MAILBAG: Lakewood Resident Pleads To Community To Take Proper Precautions

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Dear members of Lakewood,

A few months ago, if anyone would have told me we would be heading toward March again, or even a tiny fraction of the horrors that happened, I would never have believed you. Purim was a super spreader before we even knew that term. We were innocent, we were whole. We didn’t know what it was to turn on our phones after Shabbos or Yom Tov and read many names next to candles. Names of men and women who left behind families, who often died alone, who sometimes suffered immeasurably.

We didn’t understand that this was a terrible virus, or see its mechanism of spreading, its deadly tentacles. We didn’t comprehend that large, indoor gatherings can make hundreds sick. And in the midst of April, when the list of new orphans became too great to count, no one would believe that a few months later our community would not take all measures against a repeat because the measures are uncomfortable.

We had a few months of blessed quiet. It’s over. There is no quiet now, as new local deaths are reported, or as numerous people struggle to breathe in local hospitals and as hundreds of families are sick.

Is it too much to ask to take every precaution? This will not last forever. For the time being, is it too difficult to follow CDC guidelines like almost every other community?
Even if you don’t agree, (and I’m still waiting for a real argument with DATA to show why) is it worth the optics of the Chillul Hashem happening? Last month a non-Jewish lady at the cleaners started crying to me. She doesn’t want to get the virus and all she asks is that everyone wear a mask in her store. Can we not do that in public at the very least just because some of us think we know better?

Is any life worth the risk of breaking a quarantine or not following isolation advice? This issue has become heated, I understand. Realize that the very reason the doctors are putting precautions in place are so that we can continue having schools and Shuls, while keeping safe. Our infection rates are climbing rapidly. We are already making the news.

Understand that this should never be about a discrepancy between Halacha and medicine. Halacha states clearly to guard our lives very much. If we can do melacha on Shabbos to save a soul, surely we can mask and distance and avoid large gatherings, all opposing opinions aside.

If you are traveling this Yom Tov, I beg of you not to bring this unwanted, microscopic guest with you. Please follow medical advice on how to make sure you don’t unknowingly CV spread this to other places. Remember it’s most contagious when you don’t even know you have it.

Please, at the very least, this virus can be a huge inconvenience and highly uncomfortable. At the worst- well, we already know the worst.

A concerned member,
Lakewood, New Jersey

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for such a rational and well written letter.

    I would like to add on the exact text of a letter written and signed by a senior prominent well known Rosh Yeshiva. Since I don’t know that he allows this to be posted on a public forum, he will remain unnamed.

    Infection rates are rising in our community. Those who did not get infected during the spring are getting infected now.

    Everyone MUST wear a mask otherwise others will find an excuse not to. Although you may feel well, you may still be carrying the coronavirus. And you must always obey all the rules of masking and distancing. Wearing a mask is not a minor aveirah.

    If you do not comply with masking rules, you are responsible for the deaths of older relatives of those whom you infect.

    Even if no one dies – you need a kaparah for the psheia itself.

    If you’re victim only becomes sick, you will need a kaparah for the yissurim you brought upon them and their families.

    If you do have zchusim you are lucky because you will suffer for what you have done while you’re alive.

    If you don’t have zchusim, there’s a place of unimaginable yissurim waiting for you.

    You have been told to wear a mask. So “but I didn’t mean it” will not be an excuse before the Beis Din Shel Maalah.

  2. I would just like to add that picture in your mind that someone died because you, what do you think will be your punishment after you die. With all the mitzvos that you did in your life what do you think will happen to you. I’m not jealous.

  3. I don’t live in Lakewood. I live in one of the NYC hotspots. I agree with your points and I wear a mask. But after the NYC DOH lied (yes, lied) to hundreds of people, it’s hard to trust the “authorities”.

  4. I hope fervently that the Lakewood and other communities now seeing a spike in COVID take this person’s words to heart – but I’m afraid they will remain defiant and continue to cause the biggest Chilul Hashem I’ve seen in my lifetime.

  5. I am so grateful for your letter. We must grasp that the discomforts we feel by wearing masks and refraining from holding crowded events is actually mesiras nefesh to protect lives and for Kiddush Hashem. What could be more valuable and precious?

  6. I am not sure why frum people have such difficulty wearing masks and social distancing when these are the measures that the majority of healthcare professionals are recommending to save lives. There is a clear psak in the Rama, Yoreh Deah 116:5 that “one should be careful of all things that cause danger, because danger is stricter than transgressions (“sakanta chamira m’issurah”), and one should be more careful with an uncertain danger than with an uncertain issur.” As an example,the Rama cites fleeing a city where there is a plague.

