Opinion: Was DeBlasio Right?

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    Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability. City Hall. Thursday, April 30, 2020. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

    (VINnews/Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com)

    Q: How do we get a chillul Hashem, an embarrassment, a pshiya karov l’meizid, and a demonstration of ingratitude, and wrap it all in one?

    A: When even after having lost 1,000 lives in our own community, we still attend a funeral en masse and then condemn our city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, who is trying to stop our reckless behavior by saying, “Oh yeah? Well people also gathered by the East River to watch the planes and you didn’t say anything!”

    True. The mayor said things that he should not have said. He was irresponsible in blaming “Jews” in general rather than specifically the funeral-goers. In his remarks, the mayor could have spoken about the 3,000 Orthodox Jews in New York who donated blood plasma this past week, with many more to come. He could have said something positive about the people who actually cared about a righteous man – even though it was an error to remain when it was so crowded.  He didn’t do this and there is no question that he misspoke.

    But the message is one that we should take to heart. Weren’t we once the nation that Hashem described as “ki hi chochmaschem u’vinaschem l’einai ha’goyim — for the Torah is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the gentiles”?

    How is it that we, the Torah nation, do not value life to the extent that we are risking not only our own lives but the lives of our bubbies and zeidies and that of the elderly and infirm?

    True, Shomrim did their best to have us maintain the social distancing.

    True, there was a plan. As the statement of Jewish Community Relations Council of New York stated: “The congregation worked with the local precinct to develop a plan to close streets so that the funeral could take place ‘following the social distancing rules and wearing masks.’ Both the congregation and the local precinct were surprised by the number of people who attended. Many in the crowd were teens who would not listen to directions from the Shomrim or the NYPD. Such behavior cannot be tolerated in these perilous times.

    “The NYPD is most effective when it enforces the law fairly and judiciously. While the local precinct tried to accommodate the needs of the community while maintaining the letter and the spirit of the social distancing orders, the unforeseen turnout led to chaos — an unacceptable outcome.

    “We stress that those involved were a single synagogue, with leadership who tried to work with the NYPD toward an appropriate religious event. During the pandemic there have been dozens of funerals in other communities in Brooklyn that would have attracted tens of thousands of mourners. Working with the NYPD, leaders planned funerals that fully complied with the social distancing rules while honoring the deceased. We hope that such appropriately planned events continue.

    “This was a single event, planned by one congregation. The troubling incident last night that endangered the participants and NYPD officers should not negatively reflect on chassidim, the Williamsburg community, Orthodox Jewry, or the entire Jewish community. With antisemitism roiling around the world, words matter.”

    Does anyone know why it is called the N-95 mask? It is because it is only 95% effective. It gives us all a sense of false security, and, by the way, the masks that were worn at the levayah were not even N-95s.

    When we saw how crowded it was, we should have dispersed ourselves and left the levayah. We should also have been ro’eh es ha’nolad — we should have anticipated what likely would have happened. Doing so would have been the fulfillment of a number of mitzvos.

    1. Hashavas AveidahThe verse in Parashas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 22:2) discusses the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah, returning a lost object, with the words, “V’hasheivoso lo,” “and you shall return it to him.” The Gemara in Sanhedrin (73a), however, includes within its understanding of these words the obligation of returning “his own life to him as well.” For example, if thieves are threatening to pounce upon him, there is an obligation of “V’hasheivoso lo.” This verse is the source for the mitzvah of saving someone’s life. It is highly probable that it is to this general mitzvah that the Shulchan Aruch refers in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 325. This is certainly the case with social distancing.

    2. —

    3. Thy Brother’s Blood.’ There is a negative mitzvah of not standing idly by your brother’s blood —“Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa” (Vayikra 19:16). This is mentioned in Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 426:1) and in the Rambam. When people get sick and chance death because of our crowding, we are violating the commandment of “Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa.”

    4. Lo Suchal L’hisalem.’ There is yet another negative commandment associated with the positive commandment of hashavas aveidah, and that is the verse in Devarim (22:3), “You cannot shut your eyes to it.” This verse comes directly after the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah. The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, in his HeEmek She’eilah, refers to this mitzvah as well.

