“War is a test of character, it makes bad men worse and good men better.”
-Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Commander, 20th Maine Regiment (US Civil War)
“The Coronavirus is a test of character, it makes stupid men stupider and wise men wiser.”
-Michael Winner, Executive Officer, 1st Winner Family
Last week, all mikvos for men were closed because of the virus. Late last night my wife and I took the neighbor's car to do some Pesach shopping (the whole city has only one store with Pesach items and there’s a long line to get in during the day…100 people at a time…). After that, we went to the cemetery to drop off a bag of papers that had all sorts of pages with Torah written on them, and cannot be thrown away. While we were there, we had an argument over who was going to step out of the car to put the bag in the bin and risk getting attacked by zombies. I lost, and thank G-d the zombies were sleeping. After that (at 12 a.m.), we reached the mikvah to take some new plates and cooking utensils. When we got there, I saw a pretty frum-looking man walking away without anything in his hands, and it made me wonder why he was up and about. Okay, whatever.
We took care of everything and returned home.
This morning, an announcement went out in the community hotline, that all mikvos for dishes are hereby closed. Later, the vice-mayor, who is frum, left a message explaining that MEN HAVE BEEN USING THOSE MIKVOS (which are really small) TO DIP THEMSELVES IN! And now, they are working on cleaning the water and will be hiring guards to reopen them (needless to say, he wasn’t happy).
Now, while this is COMPLETELY STUPID, it gets worse.
As we know, there are certain communities and/or individuals, that for whatever reason like to ignore both secular and Jewish laws, because they think that they are above it all. And unfortunately, those communities (surprise, surprise) have gotten hit pretty hard. Even today, when all the top rabbis around the world have completely and utterly forbidden any minyanim, I’ve heard (not in our community, thankfully) that some are still holding them. These same people, under normal circumstances “follow” and quote these same rabbeim all the time, but, when it comes down to it, it’s just lip service.
As I was discussing this with my children, I quoted Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who said that a person who willfully ignores the rules set out by the government has the status of a “rodef," somebody who is trying to kill others, and one will be held accountable for the results.
Can you imagine? A person who thinks he’s all nice and frum and goes out of his way to daven in a minyan three times a day, is going up, after 120 years, and at his judgement , he’s charged with 40 counts of murder.
On a lesser scale, an idiot who goes to the mikvah, will be charged for stealing money (amongst other things) from an entire community who now has to pay for a guard.
And when you think about it, let’s look at this virus. Here, we have a tiny cell, spreading throughout the world, killing tens of thousands of people, and destroying the global economy. A TINY CELL WREAKING HAVOC ON A GLOBAL SCALE!
Is this not an amazing lesson to learn? Every little action we take, no matter how small, can make a world of a difference! You can simply go to a minyan, thinking of yourself as such a frum person, and be directly responsible and held accountable for hundreds of deaths and sicknesses. You can, with your own stupidity, cause financial loss to an entire community.
And on the other hand, your extra davening can have just the same powerful effect. Your extra learning can possibly negate the dangerous stupidity of other people. The smallest things we do, for good or bad, can have a global impact as well.
It’s important to learn from these incidents. People have the power to make a huge impact in the smallest ways. There are plenty of people doing it for the negative, but there could be far more doing it for the positive and we should each try to be one of those.
P.S. A special thank you to George Murray for your story. I hope to actually use it soon. I didn’t have your address to reply personally, so I’m doing it here.