    Concerning a plague, the Pishchei Teshuvah (YD 116:8) cites a teshuvah of the Rashbash (Siman 195) who specifically rules that one may not adopt the attitude of “well if Hashem inscribes for life, I don’t need to take precautions, and if Hashem (C’V) inscribes for death, then what use are precautions?.” Instead, the Rashbash rules, one must take precautions in the face of danger. Read the lengthy teshuvah for a full explanation (https://hebrewbooks.org/1380).

    The Ramchal also writes in Chapter 9 of Mesilas Yesharim: “Hashem has made man with sound intellect and clear reasoning in order that he may guide himself in the right way and guard from harmful things which were created to punish the wicked. But someone who does not want to guide himself in an intelligent manner and exposes himself to dangers – this is not trust in G-d but rather foolishness. Such a person sins in that he is acting against the will of G-d who desires that a man guard himself.”

    The Ramchal explains how to distinguish between an unfounded fear and a well-founded fear, and in my humble opinion, there is no question that COVID is presently a well-founded fear under the Ramchal’s guidelines.

    So why do frum people ignore clear psak from Torah giants like the Rama and Ramchal? Foolishness? Selfishness? Arrogance? Resistance to halacha when it is inconvenient? I don’t have an answer.

  7. How correct she is. There’s nothing to discuss. On the Staten Island Expressway there was a sign asking people to wear masks as RESPECT FOR OTHERS. I have never taken off my mask yet. No one in my neighbourhood wears a mask. That it is – no YID wears a mask (except for those who still didn’t get the virus so they are afraid). What a CHILLUL HASHEM. IT’S MAMASH A SHANDA AND CHARPA. The comments by Pony and 5TResident are right on the mark. This has been an absolute HUGE Chillul Hashem. Chillul Hashem has to do with perception and a very large number of Goyim have the perception that we Yidden could care less about anyone else (including fellow Yidden, as there are so many who are still susceptible to the virus and are afraid to go out because of our lack of caring and precaution). While on this topic, I beg to ask a question of our heliger tzibur. WHY ISN’T THERE AN OUTCRY FOR MORE TEFFILOS? IT IS MIND BOGGLING TO ME THAT DURING THE EARLY CORONA MONTHS AND NOW – I HAVE BARELY HEARD A SINGLE WORD ABOUT THE ENORMOUS AND GREAT NEED FOR A VERY VERY SERIOUS CHIZUK IN TEFILLA. Not jusr stopping to talk in shul. That’s obvious. LET’S START DAVENING IN SHUL!!!! Check out the halachos of Tefilla of Shemone Esrei. Most people have very little shaychus to keeping the basic halachos. I would love to start a Tefilla campaign. מי לה אלי! Vhu rachum yachaper avon!

  8. If you are not sure that we should masking up and keeping our social distancing, AND if you are not sure if we should be davening better – MUCH BETTER, MUCH MUCH BETTER – THEN READ THIS from The Yeshiva World site (that we are on).
    “Prof. Eliyahu Sorkin, the head of the ICU at Mayanei HaYeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak said that 40% of the seriously ill coronavirus patients in the hospital are young people – aged 19-50.

    “This is a completely new phenomenon,” Prof. Sorkin said. “The virus is completely different than the first wave. Young people are becoming seriously ill enough to be ventilated.”

    “We’re encountering situations that we don’t recognise from the first wave. Patients arrive from home, they’re still speaking on their cell phones, and then within a day they’re sedated and ventilated. All the prior classifications [of the virus] aren’t holding true anymore.”

    Prof. Eliyahu Sorkin, the head of the ICU at Mayanei HaYeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak said that 40% of the seriously ill coronavirus patients in the hospital are young people – aged 19-50.

    “This is a completely new phenomenon,” Prof. Sorkin said. “The virus is completely different than the first wave. Young people are becoming seriously ill enough to be ventilated.”

    “We’re encountering situations that we don’t recognize from the first wave. Patients arrive from home, they’re still speaking on their cell phones, and then within a day they’re sedated and ventilated. All the prior classifications [of the virus] aren’t holding true anymore.”

    May Hakadosh Buruch Hu have mercy on us, and may we have mercy on ourselves as well. Let’s do the right thing. Lets mask up – social distance and LETS DAVEN A LOT BETTER.

