I share this with the hope that my experience will provide insight into the behavior of others, and perhaps even a rope to pull some people off the runaway train.
About a year and a half ago, I wore a mask whenever I went out, and I was critical of those who didn’t. I minimized my time in environments with elevated risks of exposure to viruses and washed my hands with soap after going out. I believed lockdowns were the best way to stop the spread of COVID.
I never thought about vaccines, but had a generally favorable impression of them. I hoped that research into a COVID vaccine would lead to a breakthrough that would save many lives, though I had a wait-and-see approach from day one.
I believed that the people in power, corrupt as they always were, still had a spark of humanity. I believed that, in spite of everything, they wanted to protect their people.
I was called many names over the years by fellow Jews who disliked my beliefs, but conspiracy theorist, anti-vaxxer, and murderer were not among them.
Some people can say they knew all along that we were being played. I can make no such claim. I was played for a while before breaking free. I’m not ashamed of this; we live and learn. How did I break free of the lies and insanity when so many others have continued on the assembly line? When did I “know”?
Even in my mask-wearing days, I wore it as little as possible. I innately understood that breathing in your own exhale and whatever is in the mask itself is not the best idea. When I was outside and not near other people, I kept the mask pulled down. It made no sense not to do this.
The so-called experts insisted that we cover our faces even when it made no sense. I questioned them. I started to lose my trust in them. Over time, when I saw how a ridiculous, unhealthy policy was being brutally enforced, I started to resent them.
That was the key turning point for me. It was one thing to take seemingly responsible precautions against a virus that was supposed to terrify us, but it was another thing to be absurd.
I saw them destroying lives in the name of saving lives, destroying them by the thousands and millions. It made no sense. It was morally indefensible.
I raised my concerns, asked questions, refused to accept senseless answers, learned more, and, as always, examined everything under the light of Torah before deciding right and wrong. There was some small internal resistance when I first started defying the immoral, anti-science rules, but that quickly passed. The truth quite literally set me free.
We’re learning a lot about people we thought we knew, and about what really makes people tick. In hindsight, I don’t think we should be too surprised about how most people have chosen their sides. People who have a strong attachment to some social group or -ism will tend to follow along with it in favor of objective truth, and will distort reality accordingly. It’s all a form of idolatry; do you go with Truth no matter what, or do you sacrifice Truth on the altar of short-term convenience?
Chazal teach us that the approach of the yetzer hara [evil inclination] is not to try to get people to worship avoda zara [idolatry] immediately. Rather, the yetzer hara first tells a person to do something far more benign. The next day the yetzer hara ups the ante. Eventually, the yetzer hara tells him to worship avoda zara, and he does it (Shabbos 105A).
The idolatrous priests of today, who come dressed as politicians, doctors, and members of the media, use the same approach to normalize atrocities. A year and a half ago it would have been unthinkable for society to be segregated based on medical decisions, for those who even raise questions about an experimental pharmaceutical product to be libeled, or for wholesale child abuse through masks, isolation, and needless injections to be celebrated as a moral imperative. They started with small demands, minor absurdities.
Crimes against humanity that are considered too small to resist inevitably lead to crimes against humanity that are almost impossible to resist.
The longer people go down the slippery slope of idolatry, the more they invest of themselves in the lies and absurdities, the more difficult it becomes to break out of it. Those who marry themselves to an opinion or an ideology have a very low chance of ever breaking out of the insanity.
Indeed, Chazal also teach us that Jews who separate themselves from apostasy die soon thereafter. This is not so much a punishment as a natural consequence. The agony of recognizing that their life was a lie and tearing themselves away from it literally kills them (Avoda Zara 17A).
It is no wonder, then, that those who have invested so much of themselves in the lies and absurdities of the last year and a half – if not longer – have become so impervious to reason. It is no surprise that they react with malice toward anyone who threatens their idolatrous comfort zone with the truth. They literally cannot handle the truth.
They cannot admit that they have been played, that they have made very poor, unhealthy choices, that they have harmed other people, and that they have serious soul-searching to do. It is so much easier to accept the next little absurdity, to keep believing the reassuring lies of the idolatrous priests.
Through the help of God and others, I was able to recognize fairly early that we were being played. I never accepted absurd behavior, even when I dutifully complied with the “health recommendations”. I believe this was the key to my salvation.
At this late point in the game, I don’t think it will be possible to reach those who have gone deep down the rabbit hole. Those who have already rationalized so many lies and absurdities will not be convinced by the next article or video that you send them. I don’t want to say we should give up on people, but our time and energy are best devoted elsewhere. Those who have attached themselves to idolatry are likely lost, and we need to come to terms with that painful reality. We need to strengthen ourselves and others, and focus on those whose minds are not totally drugged and corrupted.
But maybe, just maybe, if we can get them to acknowledge that anything about their behavior is absurd, it will open the door just a crack for them to climb out of the rabbit hole. We cannot stop the runaway train – God’s plan will unfold in His way in its time – but we can still help some of our brothers and sisters climb out the window.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the author of hundreds of articles and seven books on a wide range of subjects. He is also the director and producer of a documentary, Single Jewish Male, and a series of short films. His work can be found at chananyaweissman.com and rumble.com/c/c-782463. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.