|Satmar leader, Reb Meyer Rispler Z”L (YWN)|
A photo circulated on WhatsApp Tuesday showing a sign posted to the front of a business in Borough Park. “We are closed!” the sign said, listing a phone number for appointments and pickup. But in Yiddish, the sign gave another message: Enter through the side door.
Although the JTA is article was mostly about schools in certain neighborhoods defying New York State’s lockdown order because of a spike on COVID there, I wanted to focus on the attitude that is responsible for it. Which includes what that business did.
I wish I could say that this clear deception was a rare exception. But I have seen it too many times to believe that. Not that it is the rule either. But it is a lot more common than one might think. I recall one sign in the window clothing store in Williamsburg a few years ago that said Closed’ in English and ‘Open’ in Yiddish. At the time it made me laugh. But unfortunately it isn’t funny. Deception is a serious violation of Halacha. It is called ‘Geneivas Daas’ which is considered stealing - forbidden by Halacha regardless of whether the victim is Jewish or not.
The fact is that some schools in certain mostly Chasidic neighborhoods are defying that order and keeping them open - while pretending they are shut. Just like they did back when the pandemic first began.
They think it’s worth the risk? Or perhaps they simply don't believe there is one. Making it sadly ironic because of what has been reported at YWN:
The Satmar community was in mourning on Friday, when word spread of the Petira of their beloved Rosh Hakuhal in Williamsburg.
Reb Meyer Rispler Z”L (70), served as the Rosh Hakuhal (President) of the Satmar Kehillah in Williamsburg (Chassidim of Rav Aharon Teitelbaum Shlita). He contracted COVID-19 in late September, and was hospitalized. He was then placed on a ventilator, and R”L never recovered.
Needless to say - in my view they are seriously mistaken about the dangers of COVID (or more correctly their view of the lack of danger). But even if they were right about COVID, the idea of deceiving the government seems to be way too common. The mentality seems to be the following. If you can get away with it - go for it! Legal/Shmeegal. Who cares?! What’s more important - Feeding my family and paying the rent or giving it to a wasteful government? Why should I give up my hard earned cash to a system that spends it on people that have the values of an alleycat?!
Lest anyone think I am making up this narrative. I am not. I have heard it all too often.
Fortunately most Orthodox Jews do not feel this way. They feel the same way I do about it and condemn this attitude and the behavior it generates. But the only time the people that have this attitude regret it is when they get caught. I have no clue what the percentage of people like this is in those communities. But even if only one person does. It’s still causes a Chilul HaShem and is condemnable. And I can assure everyone that it is more than one person. Which the New York State Correctional Facility at Otisville will testify too.
Just to be absolutely clear. This kind of thinking is not limited to Chasidim. It crosses all Hashkafic lines. As it does all of humanity. There have always been people that believe that if you can get away with something that is illegal but benefits you, why not? And then do so without any moral compunction. But I find the larger share of people like that live in Chasidic areas like Boro Park. As was the abovementioned case.
Unfortunately I don’t think anyone in the world of Orthodoxy will do about anything about it. Not even sure they can. Decades of indoctrination about how evil all gentile governments are is a hard thing to dissuade true believers of. Which leaves it up to the authorities And they will mete out justice as they see fit.
If we don’t have the moral courage to combat the potential Chilul HaShem that these archaic attitudes generate - with every thing we have, the entire Orthodox Jewish community will suffer. This kind of behavior has to stop. Or it will destroy us all.