The news headline of the Jerusalem Post on July 28, before the Tisha B’Av fast on July 31, 2020, read: Past Redline: Hospitals report over 100% capacity.
I’m just reporting the news, and what does this mean to us? What it means that if you have a normal medical problem, you will have a hard time when you go to the hospital because it is already full. This is in addition to the fact that your medical provider doesn’t really want to see you anyway.
Here is what my medical provider told me in an email:
We apologize for the intrusion, but you will be asked when you call to make an appointment the nature of your reason for needing to visit the office, so that we can try to prevent patients with active COVID infections from entering and possibly infecting other patients. We are trying to protect your health and the health of our staff so that we can continue to provide you service.
So don’t come if you are sick with COVID. I guess you should just wait to get better or die.
I lived a year of my life in Costa Rica when I was in my early 40s. It was popular for Americans as a place to get away from it all and there were a lot of ex-patriots. I lived in a beautiful little house with views of the Pacific Ocean, with sunsets and monkeys. The only trouble was that you had to be self-sufficient. There were no hospitals within two hours. If you had an accident or emergency, you had to take care of yourself or die. That is the difference between a civilized country and a third world country. And now we are in the same position as a third world country. I am not saying that it is necessarily better anywhere else. I am just commenting on the collateral damage that has changed our lives because of the virus from just 5 months ago.
If something relatively minor happens and you need to get to a hospital, first you have to prove you don’t have COVID, and then you have to pray there is room for you.
I write this before Tish A’bov, but you will be reading it after the fast. I had said that because of the fact that fasting or not drinking will lower your resistance, if you were over 60 or had pre-existing conditions you should not fast or at least drink. As it turned out Tish A’bov was an especially hot summer day, and you could easily get heat stroke from not drinking.
And with the conditions of the hospitals, where you might have been treated easily before for the heatstroke, you would need G-d’s divine protection even more in these conditions.
The Torah says you must protect your health very much. It is the only mitzvah that is emphasized that you most do with great intensity and make special efforts to watch the health and body that G-d gave you. This translates to sometime breaking Shabbat if you have to go to the emergency room (this is not breaking Shabbat it is part of Shabbat), and not fasting on a fast day that you have fasted every day of your life before, because now there is extra danger. This was the reason that during the Cholera epidemic in the 1840s Rabbi Salanter said that even on Yom Kippur if there is a grave danger we don’t fast. Naturally, if it is a Rabbinic mitzvah that can be adjusted by the Rabbi’s there is more room for leniencies.
In the Torah Tibids of August First, Rabbi Shimshon Hakohen Nadel discusses the issue can we cancel Tisha B’Av based on the idea that since we now have the State of Israel, maybe that means all Rabbinic fasts are canceled. I will spare you the four page discussion, but whatever side you come out on, in our new country, which has dropped down several notches in its safety because of the overcrowded hospitals, any fast which lowers your resistance should not override the mitzvah of guarding your health.
Here is a joke that shows its age. We now have practically no flights going anywhere. This is a joke about a frequent flyer:
Flying the Friendly Skies
Shmuel was a frequent flier of the New York – Tel Aviv route and although his airline of preference was usually United, this time he decided to try out El Al.
After a few minutes trying to stuff his enormous bag into the overhead bin of the plane, a stewardess approached him and informed him that he would have to check his oversized luggage.
“When I fly other airlines,” Shmuel said irritably, “I don’t have this problem.”
The El Al stewardess smiled and replied, “When you fly other airlines, I don’t have this problem either.”