  9. Cloth and surgical masks NOT DO ANYTHING!!! only a tight medical mask like an n95 worn properly (including a shaved beard) can offer protection and only than in conjunction with correctly worn protective eyewear, if you are worried about contracting the corona virus unless you are willing to walk around in such a manner you should stay away from people including shuls and grocery stores.

    everything else (including social distancing, cloth and surgical masks) is just fluff.

  10. Cloth and surgical masks DO NOT DO ANYTHING!!! only a tight medical mask like an n95 worn properly (including a shaved beard) can offer protection and only than in conjunction with correctly worn protective eyewear, if you are worried about contracting the corona virus unless you are willing to walk around in such a manner you should stay away from people including shuls and grocery stores.

    everything else (including social distancing, cloth and surgical masks) is just fluff.

  11. I don’t understand, since when are directives to the public sent by individuals as ablog on a website?
    These are things we must leave for Gedolei Yisroel and Manhigim to discuss.
    In every community where there is a true manhig, they are the ones sending out these directives.
    Whether in the Chasidishe communities, such as Ger, Boyan Karlin where their Rebbes specifically urged them to adhere to all the guidelines, each one how He feel sis the right measure, or in Baltimore, Passaic, Queens, where people actually listen to Rabbonim, they are the ones instructing what is the right amount of hishtadlus and what is excessive hishtadlus and lack of bitachon. But since when is this something some random person sends to YWN?
    Didn’t Agudah, who is so vital to Klal Yisroel, appoint a new set of Moetzes? I am waiting for guidance from these Gedolim as to how are Sukkos/Simchos Torah should be conducted.

  12. One of the things we must die al kiddish hashem is schfichas damim. If you don’t wear a mask properly and you end up killing someone are you a shogeg ? You have been told to wear one yet you decided to be a murderer. My uncle died of covid and his murderer might still be walking around without a mask who knows how many people he / she killed.

    A community full of murderers thats all I see not to mention the chilul hashem. Stop being a murderer, enough with the yeshivesha spins on everything, for once just do what most in the medical community suggest, leave the dray cup schtick for something else.

    Show honor and respect to those that already died, wear a mask (not just under your chin and dont pull it down when you talk).

  13. To Wolfman:

    OK, let’s say the NYC DOH lied. So what? The indisputable facts are that people are now sick with COVID-19 and people have died in the past week from COVID-19. This should not have to happen again!!!! And every chacham who thinks (s)he knows better and hasn’t been wearing a mask and social distancing shares in the blame!

    Everybody MUST WEAR A MASK AND SOCIAL DISTANCE. PERIOD. FULL STOP. NO EXCEPTIONS. If you’re uncomfortable wearing a mask, STAY HOME and STAY AWAY FROM OTHERS.

  14. Pinay,
    Even if it were true, that they don’t do anything ( which is probably debatable, and when in doubt with pikuach nefashos, one must be machmir) it does NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE MASSIVE CHILLUL HASHEM that we are creating by ignoring everyone, and being an “oiber chachum” and spitting in the faces of all those around us. We are in Galus and we are NOT doing a good job about it. We are doing a terrible job, and the potential repercussions CHAS V’SHALOM, I don’t even want to think about. Put on the stupid mask already and stop “reitzing un” all the goyim around us.

  15. And what are your credentials, @ pinay, that you know better than the experts? Are your credentials in your being an expert in saying that the experts don’t know anything? We have plenty of those so I guess you’re just another one. Another one, who thinks he knows better. Another one who has unfortunately been proven wrong by this 2nd wave.

  16. The medical experts disagree with Pinay who I assume has no expertise in infectious diseases. A prominent physician announced in shul recently that if we find out that there was an infected person davening with us those who wore cloth masks would have to quarantine and those who wore surgical masks wouldn’t unless they had close contact with the infected person. Our shul is 100% masked at all times as all shuls should be. The consensus among medical professionals is that N95 masks aren’t necessary for us.
    Please wear masks to prevent both chillul Hashem and the spread of Covid 19. The life you save may be your own.

  17. We reap what we sow.

    Generations of children who are functionally illiterate and dont understand or appreciate modern science, much less statistics or epidemiology, aren’t going to “get” social distancing or mask wearing.

  18. I have fauci on record saying don’t wear masks…. because they don’t work well especially as they’re not medical grade and people touch them way too much….
    so why now is it a sin to walk around without one
    Sorry I don’t go for it
    Writer says it’s not forever. Says who? I don’t see an end in sight
    Many people would not touch the vaccine with a ten foot pole.

