What a Coronavirus Teshuva From Bnei Brak Can Tell Us About Ourselves
It has been the best of times, and the worst of times, for Torah Judaism. We’ve seen strong, sensible leadership in parts of the community, and failed leadership elsewhere. We’ve seen the resilience of the halachic process, in a torrent of teshuvos addressing new and important issues, delivered by responsible talmidei chachamim. But we have also witnessed Orthodox Judaism held up in front of the world for derision – and we cannot deny that they have found justification for their complaints.
Taking a closer look at a teshuva/responsum from Bnei Brak allows us see the strengths and weaknesses of the Torah community’s response.
The teshuva examines the application of the gemara’s principle that shluchei mitvah einam nizakim – loosely, in the context of the responsum, that those involved in the performance of a mitzvah meet no harm as a consequence of that involvement. The author, in classic responsum style, deals with its parameters and exceptions, and applies the principle to the restrictions that the Israeli Ministry of Health has placed on shuls and schools. His conclusion is that COVID-19 presents only a slight risk factor (of 120,000 diagnosed at the time of its writing, “only” 800 deaths, mostly of those with pre-existing conditions), and therefore within the range to rely of the aforementioned principle. Shuls, therefore, should be reopened. Masks should not be mandatory while davening, and perhaps not at other times, because they depress the wearer with thoughts of the plague, which causes more harm than the virus. When a child in school is diagnosed positively, it should not cause all other children to miss their Torah studies for two weeks. Because the state of affairs has carried on for so long, we are in the position of the fish urged by the fox to come up on shore where it will be safer for them. Torah study and proper davening are our life-blood, and disturbing them for too long is a greater threat to the community.
The positive: The teshuva is a testimony to emunas chachamim in Chazal, something to which others only pay lip-service to. He treats the words of our Sages with seriousness, and would not think of dismissing their statements as aggadic, and therefore irrelevant. One need not agree with the analysis of the relevant texts to respect that, and appreciate that this is precisely what poskim /decisors have done for centuries. He understands the spiritual dynamic of his part of the community, and recognizes that prayer and learning are what keeps it going. What for others is fungible (i.e. it can take other forms, without destroying the flow of life), for his community is absolutely essential. That is real and palpable, and something we should all aspire to.
So what’s wrong with it? Plenty.
- First and foremost – there is not the slightest mention of the impact of a rising infection rate on the rest of the population.. If the medical facts were correct – and they are not – the teshuva would still be all wrong. The goal of the restrictions remains preventing the overwhelming of the nation’s medical system. The author can assert that “only” so many people become ill, but they recover. The reason they recover is that many are treated in hospitals, some of which have run out of beds and are turning away patients. He does not consider the many, many doctors and nurses who have been infected, and taken off active duty. (Israel recently requested that all retired physicians and nurses report to hospitals to help out.) He does not deal with the many individuals – new chemo patients, for examples, who cannot get treatment and whose lives are therefore imperiled, because hospitals cannot tend to them. There is a complete disregard for the bigger picture – the impact of a rising infection rate on the nation as a whole. He writes as if no one else existed but Bnei Brak.
- He ignores the impact of his words on others. If you look at umpteen teshuvos across the centuries, you will find talmidei chachamim writing like chess players, anticipating the moves of others. Authors thought about the consequences of their decisions, in other communities, and at future times. Did it occur to the author that a call to flout government regulations would be quickly picked up outside of Israel as well? Within Israel, he may have felt that there is so much hatred of charedim by the rest of the population, that a bit more would make no difference. What happens, however, when Jews in the US decide that they, too, can decide to ignore the law of the land? We know now that the actions of some of our US subcommunities have precipitated a chilul Hashem unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. As Rav Asher Weiss, shlit”a, put it, “We don’t know what the Ribbono Shel Olam wants from us. One thing we can tell. He is not happy with us.” Is this a time that we should be inciting our non-Jewish neighbors against us?
When the author teaches the laws of refuah on Shabbos, he undoubtedly makes mention of the responsum of the Chasam Sofer that permits treating far more patients on Shabbos than the limited group of Shabbos-observers sanctioned by the gemara itself. The Chasam Sofer permits this because, in larger populations dependent on the medical services of others, we would all be endangered if service providers reciprocated any refusal on our part to treat them. Did it not occur to the author that this might be the case with COVID as well? Even if he did not know of the documented cases of medical personnel in NY openly speaking about their refusal to risk their health on people who had been careless about their own, he should have recognized that possibility, and addressed it in his teshuva.
- His claims that the majority of COVID deaths occurred to people who were so sick previously, that the slightest medical challenge took their lives. To the rest of us, COVID is not a great risk. Really? He seems to confuse “pre-existing conditions” (prevalent in so many people over 60) with “gravely ill.”
- He decries the poor care given to older patients in nursing homes, which he attributes to exaggerated fears by caregivers to contagion. Tell that to the families of the caregivers who died in the process. While some of the unsung heroes of this war are in fact charedi volunteers, is the author ready to call on his children and grandchildren to report to those facilities to help out?
