Thursday, March 26, 2020

Of Rabbis, Heroes, and Fools

Dr. Zev (Vladimir) Zelenko (VIN)
Some people that ought to know better can be incredibly stupid and selfish. This exists everywhere – including right here in Chicago. There are people think that they know better than the experts. That they are immune to disease. These people are foolishly ignoring all the warnings issued by the best epidemiologists in America to avoid crowds. And have been congregating for their own selfish reasons.

This makes me both sad an angry. As I and many others have been saying, people like this endanger not only themselves but everyone else.

This has generated a strong response from Chicago Mayor Lightfoot. She threatened to close all the beaches and parks if people keep congregating on them. 

Some might be wondering what religious Jews are doing in the parks and beaches. But I am not talking about religious Jews. I’m talking about a few ordinary Chicagoans. 

Yesterday was a nice day in Chicago and it brought out the crowds. There were perhaps a few religious Jews among them. But most of us were not. Most of us here in Chicago have stayed indoors and have been scrupulously following the guidelines issues by city and state officials on the advice of epidemiological experts. Guidelines fully endorsed - and even exceeded by the combined Orthodox rabbinate of Chicago.

I mention this in order to demonstrate that there are stupid people in every community. There are people that do not pay attention to warnings. They end up risking their lives and the lives of their family, friends, and neighbors. These are not necessarily bad people. Just people that stupidly - do not pay attention to warnings of a dangers to our health -  and how best to avoid it.

There has been a lot of criticism of religious Jews who seemed to have flouted these guidelines and have formed Minyanim, inside and outside their Shuls in places like Boro Park and Williamsburg. Crowds there apparently still persist. Even as recently as yesterday according to one report I saw. These people can join their fellow fools on the Chicago beaches with their arrogance and/or ignorance. I only hope they don’t pay a heavy price for it.

On the plus side there was some good news about the rate of the COVID-19 spread in new York yesterday. It has decreased. Not as many as expected got it yesterday it seems. But that kind of news can be counterproductive if people think it allows them to loosen up on their social distancing. That would create an even bigger spike.

Right now social distancing seems to be working. Now is not the time to let up on it. Instead we should be doubling down on it. That  may prove to be the best solution of all. Those that do not have the virus and do come into contact with those that do, by staying put – will not get it. Simple as that. Staying home where no one has it is the way to do that.

On that note I was happy to see the following on Matzav
Gedolei Bnei Brak: It’s a Mitzvah Gedol(ah) NOT to Daven in Shul 
The rabbonim wrote; “To all our dear and beloved brethren, because the doctors determined that the danger of the epidemic is very serious, and the doctors believe that there is a very great chance of being infected within the shuls…according to the doctors’ instructions, people should daven outside with no more than 10 attendees in one place, two meters away from each other.”
The letter is signed Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Rav Shimon Baadani and Rav Sariel Rosenberg and Rav Y. Silman.
At the same time, the chief rabbis of the city of Bnei Brak, Rav Shevach Zvi Rosenblatt and Rav Chaim Yitzchok Eizik Landau, also (wrote) a strong letter stating that people must not daven in shuls.
It should be pointed out that in the United States, rabbonim and doctors have strongly commanded people not to daven with minyanim at all, even outside, but to daven b’yechidus in one’s home. 
All well and good Except for one thing. Frankly, I don’t understand why the rabbis of Bnei Brak have not forbidden even outside Minyanim. Why tempt fate by Davening outside - even when standing 2 meters from each other? Even with as little as 10 people?

Why play these games? True, the chances of bumping into someone in the street that has the virus may not be great. But it is certainly possible. 

In this case the American Rabbinate is right. Daven at Home!

For reasons that we cannot understand, this is what God wants from us right now. The Torah tells us that we are to guard our lives in the extreme. We are required to violate almost every Mitzvah in the Torah in order to save our lives – so that we can live to do more Mitzvos after the danger passes. Why the Bnei Brak rabbis are playing these games when there is a clear biblical level requirement not to do so - is perplexing.

One more thing. A few days ago Vladimir Zelenko, a doctor that services the Satmar community in Kiryas Joel recorded his thoughts about the number of people that had contracted the virus he had seen there – predicting an almost total rate of infection in that community. For that he was apparently excoriated by the leaders of that community claiming that he was wrong and causing antisemitism with statements like that.

I agree with Rabbi Yehudah Levin. (Video can be seen here.) I don’t know who this man is. But if I recall correctly he is someone with whom I would disagree on just about everything. In some cases vehemently. (Not going into details). But in this instance he could not be more right.

Chicago's lakefront, adjacent parks, and trails, have been closed by order of the mayor until further notice.