilled a hole in the boat directly beneath his seat. The others exclaimed, “Why did you do this?” He responded, “What is it to you? I was only drilling under my seat!”
They replied, “Don’t you understand that your actions will cause the waters to rise inside our boat and flood the entire vessel, and we will all go down?”
Then consider Leviticus 26:37: ”And they shall fall one because of another, as it were before a sword when none pursues; and you shall have no power to stand before your enemies.”
The sages in my faith tradition say the verse means that “each person shall stumble on the iniquity of the other.” The internal divisions of the ancient Jewish nation caused them to be vulnerable to their external adversaries.
The first vignette states the obvious: What one person does impacts everyone else. The second implies that one person’s error or sin causes the next person to commit a sin. Any nation can destroy itself because of its own transgressions; we can be our own worst enemy.
The message of both commentaries is that we are responsible for each other. When citizens see themselves as the center of their moral universe, they usually do not account for their neighbors’ well being.
FOR THE COMMON GOOD
In America, this is exactly where we are. So many people have sounded the alarm that their right to reject a vaccination is more important than saving lives. The COVID-19 uptick is a tragedy. The Delta variant is now ravaging our unvaccinated citizenry, and it didn’t have to be this way.
The people entering the hospitals and dying by increasing numbers are the unvaccinated. Why would folks refuse or resist a vaccination if it means saving their lives?
I have listened carefully and respectfully to the people who believe the conspiracy theories about vaccinations or cite political and philosophical explanations for their refusal to be vaccinated. I disagree with all of them and urge every unvaccinated American to do the right thing. I appeal to every clergy person to join me in the pulpit and, in the name of saving lives, to cite Scripture to persuade congregants who are still undecided — or who refuse to get a vaccination because no one should tell them what to do, no matter how many lives it will save — to get the shot.
Too many Americans resemble the man who drills a hole in the boat beneath his seat and scoffs at the rest of the crew by saying, “What’s it to you?”
We are supposed to heed the Scriptures, both New and Old Testaments, that admonish: “Help your neighbor.” “Feed your neighbor.” “Love your neighbor.” “Give them the clothes they need.”
The major vaccines have already proven their worth and have saved millions of lives. Poorer nations around the world beg, borrow and steal for the vaccinations that flow abundantly in our blessed land. Yet so many Americans ignore the opportunity to save their own lives and others in their families and community. Is it all for the sake of an ethos that says, “I do what I want and it’s my right to do so”?
They have that right in America. But what about God’s directive to help our neighbor?
Do those teachings have no meaning now? Has the right to do what we want become what we worship? Have we drilled that hole in the ship, allowing the community to drown?
We worry about our foreign adversaries, but isn’t COVID-19 the real enemy of America?
In June, as I saw the decline in the number of people infected, I was relieved. I thought I would not need to write again about getting vaccinated. I was wrong.
Only 44% of South Carolina residents 12 or older have been fully vaccinated. COVID-19 hospitalizations, as of July 14, were up 39.4% statewide since June 23. And while the number of tests being conducted has dropped, the average percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in South Carolina has now spiked to 6%, The Island Packet reported. The number of new cases in Beaufort County has doubled since mid-June. Nationally, the average number of new cases per day is up 55% over the past week.
I respect everyone’s right to make their own decisions. But that right should not be so absolute that it ignores the responsibility we all have to protect each other.
Only 48% percent of Floridians are fully vaccinated. Our 14-day change has seen an increase of +227%. For those of us that have been cautious, we experienced a few months of post-vaccination bliss that closely resembled pre-COVID life.
I am incredibly frustrated that half of eligible Floridians would refuse a vaccine that not only protects them, but helps their community. We will either rise together or fall together. Those that spin the false narrative of individual freedoms and liberties over a effective solution to a global pandemic will fall on the sword.