Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I realize that we are living in extraordinary times that have had a great impact on all of us, young and old alike. This does not mean we have to become less human or less caring towards others, on the contrary, my take away from this ‘test’ is to become more humane. Perhaps this is one of the many collective and personal takanos that we need to make so that HaKodosh Boruch Hu will deem us worthy to be rid of this terrible magayfa and to hasten the coming of Moshiach.
I have heard so many awful stories about drownings, car accidents and what have you. that are totally unrelated to the pandemic but are indicative to the many flaws imprinted on our emunah, yiras Shomayim and shmiras HaTorah, that even a blind person can see how this impacts on Hashem’s displeasure with who and what we have become. I wish to share with you something I, myself, was witness to so we can better understand the lows to which we have fallen. It may not seem big in the vast scope of things we witness on a daily basis, but sometimes it’s the little things that blind us to the bigger ones.
I live in a large ultra Orthodox community, where everyone knows everyone else. Sadly, when the coronavirus hit, our oilam was hit very hard. Even when the governor put self-quarantine into affect and demanded that everyone wear masks and even gloves and wash their hand at all times after touching anything that others may have touched before you. no one took it seriously. Social distancing was a joke in shuls, wedding halls and funerals. And then, people in our community started dying. At first, out rabbonim didn’t forbid these gatherings, but when so many of our friends, neighbors and even family members became ill and started dying in large numbers, they had to comply with the rules and close the shuls, forbid large gatherings (unless it was for the leveya of a gadol) and trim down weddings to 10-12 people. But it came too late and it took a terrible toll on the klal. But this is not the core source for my writing this letter.
I have gone to more shiva houses than I care to ever go to again. What was strange to me was how cavalier and common place it all became after awhile, seeing the same people and that being the only place we came to socialize. It didn’t matter that there were availim in mourning sitting there, everyone broke off in groups to talk amongst themselves, some even partaking of the food brought in for the family in mourning. And then they left… without even approaching the availim to say ‘Hamokom Yenachem….‘!! What has become of us that we have forgotten how to be compassionate, considerate and caring, especially at such a time and in such a place.
I can tell you that we have changed for the worse, not the better. I am the only one who wore a mask when I went to shul for Rosh Chodesh bentching and the ridicule and derision I was made to endure from all the other women drove me to leave before the davening was over. It hurts me to see their foolishness and their selfishness in not caring what happens to themselves, their children and families and others as they help the virus spread. I will not be one of them, I don’t care how much fun they make of me, my conscience would not allow me to bring hurt, challila ve’chas to another yid or anyone else for that matter. I am ashamed to be counted amongst these people I have called my friends.
If you can, please rewrite my letter, because I know my English is not so good and I don’t want to further embarrass myself should you see fit to print this letter. Thank you for listening.
I am so sorry to read your Eicha of a letter, written not at the banks of Bavel, but at the banks of Boro Park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights and many, many other Jewish enclaves here and the world over, even in Eretz Yisroel! I have often asked myself how many korbonos it would take before we realize that we are in error and what we perceive to be ‘Toradik‘ behavior is really just the opposite. HaKodosh Boruch Hu does not want Yiddishe korbonos, just the opposite! He is mevater on most all of the Torah except for ‘shmad’ to SAVE your life in an zman sakana. Nothing is more important than that.
“Ushmartem all nafshosaychem!”
How sad that our rabbonim cannot rise to the occasion and enforce the rules and the tactics put forth, that seem to be working in New York and could very possibly eradicate Covid-19 entirely if only we would wear masks and gloves when outside and adhere to social distancing. I know too many people who have passed away from this horrible virus, many of them my friends, and I take the situation very seriously.
This pandemic IS NOT OVER! People are still getting sick and passing away from it. Why would anyone want to take the chance of infecting Bubby or Zaidy, their children or their friends, just so they can feel ‘normal’ again? That time is SOON, but not just yet!
I beg anyone who recognizes themselves in the letter-writer’s script to please, please take this to heart. Should anything happen to those you love, challila, could you live with yourself knowing you might have been the cause? Why wait until it’s too late, start protective measures NOW, so that when this will all be a bad memory, you will be able to hug your loved ones, attend their simchos with a full and joyous heart and know that YOU DID THE RIGHT THING!