There is a tradition in Judaism to look at epidemics and tragedies that befall mankind and try and see a message for us from God in them. This is true whether they directly affect us or not.
In this case it does. There is an outbreak of mumps in Jewish communities in Boro Park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Lakewood.
Although mumps are not a deadly disease and in most cases there is a full recovery, it can in some cases be quite serious. From a NYC Health Department News Release: Complications from mumps can include viral meningitis, hearing loss and reproductive problems for men.
If I understand correctly the children of these neighborhoods were not properly inoculated. There was a scare a few years ago that the combined MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, and rubella) was linked to autism. Against medical advice many parents felt that the benefits of inoculation to these childhood diseases did not outweigh the remotest of connections to autism, a devastating life-long mental disorder. And it seemed to be that cases of autism were on the increase in the Frum world.
That studies have not shown any link whatsoever between MMR and autism - did not change anyone’s mind.
There is also the fact that the quick spread of mumps might be due to these areas being densely populated where contagious and infectious diseases can quickly spread.
One might be tempted to say that these factors are reason for this epidemic. Don’t be tempted to think like that. It is Apikursus. There must be a message here for us. A message from God.
Physical explanations have little to do with God’s will. He wanted to tell us something. This highly infectious disease is rampant for a reason. God wanted to tell us something.
But What? What could His message be?
It cannot be the same message that the disaster in Haiti gave us. That was a pretty big message. And it was recent. Do we need an epidemic of mumps to tell us the same thing?
It must be something else. We need to examine what we are doing wrong. What is God trying to telling us by inflicting a disease upon so many innocent children? And why these particular communities? These are after all the Frummest neighborhoods in America and they have the largest number of very Frum Jews.
It must be that a large number of us are doing something wrong in the eyes of God.
Taking a page from the Charedi handbook, I have come to the conclusion that it can only be one thing. The Jewish people are being punished because of Modern Orthodoxy and our belief in Torah U’Mada.
Yes, tolerating this aberration from our Mesorah is what’s causing mumps. It doesn’t matter that Yeshiva University’s neighborhood of Washington Heights hasn’t been affected by it. Nor does the fact that most of the students there have probably been inoculated have anything to do with it.
Whenever there is a major disaster in the world - even when we are not directly affected - we need to look at ourselves. Introspection is what is called for here. A Cheshbon HaNefesh.
We who profess to believe in Torah U’Mada are at fault for embracing a false ideology. It is our fault that the citizens of Lakewood and Boro Park; Williamsburg and Crown Heights are suffering this epidemic. Besides - we are just not Frum enough. That’s why they are being punished.
I therefore propose that we close down Yeshiva University and that all the YU Roshei Yeshiva do Teshuva. And then they should go to Eretz Yisroel and say Tehilim for 40 days at the Kotel. Besides - what better use of their time can there be than this?!
Let us pray that in the merit of this holy task that God will remove this scourge from our people.