The economy is essentially on hold as the coronavirus ravages the earth. All non-essential businesses have been closed in Israel, and individuals are forbidden from walking the streets without intent to purchase food or medicine. The precautions are meant to save lives, but some are worried that other lives will be lost due to the resulting poverty. It is estimated that nearly a fifth of Israels are now unemployed.
For most, this turbulent terrain of poverty & illness is new. For many, however, it has been a way of life for some time. Many families in Israel are struggling each month to pay their rent and grocery bills, while undergoing medical treatments like chemotherapy. In a now chilling letter penned to the public before the rise of the coronavirus, Rav Chaim Kanievsky & the Vizhnitzer Rebbe write:
“Now, the cries of the families of desperately ill people who suffer from terrible illnesses have come before us, among them are those who stand at death’s door, and the matter is one of Pikuach Nefesh for them and their families who have no money even for bread as a result of enormous medical expenses.”
The picture they paint is no longer theoretical – it is all around us. The letter goes on to offer a solution and a blessing, now more relevant than ever:
“All those who donate to [help Israel’s poor] should merit to see great salvation with whatever they need, and they and their family will be saved measure for measure from all illness…”
In a short video clip, after being asked what donors to Vaad HaRabbanim’s cholim fund should merit in return, Rav Chaim answers succinctly: “He will not be sick!”
A straightforward answer in a time of uncertainty.
The situation in Israel is urgent. Families need help now to buy groceries, and other essentials necessary during self-quarantine. They need to make big trips because every visit out is life-threatening for men, women, and children with serious health conditions. Their bank accounts are empty and they are hungry and afraid.
Odds are, you’re afraid too. If you want to feel like you are doing something for your health, try donating tzedaka, and receiving the Rav’s blessing. At this point, there is nothing to lose.