68 The four watchmen, an old Russian, and vaccines
Chananya Weissman

Feburary 7

Years ago I was playing basketball and a lanky fellow was guarding me. One time his flailing arms whacked me across the face, sending my glasses flying. The lenses were intact, but the frame was terribly disfigured.

My glasses were very expensive, and I hoped to salvage them against all odds. I took them to an eyeglass store in the center of Jerusalem. The clerk took one look at the frame and immediately said it could not be fixed; I would need to buy new glasses.

I left the store and recalled a tiny shop nearby where an ageless Russian man sold watches, clocks, trinkets, and also did repairs. The shop was barely large enough to hold him, his wares, a table, a small coffee maker, and a single customer. If anyone could extend the life of my glasses, it would be him.

He examined the frame in his burly hands and stated the obvious. “This is badly bent.” He said he didn't know if he could fix it. If he tried, the frame might break completely in the process. He couldn't be responsible if that happened.

I said I understood that, and if he thought it was possible to salvage the glasses I was willing to try. He emphasized again that he couldn't be responsible if the frame was destroyed, and I agreed to let him try.

The old man placed the glasses on the countertop between us, then maneuvered his hands in a way I cannot describe, for it happened so quickly. He then handed me my glasses. They were perfectly back in shape. A few seconds had passed.

He charged me eight shekels, approximately two dollars. “One shekel for the work,” he explained. “And seven shekels for knowing how to do it.”

I tell this story not just because it's a great story, but because it relates to this week's parsha and the situation with the experimental vaccine.

This week we read about the four types of watchmen: an unpaid custodian, a paid custodian, a borrower, and a renter. The degree of liability these watchmen assume for loss or damage to the property under their care varies based on their compensation.

An unpaid custodian receives no compensation and is not allowed to use what he is watching. Therefore, he is responsible only for loss incurred through gross negligence on his part. For example, if he is watching an animal and leaves the door open, he is responsible if the animal escapes.

A paid custodian is responsible for loss or theft even if he guarded the item in a normal fashion. It is, after all, his job to prevent such occurrences.

The status of a renter is the subject of dispute between the sages, because he enjoys the right to use the property under his care, but he also pays for the privilege. The prevailing opinion is that he has the same status as a paid custodian, and bears liability for normal cases of loss or theft.

A borrower enjoys the right to use the property under his care without even paying for the privilege. Therefore, he has the highest level of liability. He is even liable for losses totally beyond his control, such as armed bandits stealing the property by force, or an animal suffering an unexpected death. A borrower essentially takes the place of the owner for the duration of the borrowing period, and, with very limited exceptions, is liable for any loss the owner would normally suffer were the property in his possession.

Let us consider the above in light of the vaccine situation. Drug oligarchs have been granted complete immunity (pun intended) for any harm that is caused by products that are classified as a vaccine. The rationale is that, without immunity, the drug companies could be bankrupted if one of their vaccines caused enough harm. It would not be worth the risk for them to continue to research and produce vaccines, and the potential loss of human life without these products justifies immunity from prosecution.

At the same time, however, the drug companies profit enormously from the sale of these vaccines, without any material risk. Pfizer and the other drug companies are currently raking in unfathomable profits from the sale of experimental vaccines, which are being injected in people en masse. These people are misled by the medical establishment, the government, the media, and big tech companies to believe that these products are fully tested and completely safe, absolutely vital for their health, and the only viable option.

Various forms of coercion are also being employed, which further robs people of their medical autonomy and ability to make objective decisions about what they put in their body. Many are referencing the Nuremberg Code, and for good reason.

Even an unpaid watchman, who receives no material benefit, is liable if he is negligent. Conversely, the drug companies receive every benefit imaginable, yet with less liability than someone who watches something as a favor. Even if they are negligent in their work, they don't have to forfeit a penny of their profits! Even if the drug companies are knowingly endangering the lives of people to further their research and increase their future profits, they risk nothing.

At most, they will endure a temporary hit to their reputation, which will quickly be whitewashed by those protecting them, and soon forgotten by all but the victims. This has happened numerous times in the past, and presents no deterrence to negligence or even willfully dangerous conduct.

The owner of the property – in this case the body that is being injected with a drug – assumes full liability for any damage caused by those who are being paid most handsomely to protect it.

This brings us back to the old Russian man who fixed my twisted glasses. He too assumed no liability for any damage that might be caused. However, there were three important factors that made this arrangement reasonable, none of which apply to the drug companies:

1) I was fully informed about the risks and the potential benefits of the arrangement. No fine print, no mumbo jumbo, no exaggerations of the benefits, no sugar-coating of the risks.

2) The risk/benefit ratio for both me and the worker were reasonable. My glasses were a lost cause, and it was worth taking a chance to save them. It would have been unreasonable to hold the man liable if something went wrong. In medical terms we can compare this to a terminally ill patient accepting an experimental medical procedure to try and save his life.

3) The man did not expect to be paid if his efforts failed. If a greater amount of effort were involved, perhaps minimal compensation would have been appropriate, or an offer of greater reward for a successful outcome.

The deal with the drug companies would be tantamount to the following: the old Russian man tells me he is 95 percent certain he can save my glasses, and it is unlikely any harm will befall my glasses if he is unsuccessful. For his effort, he is to be richly rewarded, regardless of the outcome. The way he maneuvers to repair the glasses has never been tried, and one can only speculate what might happen. It is conceivable that he will lose control of his hands and blind me, or even kill me, though that would be considered a coincidence, unrelated to his work on my glasses. I could not blame him if such a tragic event occurred.

Also, a mob outside the store badgers me to let him try, and threatens to block my exit if I refuse. Some people try to tell me that there are alternative ways to repair my glasses, which are effective and inexpensive, but they are attacked by the mob before they can offer their services.

If this sounds absurd, it's because it is absurd. The drug companies are guaranteed enormous profits without any material risk, while their human guinea pigs receive minimal, highly speculative benefits, and if something goes wrong they have no recourse. No refunds, no exchanges, not even an apology.

It is not our responsibility to conclusively prove that these experimental vaccines are dangerous. It is the responsibility of the drug companies to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that they are effective and safe in the long-term before they are rolled out en masse.

It is the responsibility of governments, who are sworn to serve their citizens, to protect personal medical autonomy, prohibit coercion of any kind, and ensure full informed consent for everyone who volunteers to take part in this experiment. It is also their responsibility to provide equal access to alternatives, and to ensure that no one is penalized in any way for availing himself of a particular medical option or none at all. Those who are doing just the opposite should be prosecuted, from top to bottom.

We must also end the sweet deals for drug companies once and for all. If some of them go out of business, it will be for good reason, and the human race will survive just as well without them.

A watchman's responsibility is commensurate with his compensation and the benefits he enjoys. If you want to earn billions and trillions making drugs, you better be especially careful, and accept full responsibility if something goes wrong.

Take it from the Torah, and from an old Russian who understood how things should work.