    5. V’chai Achicha Imach.’ The She’iltos (She’ilta #37), based upon the Gemara in Bava Metzia 62a, understands the words in Vayikra (25:36), “v’chai achicha imach,” “and your brother shall live with you,” to indicate an obligation to save others with you. The Netziv in his HeEmek She’eilah understands it as a full-fledged obligation according to all opinions. He writes that one must exert every effort to save his friend’s life, until it becomes a matter of pikuach nefesh for himself. The Netziv’s position would certainly advocate that social distancing is a mitzvah, even if it involves only a slight danger.

    6. ___

    We thus have a total of six Torah mitzvos involved in social distancing.

    We are a nation that has grown up on the concept of mesirus nefesh for Torah and mitzvos. We need to realize that there is a mesiras nefesh for the six mitzvos above as well — especially when it will save not only Klal Yisrael but kol ha’olam kulo as well.

    Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at [email protected].

    To read the other Mitzvos click here.

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    39 COMMENTS

    1. Stop towing the Agudah line. His statement was anti-Semitic. As well, call what happened at the levayah for what it was—people took advantage of the good relationship between the community and the police, and then stupidly said “the police let us do it”. What a way to ruin a good relationship.

    2. I agree with you, but I still don’t think the mayor said anything wrong. The mayor isn’t blind he knows shuls are open, people are going out. I think this levaya and it wasn’t the first time that a levaya attracted many people was the breaking point.

    3. Dear Rabbi

      The Pasuk:

      וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם–כִּי הִוא חָכְמַתְכֶם וּבִינַתְכֶם, לְעֵינֵי הָעַמִּים: אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת כָּל-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, וְאָמְרוּ רַק עַם-חָכָם וְנָבוֹן, הַגּוֹי הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה.

    4. Everything in the article is spot on – except that the Mayor’s statement was beyond vile. We all know he wouldn’t have dared to call out groups who are on the “correct” side of the progressive political spectrum – period. Orthodox Jews, however, are fair game for the progressives. A recall petition to remove him from office should be initiated at the earliest possible moment.

    5. Remarkably foolish to connect two unrelated issues:
      1) The irresponsible and dangerous behavior of those attending the funeral
      2) The fact that De Blasio made this a “Jewish” issue

      The subject of the article “Was Deblasio Right” is just stupid

    6. De blasio is not an Anti-Semite far from it he has been very good to Orthodox Jews all the Years.
      He said things that he shouldn’t of said and came down personal to the Lavaya making sure everyone leaves which he should of done.

      I think he did it because of the following:
      He is under huge pressure unfortunately from our own Yidden who keep on taunting him why some Shulls are still open.
      These same Chevra are sending clips and pictures all over the internet from Frum neighborhoods of the Minyonim.
      Note, they are not concerned at all about the lack of social distancing. If they are they would of gone into every grocery store in Boro Park and Willaimsburg screaming and sending police. But they don’t because these Chevra have an agenda.
      They are the cause of the huge antisemitism and these Chevra are the cause why Doctors and nurse are despising Orthodox Jews.
      Having said, The big funeral was a mistake to begin with.

      • U ARE A MAVEN!!!! the points you make are accurate & correct
        today is a new day there will be more levayos & more nypd rumbling maybe this time in bp
        and chasuna season is around the corner
        gam zeh yaavor

      • Not sure if he’s an antisemite, but he is definitely an arrogant POS, as well as a hypocritical and incompetent moron.
        He does not practice his own preachings, and he should have called out the dozens who gathered to watch the Air Force overflights, many too close to each other, and without masks.
        Now he is sending the cops out in force.
        He’s upset he was caught.
        He can’t leave office too soon.

