MAILBAG: Why Don’t 5 Towns Rabbonim Ban Cleaning Ladies?


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L’Kovod Chashuve Five Towns & Far Rockaway Rabbanim,

I, like most of the community received the letter that was put out on Friday (and published on YWN). It is indeed undeniable that the Coronavirus has taken a tremendous toll on the world at large and specifically Klal Yisrael. We have lost our rabbiem, grandparents, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts. We are in a tremendous Eis Tzarah. While we have utmost Achrayos to uphold the Mitzvah in the Torah of “V’nishmartem m’eod lnafshosachem”, that does not mean we do not have to think in the way that the Torah teaches us to. It does not mean that we cannot be creative in trying to find ways to perform mitzvos under duress.

The letter banning minyanim under any circumstance is draconian and too encompassing. It is also inconsistent with the lack of decrees against similar or worse situations that could spread this terrible disease.

I’ll mention one: There is no denying that in this community there are hundreds, if not thousands of people, that have cleaning help coming to their house daily. It is overwhelmingly probable that cleaning ladies will transmit the disease. Did I see a letter about cleaning ladies coming to houses? Nope. In fact, a close friend of mine recently told me that when he asked his Rav about this the Rav replied “I’ll have to look into it. I’m not sure there is anything to do about that.” Really? You seemed to be able to do something about minyanim! Instead of making blanked statements, why don’t we create solutions?

After I davened in my home this Shabbos, I looked outside my window to see plenty of people on my block Shmuzing with the neighbors. Was anyone breaking the rules? Nope. They were responsible. Each of the three or four groups were socially distanced, some of them even wearing masks, and complying with all the rules. I mused to myself that the Ribono Shel Olam was probably very sad when he saw that people can’t Daven outside, yet they can Shmuz outside! Pikuach Nefesh does in fact override every Mitzvah in the Torah, but many Rabbanim outside of this community feel that if the minyanim are properly socially distanced, it is not deemed Pikuach Nefesh. Do the Rabbanim of this community not trust the people? You seem to trust them when it comes to going to restaurants and supermarkets. You trust them in every other facet of life. And you should. Why can the people not be trusted now?

Every block will have one appointed member to be in charge, there will be no exceptions, any person who does not adhere to STRICT social distancing, will not be allowed to join the Minyan. There will be 3 set minyanim per day, no more. We can have police patrolling to make sure that everyone is adhering. (B”H this community is very well-connected governmentally). In fact, in Lakewood, the police do patrol the neighborhood to watch over the Minyanim. It can be done. We can do it. And while the Ratzon Hashem is to be very Makpid on Shmiras HaNefesh, we can be very careful while still davening with a minyan. I wonder if the Ratzon Hashem is to have no minyanim period.

A prominent modern-orthodox Rabbi wrote on April 19, responding to the Lakewood Poskim, who are Tremendous Talmidei Chochomim and Yarei Shamayim. “The very fact that such a long winded essay is necessary to give license for outdoor minyanim is already an indication that this is a poor choice by those who created this document.” I hope that he does not criticize the letter he signed as long-winded. A poor choice? These are called guidelines. Is the long-winded text of the Bach and The Beis Yosef, “A poor choice”? Are tshuvos that are long- and winded from R’ Akiva Eiger a “poor choice”? No! This in fact the proof that the letter is sincere because it is based on halacha and da’as Torah! It is inexcusable for a Rabbi of that stature of to mock Talmidei Chachamim like that.
We should in fact copy the Lakewood model, which has worked tremendously well. There are plenty of videos of the Lakewood porch Minyanim going around, and in every one of them it is seen that the people are adhering tremendously well. In fact, Lakewood Hatzalah has reported that the numbers of new Covid-19 admissions have significantly dropped in the past two weeks, despite the Porch Minyanim going on. In this community, the people have proven to follow the social distancing guidelines extremely well. This is well proven since hospital admissions have B”H dropped tremendously in the past 2 weeks in this community.

The people of this community are clamoring to daven with a minyan again. We are clamoring, waiting, and longing to get back. We will do anything. We will social distance double the standard of the doctors. We will wear masks. We will check in with the doctors and Rabbanim.. Please trust us! Let us work together to make this happen safely, efficiently, sanitarily, and most importantly in a way that is Mekadesh Shem Shomayim.

