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    Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman: Teshuva For Attacking Those Who Question Masks

    Recently, we published a shiur from Rav Eliyahu Brog who apologized profusely for how the broader frum community persecuted those who believe that vaccines may at times be damaging to their children. To date, that article has been viewed thousands of times.

    Since then, another Rav has come forward to offer a profound apology for similarly persecuting Yidden who opt not to wear face masks during the COVID crisis, recognizing that the medical establishment itself, together with its notion of a universal standard of care, has at times become corrupted, and the standard of care is no longer necessarily synonymous with the Torah’s dictum of vinishmartem mi’od linafshoseichem.

    It is Ellul! The Torah tells us that Klal Yisroel will do Teshuva. You can either be part of it, or stand by on the outside. #LoSaguru

    Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rav of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, New Jersey (see bio here and here) recently sent the following message to his congregation:

    Good Morning!
    Today is Tuesday the 28th of Menachem-Av 5780 and August 18, 2020

    The Buck “NOW STOPS HERE!”

    My good friend and mentor the late, great Tzaddik Rav Avrohom Aronovitch Zt”L once told me, “Rabbi Eisenman, if there is one thing I learned from you is that rabbis are also human.”

    Indeed, I am human.

    And as a human, I make mistakes.

    And I must admit my mistakes when I make them.

    Last month I made mistakes, and its time to correct them.

    Also, concerning the COVID situation, the facts keep changing daily; what I wrote a month ago may no longer be my feeling or medically as relevant today.

    As medical opinions are continually changing, and I have become more knowledgeable as I have spoken to infectious disease specialists, I feel the need to revisit some issues which have changed in the last five weeks.

    Therefore, what I wrote about Shul policy and masks on July 12 and how to react to them, must be revised.

    I also apologize for what I wrote then and the improper language I used.

    Last month on July 12 I wrote:

    1. Anyone who is not wearing a mask properly should be told by the person sitting next to or near them (gently) to please adjust their mask.
    2. If you see “kids” ignoring this rule, I deputize everyone to go over to the teen and (gently of course), say in no uncertain terms that if does not wear a mask properly, he should leave the Shul.
    3. If the teen refuses to listen (or for that matter an adult as well) I deputize everyone to stop the davening and announce that if people do not cover their nose and mouth with a mask the davening will not continue.

    Here is how the revised August 18th version looks:

    1. Anyone who is not wearing a mask properly should NOT be told by the person sitting next to or near them to please adjust their mask.
    2. If you see “kids” ignoring this rule, DO NOT go over to the teen and say in no uncertain terms that if does not wear a mask properly he should leave the Shul.
    3. DO NOT stop the davening and announce that if people do not cover their nose and mouth with a mask the davening will not continue.

    I think you know where I am heading with this.

    I erred terribly when I irresponsibly wrote, “Anyone who is not wearing a mask properly should be told by the person sitting next to or near them (gently) to please adjust their mask.”

    I erred because I did not realize the Sinas Chinam and public shaming of others this would and has caused.

    I erred because I did not realize that one person’s “gentle rebuke” is another person’s humiliation.

    However, I erred even worse when I wrote,

    “If you see “kids” ignoring this rule, I deputize everyone to go over to the teen and (gently of course), say in no uncertain terms that if does not wear a mask properly, he should leave the Shul.”

    And I continued to err when I wrote, “If the teen refuses to listen (or for that matter an adult as well) I deputize everyone to stop the davening and announce that if people do not cover their nose and mouth with a mask the davening will not continue.”

    On July 12, I thought that was the proper approach based on my conversations with doctors and my naïve assessment of humans.

    However, today, on August 18, after speaking to more medical experts and painfully seeing how humans behave when they are empowered, I must revise what I wrote. I beg your forgiveness for any embarrassment I may have caused.

    I know this is a hot button issue, and passions run high.

    However, embarrassing another Jew is also a passionate issue.

    And I take full responsibility for my mistakes.

    Therefore, effective immediately, I revoke the “deputization” of all men and women, which empowered them to rebuke others (teen or adult) regarding the other person’s improper wearing of the mask.

    No one is authorized or “deputized” to tell anyone to leave the Shul. (Except for four individuals mentioned below)

    So too, I de-deputize anyone and forbid anyone to stop any davening because of lack of proper masking. (Except for four individuals mentioned below)

    In my naivete, I thought these rules would keep people safe.

    Instead, because of my naïve hope to help ensure the safety of our congregants, too many power-hungry individuals misused this power and bullied, embarrassed, and humiliated others.

    Self-appointed vigilantes began stalking the inner cracks and crevices of the women’s section displaying more enthusiasm than they had for davening in their zeal to locate a mask-violator.

    People who never bothered for years to say hello to the person sitting next to them were suddenly galvanized into self-made Kapos bent on finding anyone whose mask fell below their nose irrespective of the humiliation it may have caused.

    People who never approached another congregant to say “Good Shabbos” felt empowered to prowl around the Shul seeking violators without regard to the person or for how long the violation took place.

    Individuals who were not even members (and certainly not gabboim) began to lurk at the door, hoping to find the offending Jew to rebuke and humiliate.

    I am not exaggerating.

    And for that, I ask Mechilla as the “Buck Stops Here,” and I must ask Mechilla if you were humiliated by someone in my Shul.

    One Talmid Chochom (who had lowered his mask for a moment to de-fog his glasses) was publicly humiliated.

    A local Rav was verbally abused by some crazed-rascal who followed him to his car and harassed him in the driveway.

    In short, I painfully realized that if you give people power, many (not all) will abuse it.