  19. Yes, you’re right! There must be a different reason the ONLY COMMUNITIES IN NY AND NJ SUFFERING OUTBREAKS ARE THE SUPER INTELLIGENT COMMUNITIES IN LAKEWOOD, BROOKLYN, MONSEY, ETC.

  20. Ish Hashalom:

    One of the main lessons of the holocausts is that if nobody listened to the majority of rabbis that said not to flee Europe there would not have been 6 million korbonos. At the end, the rabbis in many cases got help fleeing while their entire community was wiped out.

    A lot of Rabbis have blood on their hands, they should have said to respect the opinion of the majority of science on a topic that involves pikuach nefesh.

  21. @ sariray
    Big thing, you have changed history.
    let us even say that you recorded Dr Fauci making an unclear statement, that prove s nothing. this is not about gathering statements, it is about life and death.
    Masks help somewhat. Some are better than others. Other rule still apply.
    Since you probably have no medical training stop arguing and do the REAL right thing.

  22. Im calling BS on the original commenter. There is no Rosh Yeshiva anywhere that would write a letter the way that is written. threats of punishment etc? Thats not how a Rosh Yeshiva writes, an anonymous commenter on YWN, absolutely.

  23. I already had the virus and have antibodies. I’m not worried about transmitting it or “getting it again” (highly improbable). Mask wearing (and mask shaming) has become something of a religion for many, an illusion of control over the virus. With the current hysteria and only because of the chilul Hashem involved, I wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, e.g. when in a store, (which technically is all that is required by law) just to make everyone else around me feel better.
    But can anyone rationally explain the need to wear a mask in the street when there’s no one around? Same question about those mask wearing people alone in their cars. Too much emotion not enough brains.

  24. @Ftresi
    You missed my point. I wear a mask. Everyone should wear a mask. I was just saying why some don’t believe the almighty government. Because they LIE.
    But of course you should wear a mask. And social distance. And whatever else DOCTORS (not the corrupt DOH) says to do.

  25. Oh please, if you value life that much and want to go about your day with 0 chances of pikuach nefashos, do what Joe does and stay in your basement. Definitely don’t get into a vehicle which is much more dangerous than walking.
    Stop asking for data that masks don’t work and produce data that shows it does work.
    The paper ones obviously don’t have any effect whatsoever, but that’s simple to see. However, even the K95 must be worn completely correctly to be effective.
    If your concerned, stay home. Stop bugging the rest of us.

  26. Sariray. I am not sure you understand what a Chilul Hashem is, and what sufik pikiuach nafashos is, do you? Maybe you should ask some Jews who seem to know more about basic Judaism than you do. It’s pathetic to read how you write “Sorry, I just don’t go for it’. This Chas V’Shalom leads to problems with our Goyisha neighbours, and in this case it can also lead to potential spreading of the virus to others. Even if there’s the slightest doubt, you should care enough about your fellow Jews and wear a mask. ESPECIALLY SINCE MANY PEOPLE think it does help and therefore OUT OF COMMON DECENCY – we should care about other people’s feelings – even if they are based on faulty medical knowledge.

  27. Pinay,
    Claiming masks don’t help is pure ignorance and endangers others.
    Yes, it might not help you contracting the virus but its certainly good enough to prevent spreading it.

  28. nebach nebach nebach whoever this private resident is . this is the job for rabbonim and gedoilim not random blokes when will we start listening respecting and relying on our leaders if you wanna make a difference go meet with the rabonim and get them to sign your letter and if they dont want to then you shouldnt put it out

  29. It’s my understanding that very few people in BMG
    wear a mask
    How are we supposed to understand that
    Thousands of yeshiva guys then going home to their families and spreading the virus
    Has the frum world gone mad?

  30. Here’s what I dont understand. Many on this forum suggest that those not wearing masks are rotzchim and the like. So let’s put it like this. Why are you going at all to shul then. According to what you believe it’s like walking in the street when it’s says walk and you aee a car zooming and going passed the red. So u say he’s a murderer. He may be the murderer but your a fool. So in our situation you go to shul and you observe and you complain and bad mouth everyone. If you firmly believe that they cud give you venom, why are you going to these places. Stay home. Everything can be ordered online. And be delivered. And if u so firmly believe there is sakanas nefoshos, daven at home. Additionally instead of accusing everyone why are u wearing a low grade mask? Wear an N95 which would protect you better.
    You are putting yourself in this situation. You obviously dont firmly believe what you say.