MAILBAG: To The Public: On Saving Lives

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I am not a huge follower of politics and I can’t say I know every detail of what goes into the decision making process of the mayors and governors. I’m also not a doctor and don’t know precisely how any disease spreads, let alone COVID-19. In fact, I don’t even think doctors know much about it. And lastly, and most importantly, I am not G-d so in truth I know close to nothing about this disease or really about anything.

All that being said, I do feel strongly about protecting human life and I have no doubt that that is something that G-d Himself deems important. So while I can’t say exactly how COVID-19 spreads or what decisions should be made in terms of reopening the world, I am going to take the liberty to express to the public my opinion on the matter.

Understandably, many people are feeling restricted, lonely, isolated. Yes, it is extremely difficult to be confined at home for weeks and months on end, not able to go to work, not able to hang out with friends and family, not able to go to restaurants. These are extremely trying times. But the quarantine and stay at home orders are the least of the issues right now.

Many people feel that since the numbers are getting better, restrictions can be lifted. Many people are probably thinking that now we should finally be able to go back to normal life. As such, people are upset and even protesting the decisions made by mayors and governors to keep the restrictions for another long while. I wholeheartedly agree that it is difficult to not be able to go back to normal life already. But that’s exactly it, we want to go back to normal life, not abnormal death.

The issue we’re facing right now is not how difficult it is to be at home for months. We are facing a much larger issue of losing a huge percentage of humanity. And even if it’s safe to say at this point that we won’t lose so many people does it matter? The Torah itself compares just one person to an entire world – “kol hamekayem nefesh achas miyisrael k’ilu kiya olam malei.” So why lift the restrictions and risk losing a whole precious world, let alone many more worlds? Haven’t we lost enough already? Do we really want the pandemic to start all over again? And for those who won’t lose their life, does anyone really want to be sick in bed for weeks?

There can be many reasons why people want the world to reopen already. These reasons may be financial, social, or even mental health. But does any of that compare to the value of human life? If there was a war going on would we say “This is so restrictive, why can’t we go back to normal life already?” This is a war that the world is fighting against an invisible enemy and we need to recognize that and treat it as such.

So when NY governor Cuomo decides that regions can’t reopen until the three-day average of new cases is less than 15 and the deaths are under five, than far be it for us, as Jews who know the value of life, to disagree. Unless the rabbanim would say differently, we need to follow orders and understand that it is for our own good. And as of yet, I don’t know of any rabbanim who openly disagree with the governor. In fact, rabbanim have repeatedly put out writings and speeches about how we must follow the rules and do what it takes to save even one life. As rabbanim such as Rav Urin Reich have said, pikuach nefesh overrides all.

Let’s keep our Emunah and Bitachon strong and hope that the numbers that the governor speaks of will come soon, as we’ve seen a decline in the number of deaths per day already baruch Hashem. We’ve seen it happening in other countries and im yirtzeh Hashem we will see it here soon. And beyond that, let’s not forget the words in the twelfth ani maamin of the Rambam “v’af al pi sheyismameya im kol zeh achakeh lo b’chol yom sheyavo.” Lets sincerely wait for the coming of mashiach every day. And in the meantime, let’s follow the laws laid out for us, and quit complaining about the restrictiveness. This is human life we’re talking about.

Name withheld upon request.

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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4 COMMENTS

  1. Do we as jews allow cars???

    Obviously every life is worth a lot but there are decisions to make (as hard as it sounds)

    Also mental social and economic matters are directly related to life (ever wondered why in 14 century if you lived to 30 you were lucky and today 80-90 is normal)

  2. You are also missing the point of those who want some restrictions lifted. Why is activity A allowed but activity B is restricted? Why is Activity C allowed in NY but is restricted in Michigan? For example, many in the frum community have been asking why is food shopping allowed with social distancing but prayer services are not? If its possible to get back to “normal” living while still practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus why cant we do it?

  3. Just answer this one question. Why is this different than driving a car? Cars cause thousands of deaths a year. Why don’t we sacrifice normal life and “do what it takes to save even one life”?
    I have yet to see an answer to this question.

  4. Every year 1% of the population dies. Until recently, it was much higher. In America, that means roughly three million die every year – that is several hundred thousand every month. In Israel (and New York City, which has roughly the same population), that is perhaps 70000 every year. When you compare mortality from Covid19 to these numbers, it starts seeming less like a true epidemic (which might kills a quarter or a third or over half the population, such as Smallpox or Bubonic plague before antibiotics), and more like a dangerous version of the annual flu. Certain groups are more at risk (elderly, those sick to begin with) need to take special precautions, and some places (New York City, in particular) may be especially at risk due to cramped living conditions and an unusually unhealthy population. However destroying the livelihood of most of the population, risking people going hungry, destroying the life savings of most of the population, and undermining the education of the children IS EXCESSIVE given that most people don’t get sick from the disease and the death rate is no worse than if you were sent back in time and had to live in the 20th century.