What’s the takeaway from all this? It can’t be pointless venting, as cathartic as it sometimes feels. That just cannot be a Torah approach. I would suggest that it was the Tzanzer Rebbe who nailed it a few days ago in his Sukkos message, delivered while himself suffering from C-19. In free translation, from Sivan Meir-Rahav’s report:
“We are required to be in quarantine. We have no possibility of gathering in shuls or for semachos. We have to keep our distance, doing the best we can, observing the dictate of ‘V’Nishmarten me’od le-nafshoseichem.” But we must stop and think. Perhaps all this isolation stems from the fact that there is division and dissension among us, and that we lack a generous eye and peaceful disposition towards our fellow? Everyone thinks of himself, of his friends and relatives, on his own community of Chassidic group – and ignores our people as a whole. [Emphasis mine – YA] Rather that look generously at the other, and judge him favorably, we fall prey to lashon hora and rechilus. For this, we are paying the price, measure for measure. ‘You wish to be for yourself? Fine. Go it alone, by yourself.”
The Torah way in criticism is to find fault with the other only as a way of discovering the problem within ourselves. We have many, many people who are incredibly devoted to the community – and the nation. (Many of the finest are secular Jews, who live and breath for the benefit of the nation as a whole.) We cannot say that this is an emphasis in the chinuch we give our children.
The Ponovezher Rov, who was responsible for so much of the early development of Bnei Brak, was invited to the inauguration of a Chassidic organization there. He danced ecstatically – despite having no connection to that chassidus. He exulted, “Today – here – I am a chassid!”
It is not enough to simply relate the story as a footnote to the life of a great person. We need to abstract the lesson of real responsibility to groups outside of our own, and to the nation as a whole, and harp on it. We likely will not influence others. But we need it for ourselves.
I don’t, and would recommend the deeper and more considered analysis of this and related topics by Rav Meyer Twersky. ↑
One essential element in Psak Halacha is gathering as many relevant facts as possible, which entails having robust communication channels to content experts who can shoot down half-truths and hearsay and give the straight story as they see it. They may differ with one another but they can’t be brushed aside. It’s also instructive to find true parallels in past responsa by Gedolim. Finally, on life-and-death matters that don’t demand his immediate decision, a posek should recognize his own limitations and the superior knowledge base and judgment of higher level poskim.
It is well known that once a scientific or technological issue was explained to the CI or RSZA both the CI and RSZA could express their understanding of the same and the person who presented the issue was astounded by their grasp of the issue. RMF also was acutely aware of medical and technological issues. It is also known that when the CJ rabbinical body decades ago “ruled” that microphones could be used in shul, the Agudas HaRabbonim reacted with an issur. RYBS was informed of both and stated both were wrong-the Rabbinical Assembly did not understand the Halacha and the Agudas HaRabbonim did not understand the science. Rendering Psak and writing ShuT on such issues requires an awareness and appreciation of the scientific , medical, etc isssues and the impact of the Psak not just on the person posing the inquiry
FWIW over 50 years ago there were big debates about the permissibility of using microphones on Shabbas, which were battery operated, locked before Shabbas so no access on Shabbas to change controls etc I am not aware of any that permitted standard electric microphone on Shabbas.
How much microphone was really necessary considering that there are some concert halls which did not have microphones-they built facilities with great acoustics wo microphones. I suspect some of the reason for decrease in use of microphones was a realization that often microphone was not truly necessary to hear but was used by some as an attempt to show that they were “progressive” in Halacha.
Thank you for this article. When i first saw the psak described on a different website, i was furious. I take care of my 92 year old parents (who have numerous health issues, including severe dementia), and my biggest fear is of their being exposed to COVID19. As careful as we all are, there are risks that are unavoidable- their caregivers must sometimes ride buses, my parents sometimes need to be taken to a doctor, or to the ER. While we don’t live in Bnei Brak, cases of Corona anywhere in Israel directly affect us.
As a dati savta, I don’t have any connection to haredi poskim, and certainly not to the one who issued this psak. HOWEVER, you do! You have co-authors on this website who are involvd with the Aguda, your yourself have rabbinical colleagues– I beg you to do everything in your power (and I really do appreciate this blog post) to get through to the author of this psak, to his associates, to Hareidi politicians (who have not been helpful -to say the least- in urging compliance) and explain that they are causing loss of life.
(Just an aside, if this was really just about Tora learning, then I could understand the implementation of a strictly enforced capsule system, but as soon as their disregard for social distancing extends to weddings, funerals, and Uman, then, in my opinion, their stance loses all crediblity). Any influence you may have, beyond this article would be greatly appreciated
(Please post annonymousely if possible. I’m including identifying information, so you know that i am a real person)
The reasonable and responsible approach that HaGaon HaMeshiv Shlita prefers is very close to the policy advocated by some of the leading medical authorities (e.g. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard, Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford, and Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine and economics at Stanford)
People living in stable societies do not, cannot, and should not have the option of choosing their own policies when there is a need for uniform implementation. Those who do not understand this are part of the problem
I respectfully disagree.
As I showed in my book, the role of govt. is strictly limited in halakha. (i.e. Jewish govt.)
In all other areas, every individual is required to decide what he (and his family) should do.
If covid was ch”v like cholera, there is a case to be made for a uniform policy, but b”h it is not like cholera.
