Someone approached me saying, “Have you heard about that shul in NY that had to close because the rabbi (now in the hospital with the CVirus) and other members have tested positive, and all members who were in that shul at the published designated times are in self-quarantine? I am afraid to go to my shul to hear the megillah. This past shabbos, I went and I saw a lot of people including the Roiv shaking hands, kissing the Torah with their lips, etc. What should we do?”
Is there a response from the Rabbonim to allay apprehensions in this, R’l, critical time?
Your fears are understandable, and we should indeed be cautious about what we do at this time, we should take the necessary health precautions that the local authorities are suggesting, however we should not get into a panic, and stop running our lives in a normal fashion. Unless the local authorities ban going to the megillah, or similar gatherings, you should go to hear he megillah in shul, as this is a mitzvah, and doing a mitzva protects us, (unless it danger is very likely, which is not the case right now). There are Rabbonim that say that at this point we should not kiss the sefer torah, shake hands. I don’t know if they mean that this applies everywhere, if the local health authorities say to abstain from doing this, then it should be adhered to.
Regarding the actual virus, it is clear that this is something that is coming from heaven, and it is definitely a message to us. Just a thought on this, in our world, when we have such advanced technology, we can communicate with others around the world, and there are so many things that we are capable of doing that we just couldn’t do years ago, this website included. When was there a time that a person in any country could ask a question to someone in a different continent, and receive an answer in this amount of time. Right now we can run an international business, while sitting at a desk, and we can cause different things to happen on the other side of the world. Press a few buttons, and a day later, what we wanted shows up at our door. On the other hand, it is very easy for us to lose sight of who is really in charge of the world. We don’t control the world, rather H-shem, the one who created this world and all of the technology is in charge. In order to show us that indeed He is in charge, he made a small bug, a virus, which is so small that we can’t even see it without a microscope, and this little bug, has wreaked havoc to countries world financial markets, it has closed down governments, and has basically left the whole world feeling helpless. We don’t know why H-shem in His infinite wisdom, has decided that this is what we and the world needs at this point, but it is clear that the real point is that we get the proper message. The Rambam tells us that when, misfortunes come upon us, we may not just sit back and say, this is natural… but we must realize that that there we have lost sight of Him, and we have to strengthen our connection to Him.
Today is Taanis Esther, and one of the reasons for this fast is because when the Jews saw that there was a difficult decree against us they fasted and looked for ways to correct themselves and better themselves. They concentrated more on their davening, they fasted, and contemplated, in which way they can improve. When they did what they were supposed to do, H-shem who controls everything turned things around, and they ended up having a great blessing and fortune come to them as a result. The exact thing that they were afraid of (the decree of Achashveirosh) because a source light and joy that we celebrate every year.
Therefore, we should be clear about what we have to do. We are in good hands, H-shem will take care of us, but we have to just make sure that we do our part. Listen to the instructions that the health authorities are giving, and act cautiously. But more important is that we have to turn to the real doctor of the world H-shem, and listen to His instructions, and He is telling us (via what we know from the Rambam) That, He is demanding that we daven better, and look for ways to make some real, improvements in our relationship to Him. IY”H we will do what we are supposed to do, and He will see that we got the message, and he will protect us. Purim is a time when, H-sehm’s goodness was masked, until after they did teshuva, and then his generosity was revealed, IY”H this should also happen to us very soon.
Have a happy and healthy and not nervous Purim!!