Baruch Hashem, our phones are not ringing every day anymore with levayah announcements and shiva notices.
But there is still confusion. How afraid should we be of the disease still lurking out there? Will there be a dreaded second wave as there was during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918?
Many people are trying to will the disease away, divesting themselves of masks and rejoicing in the spring-like weather and their newfound freedom. Others, especially older people, are still ensconced in their homes, getting deliveries and Lysoling their packages.
Some shuls are opening while others aren’t. What should we do?
Meanwhile, some people have grown very comfortable with porch minyanim, with prayers right near their home without Mi Shebeirachs, drashas, and appeals. Unfortunately, some people have even gotten used to davening at home without the daily grind of getting up at certain times, fighting for parking, and running back and forth.
Then, there is the chillul Hashem issue. Some shuls are careful to only have 10 people, even if they’re huge, while other shuls have minyanim of 60 people in a small room.
Hashem is truly testing us with new challenges. I am in no way an oracle of answers in the midst of all this confusion. But, let’s review some Torah truths:
We’re expected to take massive precautions when it comes to chillul Hashem. In our world of instant viral media, we cannot afford to make a misstep when it comes to misbehaving in the eyes of the non-Jews. So, if we’re not allowed to have more than a certain number of people in a shul and we are mandated to stand apart and wear masks, then davening without meeting these conditions is certainly a mitzvah habah b’aveirah, which Hashem detests.
With the summer approaching, those who go up to the Catskills know that even in the best of times, the locals do not appreciate our trampling upon their quiet country life. Now they have an excuse to be righteously indignant as they don’t want their hospitals to be flooded by what they call “outsiders.” So we have to be incredibly vigilant not to give them any excuse to point a finger at us.
Although there was a time when backyard and porch minyanim were the safe way to go, we have to know that it is still very much b’di’eved, a very, very second-rate solution. The Gemara tells us that we should daven in a beis hakneses, which is saturated with years of prayer and learning, and home to our sifrei Torah. A shul is a mikdash me’at. We need to yearn to go back as soon as possible, as we say, “B’veis Elokim nahalech b’ragesh – To the House of Hashem I go with great passion.”
We don’t want Hashem to see that we are getting comfortable on our porches, in our backyards, and under our tents. They are good for barbeques and volleyball but our davening belongs in shul. We need to pray that Hashem should return us as quickly as possible.
Finally, we are taught, “Chamira sakanta mei’sura” – we should be more vigilant about a danger to our health than a biblical prohibition. If we’re not sure it’s safe to venture out, the Torah expects us to err on the side of great caution.
While we want to enjoy the pleasures of the springtime, let’s remember the extra refrigerated trucks that were needed at hospitals for the overwhelming number of Covid-19 corpses and say to ourselves that we want to see many more springs.
In the merit of our concern regarding chillul Hashem and shmiras hanefesh, may Hashem bless us all with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.