Covid is indeed a disease, and it poses a danger that should be dealt with.
How to deal with covid is a matter of dispute between experts. It must be noted that lockdowns (for example) have many ramifications and consequences in many fields, and experts in all fields should be consulted.
‘the role of gov’t is limited in halachah’
Sorry, but it’s just intuitively obvious that any stable society needs a gov’t, particularly for matters that affect the general public. Otherwise what you get is anarchy.
‘In all other areas, every individual is required to decide what he(and his family) should do’. Are you seriously suggesting that every individual has the right to decide how he will react to COVID?
‘Experts in all fields should be consulted’. Do you honestly believe that a Rav from bnei brak consulted ‘experts in all fields’ before he issued a psak?Even if his facts were correct(and they aren’t) how can you issue a public written psak on something that is so dynamic and changing constantly, yet the psak will be listened to, not just today or tomorrow, but potentially months down the line. Even if the facts were correct as of the day it was written, they won’t be correct a week later.
I assume you are referring to the Great Barrington Declaration. It just doesn’t say what you think it says and is actually very far from what the teshuva says:
1. The declaration is a statement of medical opinion. The teshuva sounds like a call to civil disobedience from a rabbinic figure with a wide sphere of influence who is issuing psakim on medical issues about which he has little or no expertise.
2. The Great Barrington Declaration in no way downplays the seriousness of the disease and, as far as I can tell, does not tell anyone to take off masks indoors. It merely suggests an alternative approach to solving this crisis and allows room for disagreement. A psak halacha compels followers of this posek to comply with his opinion.
I was not referring only to the declaration, but mainly to what the experts that I cited wrote and said in public statements over the last few months.
I did not downplay the seriousness of covid, and RMSK shlita did not downplay it either.
RMSK shlita is an important posek, and he has an obligation to pasken. Like any psak that has scientific aspects, the posek hears or reads what experts say (lav davka govt. experts!) and paskens according to his understanding of the mtziut (e.g. the mask issue) and the halakha. (Please see what I wrote about this issue in my book, written and published a few years ago). Just like a scientist offers his scientific opinion, so too a Posek offers his halakhic opinion. The main difference is that a psak is usually based on a much wider basis than a scientific opinion.
A psak does not “compel” anyone in modern times. A posek has no police force at his disposal to insure compliance. Adraba, it is the govt. that can and does force people to obey the edicts it chooses to issue.
What is the name of your book?
Keter 11: The Allocation of Public Resources in Jewish Law (Hebrew)
Rav Adlerstein seems to attribute significance to the precise locale in which the responsum was penned: Bnei Brak.
I would suggest, for the sake of accuracy, qualifying that: “Hasidic Bnei Brak.”
Bnei Brak is far from monolithic, and Rav Gershon Edelstein, who also resides in Bnei Brak, has not been issuing statements like this, to say the least.
Sometimes when I write my comments on here, I feel like I am going way over my head, way beyond my abilities plus of course I have zero authority. And yet, concerning the above subject, several thoughts came immediately to my mind which I hope will be constructive or at least thought provoking ones.
One is this. I seem to recall the idea that we should not depend on miracles. Unless the situation is both extraordinary and really has no other alternative, such as when our nation was borne in Ancient Egypt and thus open miracles from G-d were warranted, G-d allows the natural, consistent laws of the universe to run their course. Thus for a religious Jew to tell him or herself that no harm can come to him or her as long as they follow G-d’s Commandments, so flies in the face of our everyday reality, that to me such a stance strikes me as absurd. If I may use an extreme example because it helps to illustrate my point, what would be the fate of somebody who decides to take a walk, against the flow of traffic no less, on a fast-moving highway while openly studying the Talmud? Does anybody really believe that such a person would have any more chance of surviving such a suicidal act, as would any other human being? I would like to think that Judaism prides itself on being realistic. Depending on miracles is anything but that. Endangering one’s life by needlessly exposing oneself to the Chinese virus, is equally absurd.
Another related thought is a kind of variation on a theme talked about by the Rambam. I hesitate to even give this a try, so aware of what a giant the Rambam was compared to any of us but especially compared to me, and so I just hope I do not misrepresent what he said, but I seem to recall him saying something along the lines of what fools we are if we take certain passages in the Talmud too literally, especially those that fly in the face of common sense and our ordinary, everyday experiences. I do not recall at the moment specific examples of this, but what I can do is recommend a truly superior book I read years ago, devoted to this very subject, called The Juggler and the King, by Rabbi Aharon Feldman. Outside of the Torah itself, it is probably the greatest book I can remember reading. I undoubtedly need to read it again.
Having said the above, one might think that I am coming down hard on the Chareidim here in regard to their reaction to the Chinese virus. However, that is assuming that they are not following what the medical experts are saying on this issue. I am not convinced that that is the case. Contrary to what the mainstream media would have us believe, there really does not appear to be a consensus regarding just about anything connected to the Chinese virus. The allegedly reckless practices of the Chareidim may therefore not be any better or worse than the practices of the population at large.
