Rabbi Uriel Vigler has been a “shaliach” (emissary) at the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan together with his wife Shevy since 2005. In addition, he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers. As a spiritual leader, he frequently blogs and makes videos on subjects pertaining to the Bible. Since he limits his subjects to the Bible and Israel, he was quite surprised when he was notified by Facebook that one of his posts including a video he made was censored due to “violating community standards.”
The rabbi focused last week’s lesson on Parshat Masei, the weekly portion contained in Numbers 33:1–36:13. Since Thursday was the Jewish holy day of Tisha B’av, Rabbi Vigler connected the death of the High Preist Aaron to the destruction of the Temple. According to Jewish tradition, the Second Temple was destroyed due to sinat chinam (baseless hatred). The rabbi compared baseless hatred to the coronavirus and noted that the Torah contained the cure for the ‘disease’ of baseless hatred.’
“The Torah wants to teach us how to get rid of coronavirus,” Rabbi Viglerr taught. “The Torah wants to teach us the ultimate cure for coronavirus…What is it? You see, I don’t just want a vaccine from these companies, because that will cure only COVID-19. I want a cure for everything. I want to bring the Third Temple here. That will cure not just Corona but that will cure AIDS, cancer, every kind of sickness. It will bring peace to the world. IO want the ultimate vaccine. The ultimate cure. Do you know what that cure is? You need to have love fore each other.”
Facebook actively censors any posts that disagree with or contest the World Health Organization Guidelines concerning the coronavirus. As such, Rabbi Vigler’s post was removed. The rabbi responded by writing a heartfelt letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, disputing their decision to censor him.
I’ve been using Facebook for a very long time, and I am grateful to you for creating a platform that allows me to keep in touch with people all over the world, including congregants and friends who have left New York City.
You see, I use Facebook for my job. I use it to spread Torah and mitzvot and try to do my part in bettering the world, which is why I was absolutely astounded to discover I’d been banned this week!
Since the pandemic began, I’ve been giving my Torah classes online. For maximum accessibility, before each class I log into Zoom and connect it to Facebook. This allows me to reach more people. But this week, you canceled my class, shut me out of Facebook, and sent me a message claiming I had violated your community standards!
What?! To say I was thoroughly confused would be an understatement of the highest order.
I have never posted anything hateful or political in the 12 or so years I’ve been using your platform! As a rabbi, I serve a community comprising people on the right and people on the left, so I stick to my job—promoting and spreading Torah and mitzvot; I don’t dabble in politics. So what could have possibly led you to shut down my account?
I took a closer look at which classes apparently violated your community standards. There were four, and the one that sent me to “Facebook jail” was this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEn7zRQDO6Y&t=760s – “The cure for COVID-19 is to be found in this week’s Torah portion.”
I wondered, what could possibly be in violation? In the video, I explained that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because of hatred for one another. I explained that the Talmud equates that hatred to the three cardinal sins: idolatry, adultery, murder, and that to rectify this and rebuild the third and final Temple, we need to love each other more. True, expansive, unconditional love will lead to the Redemption, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the end to all ailments and illnesses, including COVID-19.
This is one of our most basic beliefs, found in our holy Torah. So yes, the cure for coronavirus is in fact in the Torah!
Your message claimed, “We have these standards because misinformation that could cause physical harm can make some people feel unsafe on Facebook.” Well, I can assure you that there is no message the inhabitants of this universe need to hear more than what I shared! Unconditional love – it’s what we all need, the US more than anyone! Not only can this not possibly lead to physical harm, it can lead to great healing and unification. In fact, Mark, you and I probably disagree on about 99% of things, but that does not diminish my love for you. I love you, heart and soul, like a brother.
Misinformation, you say? I can assure you there is no book more authentic than the Torah. In fact, you and I were both present at the foot of Mount Sinai over 4000 years ago. You and I both heard the voice of G-d. You and I both received His Torah at the exact same moment. This is a proven historical fact.
Mark, in this week’s Torah portion we read about the 10 commandments—G-d’s precious gift to us. In that spirit, I invite you to study Torah with me anytime. We can easily do it over the powerful tool you’ve created: Facebook! I also invite you to attend services at my shul, have an aliya, and be called up to the Torah. You see, Mark, despite our differences, my love for you is unconditional, and that is the message my classes promote.
With tremendous love,
Rabbi Uriel Vigler”
Facebook has been heavily criticized for its selective censorship and last week took down a video that had garnered 17 million views in six hours in which a group of doctors defended hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. The World Health Organization has reversed its decisions on many aspects of the coronavirus including the use of hydroxychloroquine which it was initially testing but then dropped in mid-trail in the beginning of the month. At that point, Facebook began censoring any posts that cited trials or testimony in favor of using the drug.
The policy is so controversial that Zuckerberg was questioned about it in front of Congress last week.
“Stating that there’s a proven cure for COVID – when there is in fact none – might encourage somebody to take something which could have adverse effects,” Zuckerberg told Congress.
Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was not satisfied with that answer.
“I’ll just cut to the chase: big tech’s out to get conservatives,” declared Jordan. “That’s not a suspicion. That’s not a hunch. That’s a fact.”
Jordan referred to the WHO as “the organization that lied to us, the organization that shills for China.”
“They can say whatever they want,” said Jordan. “You say something against them, you get censored.”
It should be noted that Facebook does not censor posts claiming Remdesivir is an effective treatment. The “use patent’ for Gilead Science’s Remdesivir, is held by the Wuhan Virology Insititute.