Dear Port Washington Community:
As the curve on this terrible pandemic begins to flatten, society is beginning to open up again. Which we all welcome; the opportunity to begin to get our lives back to normal. However, please realize the level of continued risk involved with this terribly contagious virus is still unknown to a great degree.
I ask that you proceed with caution. I speak especially to those over the age of 65, or those with immunodeficiency. I urge you to continue to be completely vigilant about protecting yourself, by simply staying home, or by getting specific guidance from your doctor.
Yes, the hope is that the worst is behind us; but most honest experts say we don’t really know yet. If you are in the high-risk category, you cannot take the risk. Give it some more time; what’s the rush… (What did the man say to his Israeli taxi driver? Better to be late in this world than early in the next.)
Why am I discussing a subject that isn’t my job nor my area of expertise?
It’s because in conversations with congregants I am hearing a completely cavalier attitude towards the dangers of the current situation. Especially now that things are opening up, people are throwing all caution to the wind and are going about their daily routines and shopping errands as if all is normal. And this scares me greatly.
The problem is that most people in our area don’t know anyone who died or even got very sick, from corona. To most people, this whole thing is data on a screen; it’s not real life, so it doesn’t really hit home.
To me, this certainly does hit home. I personally know more than 50 people who lost their lives because of corona, mostly from the Crown Heights community in Brooklyn where I grew up; a short 45-minute car ride away.
Many dear friends and contemporaries of my parents who were healthy, active people, driving, traveling, going to work, were suddenly gone. Often they went from perfect health to their funeral literally overnight.
I also officiated over five funerals for my own members who lost loved ones to the virus. To me, this isn’t data or theory; it is fact. Painful, tragic fact. And the current lax atmosphere scares me, especially amongst people whose risk of mortality is significant should they get the virus, G-d forbid.
I hope I am wrong. I hope this pandemic is over. I’ll be the first to say AMEN and make a huge party to celebrate. However, as the Bible teaches, when it comes to life and death we are forbidden to take risks. We need to verify. And at this moment, the only way to truly verify is to wait.
Stay safe, joyous and positive! My teacher and mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson of righteous memory, always taught: TRACHT GUT VET ZEIN GUT, which is Yiddish for “think good and it’ll be good!”
You may have noticed the lawn sign outside the Chabad House on Shore Road which reads: “Remember to wash your hands… & in Whose hands you are.”
I’m not advocating panic. Nor do I think for a moment that Gd has left the cockpit. He’s doing a fine job running His world, and He will land this plane. I’m simply saying, we need to do our part. With faith and optimism, we need to do our part. That’s our Gd given responsibility.
Gd bless this amazing community!
Rabbi Shalom M. Paltiel
Chabad of Port Washington