To illustrate what I mean, my understanding of the Chinese virus is that for there to be a reasonable possibility of contracting that virus, one has to have a compromised immune system, have pre-existing health conditions such as obesity, a heart condition, or diabetes, and be indoors and face-to-face for at least fifteen minutes with somebody who has the Chinese virus. So just to cite some examples here, even if one rides on a crowded bus, or is in a waiting room in a doctor’s waiting room, or is waiting in line at a grocery or retail store, none of those situations truly warrant wearing a mask or social distancing, since the people around oneself are constantly moving, not there long enough to be a cause for worry. And when one is outside, one basically does not have to worry at all about catching the Chinese virus. Thus when I see people wearing a mask who are by themselves, such as when driving or jogging, or with others but outside, I just symbolically shake my head at their willingness to deprive their brains of sufficient oxygen, all for the sake of virtue signaling, plus their mask wearing just makes them look strange in general.
I understand that for the sake of peace, that we Jews need to comply with government directives, as absurd and as overbearing as those rules are. At the same time, however, when those rules are so restrictive, so counterproductive, and so draconian, I would think that the inner Abraham, the inner revolutionary, should be ignited within us. It is no accident that we Jews, however secular, have been at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. Giving up our right to assemble in religious contexts, and compromising our right to breathe freely and actually see each other’s faces, is to surrender to the slavery that plagued us in Egypt as well as in every other tyrannical society since then. Certainly, those most prone to catching the Chinese virus should probably practice discretion in this matter, but the point is, that it should be an individual decision not forced on us by government mandate.
You are sadly misinformed. Anyone can contract Covid-19. If you are young and no pre-existing conditions you are unlikely – but not guaranteed – to have a bad case of it. If you are middle-aged you are likely to have a moderate case but recover. A large percentage of people who “recover” remain weak for months at least (it hasn’t been long enough to know whether they will ever recover their strength). A large percentage of people who “recover” have long-lasting damage to lungs and other parts of the body . And a very high percentage of the population has pre-existing conditions.
As for masks, they do NOT deprive the wearer of oxygen., as any surgeon knows. (Would you really want to have someone oxygen-deprived operating on you?) This has been tested and confirmed scientifically.
“He writes as if no one else existed but Bnei Brak.
He ignores the impact of his words on others. ”
In the 1960’s there was a severe water shortage in NY. I remember the signs, “Save water!”
My brother in law lived on the lower East Side, in the same building as the Gadol Hador Rav Yosef Henkin ZTL.
They ate together in a communal Sukkah and as a young Yeshiva bachur, he had the honor of assisting the aged Rav Henkin with Netilas Yadayim. As my brother in law was ready to pour the water on his hands, what did the Gadoil Hador say?
“Be careful, not too much water, there’s a shortage”!
What would he say to the author of this Teshuva?
Mordy Getz, Jacob Kornbluh , and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz were called “Mosrim” in April. The JTA report commented then , “While Kornbluh may not be in any physical danger from the pashkevil…it is emblematic of a wider effort to intimidate Hasidic Jews who speak out about problems in their communities. “
We now see Getz(or at least his brother) and Kornbluh were in actual life-threatening danger from goons who identify as Chasidic.
By contrast, Mordy Getz, termed “Boro Park’s Paul Revere” by Mishpacha(available online) for alerting people about Corona precautions, also helps those widowed by Corona by paying their grocery bills, and represents the best of the Chasidish world:
“Getz credits his relationship with the Bobover rebbe, Rav Naftali Tzvi Halberstam ztz”l, who encouraged him to do chesed. Most importantly, the rebbe taught him to listen to the plight of the poor and suffering. The rebbe once expressed to Getz that “it is a shame we don’t say in Bobov” the phrase “tza’akas hadal taazin” — that Hashem empathizes, rather than merely listens, with the plight of a poor person — in Nishmas.
however, when Jews in the US decide that they, too, can decide to ignore the law of the land? We know now that the actions of some of our US subcommunities have precipitated a chilul Hashem unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes.
Sadly, if anything underepresenting the danger to Klal Israel. For centuries we have on occasion been falsely accused of spreading disease to non Jews. Here we have a case where data shows Hareidi neighborhoods not only have positivity rates many times surrounding neighborhoods. The virus does not respect boundaries, people have connections with other people. The virus may well spread to surrounding communities. The reason why various countries and states restrict outsiders from visiting. One can’t prevent a resident of one part of a state from visiting another part.If virus becomes even more widespread and RL hospitalizations and deaths increase-who will be blamed for being transmitters of the virus?
And yet, despite this, over Chol Hamoed the Moetzet and the Vaad Roshei Yeshiva of Torah UMesorah issued a frightening statement that STILL resisted shutting down schools and shuls.
Heck, the Agudah sued Cuomo on Friday over this (thankfully saner heads prevailed).
There is a public health crisis. Keeping schools and shuls open with no restrictions is a recipe for absolute disaster. When this happened around Purim, the excuse was “we didn’t know”. There is no such excuse now. How many hospitalized folks in Lakewood, Boro Park, Palm Tree will it take for the community as a whole to take it with the seriousness it deserves?