    7. rabbi hoffman- we can all quote scripture to back up what we think is ratzon hashem from satmar to mizrachi
      when one sees a group of fellow yidden doing something ask yourself WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?
      so here it is
      1. williamsburg is pro life , the diff. is we dont associate standing in the street even shoulder to shoulder as even remote a sakana AT THIS POINT – most willy docs will tell you that willy is done w corona
      2. williamsburg invests heavily in polotics & protextzia – they are in 1st place when it comes to poloticians….they are not happy that the mayor is frustrated , no one exepected him to come and his appearence drew an addl crowd
      3. NO LEVAYA – is not an option ( willy is not aguda/ novominsk) they tried hard not to have a shopron repeat . what agudas base views as strength willy base views as weakness & political correctness
      4. no one is happy with the outcome & willy doesnt really care about the nuances of the tweet , they just want to be left alone the challenge is that while bp / willy are ready to start cheder tomm the city isnt

      • You are so wrong in every single point of your reply. What i came to learn from willi BP behavior is:
        עשיו שונא ליעקב, הלכה
        עשיו שונא חסידים, מסברא

    8. This spat with the Mayor happened because not enough people signed on to the kol korei, pledging to make only driveway weddings from here on in. Do it now!

    9. First of all you throw around all the pesikim to make it sound like chareidim are guilty and you are holier than thou. Where were YOU rabbi when ny politicians passed same gender toeiva marriage. Did you organize a rally. No. You let New York State turn into sodom followed by the rest of the country. Look at chullin 92 B that states that nations lost their right to exist if they make gay marriages. Don’t lecture us good Jews who despise the democRATs and will not even vote for the so called moderates. Your machers and so called organizations that lock up to non frum organizations to get funding are at fault. You don’t care about the honor of Hashem. You only care that the goyim should not hate us. When you will learn to stand up for Hashem then He will control anti semitism. It’s not going to happen by linking up with groups like the anti defamation league who support abortions,gay marriage and chillul Shabbos.

    10. Absolutely “not right”.
      And today was the rock-solid proof. Today in Boro Park and in Williamsburg police hid out in groups (marked vehicles stacked in gas station parking lots) and then converged on dense areas issuing tickets to everyone without a mask even if walking alone. Then they disrupted a funeral in B.P. and it turned into a riot.

    11. The Mayor shouldn’t have allowed the plane show either. He also shouldn’t have invited Muslims to a food bank which essentially eliminates social distancing.

      Period, Exclamation Point.

    12. There are many crazy people in every group. But we as a group are being overly lax with the current rules. Until the supermarkets put up signs almost no one cared to wear mask there or gloves.
      Shouldnt we be the people who care about our lives and go beyond the rules?

    13. Carono is History in the Heimishe neighborhoods. More than 80% of families have had it.

      Yes alot of people died — and should have been prevented BEFORE Purim and before the outbreak.

      But now we have ALL had the Virus and anyone who hasnt had it shud STAY home and not vventureout for any reason if they are old or are medically impaired, but for the rest of us all the rules shud be abolished.

      Especially those people tested and with with anti bodies, why shud they have to stay home if in all probability they cant infect anyone ? Especially if anyone that is medically impaired or over 65 yrs old stay home, why should we not be able to go put since its almost certain not pikuach nefesh !

    14. Yidden think they can make these blatant chilulei Hashem and the goyim won’t notice? And where is the achrayis of Lo Sa’amod al Dam Reachoh? It’s Yiddishe chutzpah that flouts the law in the name of “a gitteh yid” especially at the numbers of levayas that are escalating from the New York area. How many petirahs are necessary for people to come to their senses?? This is not a matter of hate – it’s a matter of listening to daas Torah – UShomartem Meod Es Nafshosechem -life and death chalilah.

      • @vechaibohem wow wow wow very very unintelligent thing to say. When ur rav/rebbe dies lets see u not go to the levaya. This was coordinated with the nypd and there was supposed to be social distencing. No one purposely intended on making any issues. Lets be dan lekaf zechus, positive, and unite…well only gain from that. All the best

        • Novominska Rebbe died. How many were by his funeral in person?

          Facts show you are simply wrong and will not join together with klal yisroel in acting responsibly to stop this virus.

    15. I thought Satmar and Willy believes you shouldn’t antagonize the Goyim – that’s why they’re against the Medina. Then why if we’re in golus are they opening there mouths causing more chillul Hash-m and spreading anti-semitism? Open your eyes!

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