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Which God are you praying to with bloodstained hands?

God said to suspend Shabbat to save human life. He said to follow the laws of our lands. Yet so many claim to believe in Him and defy those rules, letting the bodies pile up
Israeli police officers seen in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim, as they close shops and disperse public gatherings following the government decisions in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. March 22, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Israeli police officers seen in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim, as they close shops and disperse public gatherings following the government decisions in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. March 22, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

This morning, I saw a few fellows dressed like me walking to a (“house”) minyan/prayer quorum, a day after 13 people died of coronavirus in one New York City hospital alone, a day after NYC officials announced that over 20,000 of its residents have coronavirus, 3,750 hospitalized, 840 in ICU units, and 280 dead.

I could not help but wonder what God they are purportedly praying to, and what religion they are practicing.

It certainly isn’t the God who instructed us to suspend even the halachos/laws of Shabbos/Sabbath to save a human life. It certainly isn’t the God who instructed us to be respectful of our elders, to be mindful of the vulnerable and less fortunate, and to be good citizens who follow the laws of our lands.

Our Navi/Prophet Yeshayahu/Isaiah (1:15) sharply admonished people who were outwardly observing components of religious practice like bringing karbanos/animal sacrifices to the Beis Hamikdash/Temple while trampling on the core values of the Torah of kindness, compassion and empathy for those in need.

He referred to them as “the chiefs of Sedom and the nation of Amorah,” (1:10), informed them that God has no use for their karbanos (1:11), and that their very presence in the Beis Hamikdash is “loathsome to Him, and indeed a burden” (1:14).

Yeshayahu’s final words of rebuke are stunningly appropriate to very small, but certainly noticeable, number of people nowadays who are ignoring the directives of all elected officials at every level to practice social distancing, the heartfelt pleas of our heroic medical professionals and first responders, and rejecting the halachic/rabbinic rulings of virtually all rabbis across the spectrum.

וּבְפָרִשְׂכֶ֣ם כַּפֵּיכֶ֗ם אַעְלִ֤ים עֵינַי֙ מִכֶּ֔ם גַּ֛ם כִּֽי־תַרְבּ֥וּ תְפִלָּ֖ה אֵינֶ֣נִּי שֹׁמֵ֑עַ יְדֵיכֶ֖ם דָּמִ֥ים מָלֵֽאוּ׃

“And when you lift up your hands (in prayer), I will turn My eyes away from you; Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained with blood.” (Yeshayahu 1:15)

Over the past 2 weeks, I used much more polite language in this video and in my social media posts.

However, with all the bodies piling up r’l, I think it’s time to call them what they are — people with blood on their hands. People who are posing life-threatening danger to our most vulnerable men and women. People who are placing every member of our community in danger of the anti-Semitism generated by the horrendous images of their lawless and reckless behavior circulating worldwide in our 24/7 interconnected, digital world.

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Founding Dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey and Director of The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES, is a innovative educator, author, and child safety advocate. He published child safety books that are in 80,000 homes in three languages as well as beginner Gemara/Talmud & Chumash/Bible workbooks. Rabbi Horowitz conducts child abuse prevention and parenting workshops in Jewish communities around the world and received the prestigious 2008 Covenant Award in recognition of his contribution to Jewish education.
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