I haven’t been to a worship service since early March. I’m not lovin’ it. It’s not just Haredi or Hasidic Jews that are having their ways of life disrupted. But we have to look out for each other as fellow human beings. What possesses someone to burn a mask, to consider it treif, to harrass someone for keeping human beings healthy?
Agudah did not say there should be no restrictions, just that the restrictions imposed (no more that ten people in a room) were draconian and far more than necessary. In addition, Cuomo had promised rabbanim in NY that shuls could be open at 50% capacity before he backtracked on Succos when Jews could not reply. He then said in a phone call with Rabbanim that the closures were caused by fear, not science. (https://twitter.com/HaMeturgeman/status/1316071151836291075?s=20).
What possesses people to burn their masks, is that they choose to freely breathe rather than be mindless sheep. Wearing dirty, suffocating masks is an unhealthy practice both for our brains as well as for our individual human rights as guaranteed both by our Constitution as well as G-d Himself.
Whatever Cuomo did or did not say, or did or did do, should not distract us from the consistent and utter disregard and flouting of rules by certain segments of the Orthodox world that most other New Yorkers have been abiding by since March.
The reason why the rates are so high in many of these frum areas is precisely because some folks continue to congregate indoors in large groups without masks. Period. They are the only such group or subgroup I’m aware of who are in such a category.
There are plenty of other Orthodox synagogues and schools out there in the NY metro area which continue to function, and have done so for some time, albeit in complete compliance with local, state and federal guidelines. No-one is out to “get” the Orthodox or Jews–time to cut that nonsense out.
Reb Yid: 1) Cases are rising in upstate New York and other counties without charedi populations.
2) Basketball parks and other gatherings in the “red zones” have been ignored while shuls and schools have been targeted for inspection over and over.
3)Cuomo has many times singled out the Orthodox community, including using photos from many years ago to show noncompliance.
4) In a recent court case filed by the Catholic church, it was discovered that the “red zones” are drawn up in Cuomo’s office, not by doctors or experts.
5) When Jews are targeted for physical assault on NY streets, no help is given, but somehow there are plenty of law enforcement officers to shut down playgrounds used by chassidim.
6)The charedim agreed to follow Cuomo’s orders until he unilaterally changed them on Succos when they could not comment or even know what the new orders were.
You would know this if you followed OJPAC or @Hameturgaman (Eli Steinberg) on Twitter. It is very disappointing to see someone who calls himself Reb Yid blindly swallow the anti-charedi and antisemitic reporting that treats chassidim as lawless freaks instead of actually listening to them and understanding their perspective.
Yes, at this point the cases are rising everywhere. There is no point any longer to only single out those particular areas, but that is not to say they should not be included–rather that many other zip codes and zones now need to be added.
But at the time that the flouting of these regulations were taking place not so long ago, this was not yet the case. And indoor locations such as schools and synagogues for sure require the most stringent regulations, since one is most likely to get infected indoors in groups and unmasked.
1) I read it, and it is still unmistakably irresponsible. Are you suggesting that this private network (admirable as it is) is extensive enough to service all the ill haredim? If so, why are people reporting that the largest subgroup in Israeli hospitals is haredim? And do you suggest that Bnei Brak et al are hermetically sealed off from the rest of the country, and that super-spreader events don’t jump geographical distance and infect other parts of the country? That will be a first. And go tell it to the Pittsburger Rosh Yeshiva who said that the Rebbe didn’t die, but was murdered by “bnei avla.”
2) It is not hard at all. The Torah expects us to be exemplars of the best, not relying on whataboutisms.
3) I’ll continue to go with people like R Asher Weiss, shlit”a, who show responsibility, leadership – and still take the parable of the fox and the fish quite seriously
When you read any or all of the Piskei Halacha on the virus by RHS and others by R M Willig, as well as by R Asher Weiss, there is always a strong consideration of
1)the factors of Chillul Hashem,
2) the severity of the pandemic,
3) the negative effect of our communities carrying on as if we are somehow oblivious to the Pandemic ( Aivah) (which the countless obligatory notices all spring demonstrated that we were struck very severely by the Pandemic),,
4) an awareness of the Mesorah of Brisk and the Piskei Halacha of such Gdolei Acharonim as R Akiva Eiger ZL in Inyannei Pikuach Nefesh, ,
5) a complete appreciation of the fact that we live in a Malchus Shel Chesed where Dina DeMalchusa Dina has real life applications
with a realization that our lives require healthy dosages of Hishtadlus and bitachon while preserving Shemiras HaMitzvos even if that means some minhagim have to be put on the individual and communal back burner until it is safer.
If someone can give Mareh Mkomos to other Poskim in NA who have written Piskei Halacha with an awareness of these issues, as opposed to writing purely and simply without consideration of the above in an almost oblivious context that demonstrates the familiar statement of Ikar Chaser Min HaSefer and which fail to consider such factors as Chillul HaShem, Aivah, etc, I am sure that all of us would endeavor to read the same.
WADR the above Teshuvah fails to address the facts that the same Gemara in Pesachim 8b as noted by RHS and R Willig in a very recent Psak about hakafos, masking and distancing at Hakafos and Chasunos, states that any immunity to a Shomer Mitzvos is not to be relied on in the presence of a known danger.