May we be zochech to see the end of this magefah with the coming of Moshiach B’mehaira B’yamainu Amen.

A loyal Five Towns resident

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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  1. YWN I understand and admire that you want to publish a range of views. However, directly arguing with Rabbanim in this fashion is clearly (to the extent that a hedyot can say such a thing) kafira and ma’aseh korach. The writer is free to ask questions, but to state that rabbanim are wrong seems to be a severe issur, and publishing it is machti es harabim.

  2. on the mark! I daven daily in a Flatbush outdoor socially distanced minyan. NYPD has passed us, looked at us and driven on without a word.
    We stopped our cleaning lady 3 weeks before Pesach – and cleaned for Pesach ourselves.

  3. I am sure you mean well, but you made a big mistake.
    out torah teaches us to listen to our rabanim who teach us what is right and what is wrong. We dont use the media to put pressure on our Rabanim. if you have a concern, it should be mentioned the your rov. Unfortunate we got influenced from the Media, but this is inappropriate. I will not discuses this matter, because this is not for me or you to discuses. unless you have semichah. Do you think you have a stronger will to daven then your Rabanim do, if yes you should pick yourself up and leave your community. Asking other questions why this and why this. is also something you should ask your rov. with in our community we don’t get cleaning help. but again every town has Rabanim who decide for the community. and thinking you know better then the Rabanim is much a greater sin and hashem is way more sad of what you just did then the Minyan you missed on shabbos.
    May we all listen to our Rabanim and in that zechus we will greet Moshiach

  4. I think the cleaning lady most likely to wear gloves & mask then majority of the people who may daven in the so called socially distance minyonim. I think that cleaning ladies are more terrified to work for frum people given the media attention that was on the news about frum people not keeping the social distance and not wearing mask on the streets.

  5. Agree 100% to the writer
    To chasid613 can you please bring a mekor in Halacha or hashkafa that disagreeing with a rav is Kfira? As far as I know (I am no massive Talmud Chacham, I would just like to know where such a thing is said) Kfira is denying the The Ribono Shel Olam or denying what it says in the Torah R”L.
    Also to trueemes the writer never said the rabbannim
    are wrong he just was questioning the psak if you can please show me where in the letter he says they’re wrong that would be appreciated.

  6. Davening at home without a minyon is difficult. Not having a cleaning lady is unbearable ! Someone has their priorities confused.

  7. @yeshivishapple the word apikorus has several meanings according to Chazal, one of which is “mevazah” Talmidei Chachamim (Sanhedrin 99b). To describe the psak Halacha of numerous local rabbis as “draconian and too encompassing”, to state that “Ribono Shel Olam was probably very sad” when he sees people following their psak, and the rest of this disgusting letter, is clearly mevazah them, and an attack on da’as torah.

  8. Partial reply to yeshivishapple:
    You are correct that those two instances that you cite are kfirah, but there are more, and one of them is mocking what the sages say. However, the author did not mock; he asked a reasonable and rather obvious question.
    Trueemes suggests the author ask his rov. Well, he writes that he did just that, and the rov fobbed him off. (Perhaps he should have asked the rebbetsin her opinion.) What other recourse does he have other than publically asking his question?
    There may be clearly justifiable reasons behind the ruling – such as the reaction, however ill-founded, of the local population. Making a ‘kosher’ minyan may not be a problem, but it may incite an anti Jewish reaction that hiring a home help would not, just to cite one example. In other centres this exact reason has been clearly stated by the rabbonim, and one may question why this directive does not state a reason.
    I am more disturbed though by chasid613’s suggestion that it may be kfirah. We do not go in for papal, priestly or any other form of infallibility. To suggest we do is itself possibly kfirah. Rabbonim, even several together, are fallible humans, and sometimes their reasoning can indeed be demonstrated to be shallow or errant. If there is a lawful manner in which it is permitted, the grounds for forbidding public prayer would indeed have to be extreme (such as arousing antagonism, however unjustified). There is rarely cause for issuing such a directive without presenting at last some reasoning.
    However, to get back to the point of the article: the case of home helps (who possibly live in conditions under which health directives cannot be followed), entering multiple houses in the course of their work, not observing social distancing in those houses etc, more than likely being given work to do that could directly transfer infection to the household, most definitely should be addressed.