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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