One can very well maintain that overly cavalier attitudes and weekly pictorial evidence demonstrating the same in the Charedi media about not masking and distancing this summer in the Catskills led to the uptick in Lakewood, Monsey, Brooklyn and Queens. Like it or not, mask distribution programs should have been ongoing in a non stop manner together with strong statements that masking and distancing was necessary. Unfortunately, those of who live in the red orange and yellow zones of NYC are now having to deal with the fact that as always, the cavalier attitude and dismissal of science and epidemiological evidence as doom and gloom have resulted in a classical depiction of what happens when you act in a way in which you are your own enemy. Yes, there is a concept of herd immunity, but its application in the US, as opposed to Sweden, or Japan, remains problematic, and I don’t think that the political powers that be in the US ( or Israel for that matter view it as a viable option precisely because of the emphasis on the value on human life in the US, which is not evident in other countries.
Five shuls were fined a total of $150,000.00 for violating the admittedly harsh regulations in NY. When you ignore warnings from Albany and act in a gravely mistaken manner as if the pandemic is over, running to court with allegations of anti Semitism that are undermined by the conduct of our community, will not win in any court . That is what is called not having clean hands when you ask that the regulations in issue be declared unconstitutional , or to use the phrase of Chazal, Ain Kategor Naases Sanegor.
We will only win by looking at ourselves in the mirror and even by asking our fellow residents who don’t mask and engage in social distancing the simple question-why not? You don’t have to be a Baal Nefesh or Ben or Bas Aliyah to ask the question.
R Twersky’s most recent shiur on the Chillul HaShem caused by the riots last week in Boro Park is a must watch and critique of the terrible events that gave rise to the wall to wall news coverage of the same. We all must realize that even in such communities, we have to send a message that Dina DMalchusa Dina is a halacha that has significant impact , and that those who claim that Boro Park doesn’t follow American law and who engage in violent street protests by imitating the worst aspects of the riots this summer should be condemned, and not rationalized. Another must read on the same issue is the letter of Rebbitzen Shani Bechoffer
This most recent Purim, we curtailed and cancelled our Seudas Purim in its midst when a close relative ZL was taken by ambulance to a major NY hospital with what was diagnosed as pneumonia but may have very well been Covid. I am not understating the fact that the hospital looked like a scene out of a science fiction novel. While I was standing on line to see my relative who was in an isolation ward, I was behind two Chasidishe young men, who all too tragically belittled what was going on and expressed no need for any hishtadlus whatsoever . We should all never want to go back to the dark days of the spring by thinking about we all have to do both in the realms of Hishtadlus and Bitachon, rather than ignoring and belittling the facts on the ground. We all have to ask ourslves whether wish to be recorded in history as being part of the solution or the problem that we face in dealing in Covid 19
Agree with your post, might also add although probably implicit in rest of your piece that I believe Yahadus values human life at least as much as US and Israel and thus could not accept a desire to go towards herd immunity which would probably cause a loss of life much greater than we will have otherwise . We hope and can realistically expect that within a year or so there will be widespread availibility of a vaccine. If one combines the vaccine with continuation of mitigation factors one would expect to have frequency of Covid go way down. If there are future therapeutics that also cut down the impact of Covid, that combination IYH will make Covid something much less deadly. Unfortunately, clearly that has not happened yet.
Thanks! I have found at by simply asking someone on the street on Shabbos or in a store to put on a mask there is no rationalizationthat can be offered to not wear a mask You don’t have to be a Baal Madregah or Baal Musar to ask the question and you shouldn’t be afraid to do so out of fear of offending someone You just might help that person be more careful either In transmitting or getting the virus
R Twersky on Chillul HaSHem This is must readinghttps://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2020/rtwe_chilulhashem.html
http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2020/10/the-beis-medrash-and-noahs-ark.html wonder if this is true. it would seem then to be litvish mehalech as well in terms of the emunat chachamim.
i guess the preference given to modernity vs allegience to maamarei chazal would then fall as yet another demerit against MO theology….
Yet the preference for Maamareu Chazal and Bitachon as opposed to the need for at least some hishtadlus ends for all of us when we need the best medical care or the quickest response to an emergency
What’s wrong with this combination?—
1. Statement represented to a third or fourth party as a direct quotation
2. Disclaimer to the effect that it might not be genuine
Using hearsay in these matters or in general is not such a hot idea. Let’s have a Gedolim news service in which Gedolim personally and directly confirmed the accuracy of their reported statements, or these wouldn’t be released to the public.
See here for R Asher Weiss’s views in contrast to those of R Klein, the teshuvah cited by R http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/288970
One problem posed by this epidemic is that we each see a piece of the puzzle (possible causes, solutions, further development…) that is colored by our prior experiences and biases, and we each become enamored of our piece. Meanwhile, our elected officials make their good, bad, and ugly decisions which we also view subjectively even when hard evidence about their effects and side-effects can be found. More humility all around, even among some medical professionals and some poskim, couldn’t hurt. Worldwide, we are still in exile and always have to factor in how our actions can cause us harm.