    Therefore, beginning today, If you are uncomfortable with the way the person next to you is wearing their mask, please move away and, after davening, contact one of the four authorized individuals (see below).

    This “Executive Order” is effective immediately as I must put an end to self-appointed mask-vigilantes.

    There are only four people (just four) who have any authorization from me to approach anyone.

    They are past, present, or incoming presidents.

    Everyone else has no authority and is prohibited from approaching and rebuking or reminding anyone else of how they wear their mask.

    If you notice the mask of the person next to you is (in your opinion) not correctly positioned, then YOU move away and inform one of the “gabboim” after davening.

    However, based on numerous incidents of mask shaming, I am prohibiting –effective immediately- everyone else (except for the four above mentioned individuals) from approaching anyone else.

    Also, if you feel that anyone, including the four authorized individuals, acted improperly or without proper Derech Eretz or if they were stalking people, please inform me immediately as no one is above the law. We all must have respect for each other.

    I am also insisting that the four mentioned individuals approach their intended “victim” with the same sensitivity as if they were contacting a Rosh Yeshiva or their grandmother.

    Currently, (and this may change based on the continually evolving medical assessment) the Shul policy remains that all those entering the Shul must be masked.

    However, this policy may change as we are continually looking into the possibilities of attempting to meet the needs of those who insist on masking and those who feel it is no longer necessary to mask based on the differing medical opinions.

    Obviously, if and when this is implemented, it will be done responsibly and ensuring all of our congregant’s safety and in full compliance with the law.

    However, one policy that consistently remains is the Torah policy of not shaming another Jew.

    If you feel the need to report on someone who is chronic violater of Shul policy, please leave a message in the Shul voice mail.

    I know everyone is passionate about this issue.

    Believe me, I know.

    There are neighborhoods who believe (and Baruch Hashem are no worse for it) masking is no longer needed.

    And some neighborhoods believe (and they have their medical experts as well) who passionately believe that we must have zero tolerance for anyone not wearing a mask.

    At this point, after speaking to Dr. Daniel Berman, Rav Herschel Shachter, and other physicians and Rabbonim, I certainly cannot say who is right and who is wrong.

    All of them stressed to me, “We don’t know now who is right and who is wrong. However, we must respect all Jews!”

    We need more Shalom and more tolerance.

    I have spent countless hours listening to (sometimes very nasty) accusations from both sides of the spectrum.

    Yet, we must remember to never, never, speak negatively about other Jews as all sides have their medical and halachik experts.

    Our job is not to be judgemental and attempt to love all Jews.

    I have lost countless hours of sleep over this as I know many of my beloved congregants have moved on to places that are more lenient in this practice.

    I also know that others have started davening by us as they feel that our policy of “mask-only” is the only way to go.

    We all need to calm down a little.

    The maskers should ask their medical experts as to what is the likelihood of contracting COVID if you pass an unmasked person for a few seconds in the lobby. (From what I gathered, the likelihood is next to nothing).

    And if so, they should show tolerance and not hatred.

    So too, those who believe masking is no longer a necessity should never ridicule those who do mask, and they certainly should be respectful of the Shul policy.

    We need more tolerance and less vigilantism.

    We need more love and acceptance as opposed to hatred and complete disdain for those who follow different medical advice and different Rabbonim.

    Let’s all try to be respectful of each other.

    We are all struggling to be healthy and to attempt to live a life that has meaning and joy.

    The least we can do is respect and love each other.

    There is no clarity, and there is no endgame.

    Will the “maskers” still be wearing their masks for Rosh Hashana 2021? Maybe, and perhaps even longer, as there is no light at the end of the tunnel as of now.

    As time goes on, most likely, more and more people masking people will crave for a “more-normal” existence.

    They see hundreds of thousands of other Orthodox Jews in other neighborhoods living without masks without any negative (Baruch Hashem) repercussions than their communities who are masking.

    Can you blame them for wanting to unmask?

    So too, many believe (and they have medical opinion supporting them) that masking remains essential no matter how long it lasts. As one “masker” recently told me, “I am prepared to live the rest of my life with a mask.”

    I respect and love both groups of people.

    We all need to take a step back and think of how we can stay safe without trampling on the most serious of Torah transgressions, namely, shaming another Jew.

    No one ever said it would be easy.

    Let’s try it today.

    With love and affection and understanding,

    Rabbi

    “If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel

    Website | + posts

    Contributing Editor, Emes News

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    One Comment

    1. Guest Contributor
      November 16, 2020

      He forgot to mention that there’s plenty of medical evidence for not wearing masks. For example, Dr. Scott Atlas, MD, of Stanford University, Trump’s chief corona adviser said:

      “Nobody gives by the way publicity to the WHO’s recommendation quote they do not recommend masks for the general public, unquote, even in their updated note, if you bother to read their whole technical note they say that. And they are talking about the only time you wear a mask is if you are at risk, high risk group, in an area of widespread transmission of the disease and you cannot be three feet away from someone.” [Interview on Fox News]

      and also

      “Surgical masks will not prevent your acquiring diseases. Rather, surgical masks are typically used by surgeons to protect their patients from their mouth-borne germs — but those masks don’t work to prevent inhaling diseases,”

      Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, and the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases told Fox News.

      and

      Dr Suzanne Humphries
      @DrsuzanneH
      Medical doctor, Internal Medicine and Nephrology. Board certified, multi-state licensed. Author of Dissolving Illusions and Rising From The Dead.
      “In a world where everyone is so obsessed with alkalizing, guess what happens when you re-breathe your carbon dioxide? That’s right, blood pH drops and you retain acid and have to get rid of it some other way. I hope you have a good kidneys.”

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