Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Reflections on Social Distancing from my friend, Reb Yitzchok Sperka

Reflections on Social Distancing

My Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt’l, explained that absent a navi, we cannot know the reason for a tzara that befalls the klal. We can, however, glean what may need tikkun by looking at the impact of the tzara during the aftermath of that tzara. While not a perfect application, Rav Weinberg’s teaching keeps echoing within me as our community practices social distancing during the current Covid-19/coronavirus crisis. We lament the restrictions on our communal observances, communal celebrations, communal grieving and communal chessed. Not being allowed to attend minyanim, shiurimsimchosshivas, family events, schools, yeshivas, kollelim is a sudden shock to our communal consciousness and way of life.This tzara has forced us to remain at home, to daven b’yechidus, to be only with our immediate family and for those who live alone, to be alone. We are to stay at least 6 feet away from other human beings. The mitzvas aseh of our current situation is to remain by ourselves. We are being forced inward.

I heard a definition of human “shelaimus” or human completeness from Rabbi Shmuel Preroz’l during a hesped . He framed shelaimus in terms of relationships. Amongst other things, Rabbi Prero said that a complete person has a full relationship with his family, his community, the Jewish people as a whole, with the RBSO and with himself. This crisis may be signaling the need and presenting the opportunity for us to face our relationships with our families and ourselves. There was a study out of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville a number of years ago that made headlines, People would rather be electrically shocked than left alone with their thoughts.”  67% of men and 25% of women undergraduates and community members left alone for 15 minutes in a room chose to give themselves an electric shock rather than be alone with themselves and their thoughts. The same people responded that they would rather pay money than receive an electric shock. 

We all know that relationships require work and focus. We are told to set aside time with those with whom we desire to be close to focus on and nurture those relationshipsThis may be with friends, spouses, parents, children, or rabbeim.   I wonder whether the RBSO is helping us focus on being alone with ourselves and are own thoughts, on being alone with Him, on being alone with our families. Some have speculated that COVID-19/coronavirus may reflect the RBSO’s rejection of our communal observances. I certainly don’t knowbut I can’t help but think that the RBSO might be asking us to embrace Him as individuals – just each of us and HimI can’t help but think that the RBSO might be asking us to embrace our immediate family. I can’t help but think that the RBSO might be asking us to embrace ourselves as individuals and not merely as members of our social groups. Rather than calling it social distancing, I prefer to think of it as “internal embracing.” May we soon emerge from this crisis more whole, with greater shelaimus in all our relationships, and re-embrace our communities, our shuls, our yeshivas, our kollelim as yeraim v’shelaimim.


  1. I hope you dont mind me commenting again. Hashem doesnt want our t'fillos and learning at the moment that seems obvious. My reasons are that we dont keep mitsvot properly. If anything hardly any mitsvot are. If this passes your moderation I can list quite a few and why. They include all the main mitsvot shabbos taharas hamishpocho and now chomets. Instead of telling us t'shuva t'filla t'sdoko we should be concentrating on doing mitvot properly. We all think 'sholom olai nafshi' we never do anything wrong and certainly keep all the mitsvot properly or at least to the best of our ability. This is our mistake. We just dont and more important we dont want to improve. The attitude is if we were ok till now so be it.

  2. I now notice you are not moderated. Please do not delete my comments although of course you are welcome to 'comment' on them. Taharas hamishpocho, and I mean kesomim. They can only be tohor if there was no hargosho. To know what real hargosho is and why, one has to look at the internet under what does a woman feel during menstruation. No rov does this and is mattir kesomim even though there could have been hargosho which would make her a nidda d'oraysa. Every kalla teacher has to look at the internet and find out what hargosho is and teach the kalah. Without knowing this she cannot lead a Jewish life.

  3. Chomets has to be sold and sold properly. The only way to sell it is to follow the kitsur a well known sefer written by one of his gedolim in his time and no one argues with him. He has a copy there of a shtar mechira what he wrote or what it should look like. Each item is itemised with its value and a deposit depending on the value of the total given. Which rov has ever done this. I must mention the chayei odom says the same.

  4. Kesubos. In my opinion are all posul. The idea of a kesuba is what is termed a chiyuv and without knowing what is written there one cant make one. The amount in our printed kesubos is reckoned in 'zokuk' which is an old German deutchmark of maybe 1000 years ago. This was made of quite heavy silver. Unless one knows the total amount of silver involved the kesuba is posul. Like any shtar if you dont what is written there especially since you dont sign it yourself and not you or the eidim who do knows it what it is, it is posul.

  5. Hand matzot. None are made according to shulchan aruch. I doubt if anyone making them or the mashgiach has ever even looked there. Imagine taking a shochet who hasnt learned the dinim. For a start the whole gemoro doesnt talk about 'cleaning' at all (I suppose it would be botel) but heat. Even the mayim shelonu has to be as cold as possible. One must not put one hand in it. Today no one leaves his hand in cold water before the start till it gets really cold. Washing it isnt enough. The kitsur says one should distribute all the dough straight away and if not enough workers make a smaller dough. No one keeps this. One can see on the finished matsot 'lines' which shows there were once kefulos this is not right to make kefulos and then iron them out. Also the edges are not round but very jagged this all shows that although they charge a lot for them they are made by inexperienced people. There are more things.