I know of cases, and surely do most people know of the same, where a person on the way to perform a mitzva was killed in an automobile accident. While there is a promise that sheluchei mitzva einam nizakin, we must assume that automobile accidents are considered schichei hezeika. Now, there have been more than 2000 persons who have died from covid19 in Israel, and over 300,000 who have been infected, while the number who have died in automobile accidents is less than 350. The same is so in the USA. There have been about 36,000 deaths due to automobile accidents per year, and there have been over 200,000 covid19 deaths. I think it is fairly clear that if automobile accidents are considered shichiach hezeika, all the more so for covid. Even given the statistics of a few weeks ago when the death toll in Israel was 800, the same argument is apparent. The idea that the above cited rabbi from Bnei Braq that covid19 is not shechiach hezeika is, in my opinion, demonstratively false.
“We cannot say that this is an emphasis in the chinuch we give our children…But we need it for ourselves.”
A good place to start is at the beginning. In the preface to this coming week’s Parsha, the Netziv famously speaks of the “yesharim’s”, upright, concern for others far outside their religious orbit :
עוד היו “ישרים”, היינו: שהתנהגו עם אומות העולם, אפיל ועובדי אלילים מכוערים; מכל מקום היו עִמם באהבה, וחשו לטובתם, באשר היא קיום הבריאה
Orthodox blood plasma donation was a wonderful example of caring for others.
Making large weddings shows a lack of “yashar”, responsibility and care for the world mentioned by Netziv. Whatever the outcome and justification of the current lawsuit—the NYT editorial said that the city could help the Orthodox community by displaying respect to and partnering with them to enable prayer by “providing tents and closing streets for as long as necessary”–Corona czar, Dr. Deborah Birx also has a point in my opinion “that the Orthodox Jews clashing with local officials over new coronavirus restrictions in Brooklyn need to understand that they’re living in a “community of others.” “We are a community together. No one group lives in isolation”.
Let’s agree that our community did not emphasize masking and distancing sufficiently this past summer that Cuomo reacted harshly and that the riots and litigation were the wrong responses Cuomo’s latest statement about “ religious practices” without any qualification strikes me as inappropriate to say the least However his threat to cut funding is the only weapon of enforcement that speaks and carries weight I don’t think that disobedience of Cuomo’s directives will be productive and send the wrong message de Dina DMalchusa
Many here and even more so in the general online and media world seem to be absolutely baffled about how anyone can possibly not view the cost effectiveness of certain measures to contain Corona the same way they do.
They also seem to take for granted that the government Corona prevention methods all make sense and are being implemented for nothing other than altruistic safety purposes.
As such their message to those who don’t see it the way they do really boils to a self righteous “you are an evil idiot for viewing this differently than I do”.
In the best case scenario their message is of little more substance from a dissident perspective than an ad saying “Drink Pepsi!”
This is without mixing in politics and how the government, social and non social media turned the issue into an all out “us against them” fight with regard to the some parts of the frum world.
This is why the message isn’t getting across.
Take a look at the cover and the llnked articlehttps://mishpacha.com/shuttered-shuls-shattered-trust/
Perhaps the inquiry should be whether we have done enough individually and communally, Take a look the quoted language from RHS in this articlehttps://www.queensjewishlink.com/index.php/opinion/3234-turning-mageifah-to-simchah#:~:text=Manny%20Behar%20is%20the%20former,at%20mjbnolabels%40aol.com.
“Later on Wednesday, I listened to a shiur by Rav Hershel Schachter shlita. He said that during the 1831 cholera epidemic, Rabbi Akiva Eiger zt”l issued a number of takanos for the Yamim Nora’im, which included limiting the number of people in shul, requiring that every other seat in the shul be empty, and shortening the davening by eliminating piyutim. When the pandemic ended, the King of Prussia honored Rabbi Akiva Eiger, because the death rate among the Jews was lower than the death rate in the rest of Europe.
Rav Schachter went on to say, “I don’t know why people in our generation think they are bigger tzadikim than Rabbi Akiva Eiger. They’re not worried about the social distancing, they’re not worried about wearing the masks, they’re not worried about shortening the davening. Rabbi Akiva Eiger was a holy tzadik and he did all of those things.”
I returned to work after working at home between Purim and Pesach and when you ride the buses and trains and walk the streets of a nearly deserted Manhattan everyone wears masks without exception. The failure of our communities to do so is no small Chillul HaShem
When we can walk on the streets of the major Torah observant communities and see distancing and masks without exception , then we can talk about being Noseh Bol Chavero ( as urged by so many Darshanim, Baalei Musar , Baalei Chasidus and Baalei Machshavah nd and we can answer the challenge of Rambam of not acting as set forth in in Hilcos Teshuvah 3:11. Until then , that Maamar Chazal will unfortunately sound like Drush and a mere Musar Shmuse as opposed to dictating how we are supposed to act Bein Adam LChavero.
The almost non stop obituaries last spring should have ended any IMO misinformed rationalization, belittling and denial of the medical evidence, hospital admissions and fatalities, the dangerous nature of the Magefa in the absence of a vaccine, the need to mask and distance and where the recent uptick in cases is coming from. Thinking that we can press a magic reset button as individuals and a community and pretend that our inactions have no impact on the world around us is not just denial but Chillul HaShem. Can any of us deny that we read and saw far too many pictures of simchas et al with zero evidence of masks and distancing could see with our own eyes or were aware of masking and distancing not being practiced at all or insufficiently on the streets and in some, but not all shuls in our communities? Were we as a community and individuals constantly
and properly encouraging and reminding ourselves , friends and even passersby on the streets of the need to distance and mask not just in shul but on our streets? These questions, IMO, are staring at those of us in red, yellow and orange zones in our collective proverbial mirror. Why can’t our communities be 100% compliant as well? Like it or not, the recent uptick in diagnosed and hospitalized cases of Covid in our communities is a Chillul HaShem of immense proportions caused by our own conduct that we are facing such draconian regulations
i am reminded of a favorite story that I witnessed. The Rav ztl as did his grandfathers made tea in a kli sheni, since tea was a spice (tavlin.) a student (with chutzpah) asked how the Rav knew that our tea is tavlin. His response: “how do you know yellow is yellow?” rabbis who take phrases which they feel capable of understanding as opposed to also depending on a mimetic tradition as their basis for psak, are not following traditional methods of psak.
a great deal more surrounds this issue, but it is important to remember that this allows the devil to freely quote scriptures.
I would suggest as suggested any R Asher Weiss in a wonderful Seder on Emunah and Bitachon that there is a balance between Hishtadlus and Bitachon that always requires at least a minimal amount of Hishtadlus before one can invoke the Midas HaBitachon .One can argue that we have communally and individually far too often enphasized Bitachon and incorrectly deemphasized Hishtadlus except for medical care and seeing that our communities are protected in the same way as any other ethnic minority in America When so many people disdain engaging in wearing masks and social distancing without any rational basis something is indeed rotten in Denmark I urge all readers to read some comments by Torah observant doctors and nurses as to the culture of denial of the severity of this dangerous disease that is again plaguing our communities In the Forward
We don’t need rallies on 13th Avenue against the Gzeros of Cuomo We need to take Covid seriously in our communities and examine the culture of denial in our midst before the latest uptick continues its upward trajectory RL
I returned to work after working at home between Purim and Pesach and when you ride the buses and trains and walk the streets of a nearly deserted Manhattan everyone wears masks without exception. The failure of our communities to do so is no small Chillul HaShem
I am retired thus have not been in Manhattan for a long time-way before Covid. However, I’ll share a similar story. I live on the edge of probably 5 miles or so of very active Orthodox communities. I don’t travel much at all now, but do have medical appointments. If my medical appointment is an area which is populated heavily by our group I see very few masks on people walking, if my appointment is outside of the Jewish area vast majority are wearing masks.
I heard an Orthodox Jewish lecture on Covid last motzei Shabbat-person who knew statistics of Covid, stated that in my county the top 6 per capita rates of Covid were found in areas of large Orthodox populations, as were 8 of the top 10 areas. Orthodox Jews are not a huge percentage of county, but Covid rates are highest there.
When one smokes in private one may kill oneself, increasing Covid not only risk to oneself but to others both in our community and elsewhere.
Rashi in Parshas Noach quotes the Gemara about marital relations in the Teivah making reference to
מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָעוֹלָם שָׁרוּי בְּצַעַר
“The men separately and the women separately, because they were forbidden to live together as man and wife since the world was living in a state of distress”
While this may not be practiced today for various reasons, the general principle is noteworthy, that one should think about the pain of the larger non-Jewish society even when making weddings, such as by following health guidelines, or when davening in shul according to guidelines, for that matter.
The need for this sensitivity מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָעוֹלָם שָׁרוּי בְּצַעַר is universal, and goes beyond any segment of the Jewish community.
The OU/RCA and Chabad have called to daven/learn for the speedy recovery of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Yaakov Tzvi ben Liba.
In fact, last week’s “Bereishit 5781 – Taking Responsibility (Covenant & Conversation)”, also available on Apple podcast, is about responsibility, one of the themes of this post. Some of R. Sacks’ other recent and timely podcasts from this Elul are:
“Faith & Insecurity” (Pt 1 of 3 | Elul 5780 Lecture Series)
“Rethinking Failure” (Pt 2 of 3 | Elul 5780 Lecture Series)
“Building the Future” (Pt 3 of 3 | Elul 5780 Lecture Series)
R. Menachem Bombach, the Chasidic founder of Netzach Haredi educational network in Israel, describes on 10/8 in Times of Israel, “No community is an island: The ultra-Orthodox Corona crisis”, how the Chasidic world itself is diverse, and indicates three main reasons why the leaders of some of the Hasidic factions have given up the fight against the coronavirus(practical, spiritual, psychological).
He then writes regarding those who don’t follow guidelines due to the above reasons that “there is no awareness of the fact that we don’t live alone, but rather are part of a larger society”, and goes on to argue for educational change including teaching civics:
“However, if we want to see change in the way similar challenges are dealt with in the Haredi community in the future, it is essential that a core curriculum of general studies be added to ultra-Orthodox education. We must ensure that the coming generations will continue their study of Torah and religious studies, but that they will also learn about civics and will have a knowledge and understanding of science and statistics. These studies will raise their civic awareness and sensitivity.”