Fighting the Panicdemic

A worried call came in to Hamodia’s Brooklyn office from a loyal, longtime reader. She had heard that one or more employees of Hamodia had tested positive for coronavirus and was wondering whether we were closing down operations.

We were able to reassure her that what she had heard was only one of the many false reports that have been circulating. Baruch Hashem, as of this writing, none of our employees have reported any symptoms, and we are, with siyatta diShmaya, very much open for business.

The staff of Prime Magazine, the weekly and daily editions of our newspaper, and especially of Hamodia.com are being inundated by requests for information about the ongoing crisis.

We are committed to, b’ezras Hashem, doing our utmost to continue to bring to you the most accurate and responsible information via all of our outlets.

Many a conversation in these anxiety-filled days begins with the words, “Did you hear that…” In a significant number of cases, the supposed facts that follow are classic examples of fake news, too often manufactured on some social media group by individuals with too much time on their hands.

The actual facts, however, are alarming as well. National and local governmental authorities are taking dramatic steps to combat the growing global pandemic. Borders have unexpectedly shut, countless flights have been canceled, and citizens wishing to return home face quarantine. Travelers have been stranded far from home, the world economy has taken a severe hit, and the lives of so many individuals have been totally disrupted.

Families are facing agonizing dilemmas previously unheard-of during peacetime: Should a wedding be pushed off — something which in many kehillos is considered something to avoid at all costs — if a set of parents can’t come? If the shidduch is a transatlantic one, and the chassan or kallah can’t enter the country where the wedding was supposed to take place, should it be relocated to a foreign country, without friends and siblings in attendance?

In some areas, shuls have been forced to close, while others stayed open, while discouraging the elderly from coming to daven or learn. Schools and yeshivos are consulting their spiritual mentors to make the fateful decision of whether to close its doors. Mothers are trying to figure out how to clean for Pesach with a roomful of young children underfoot.

It is a time of confusion, anxiety and much stress. Yet at the same time, the swift steps taken by the leadership of various kehillos to implement various recommendations by health experts has been admirable and inspiring. It is a time when many individuals are going far beyond the call of duty, both on a professional and a volunteer basis, to help others in their time of need.

As Torah Jews, we know that there is a great lesson for us in all of this. The world — as we knew it only a few short weeks ago — has changed in an almost unrecognizable way. It seems as if everything has been turned on its end, as the most carefully made plans have gone awry and there is a genuine fear about what is coming next.

We have been taught in a most vivid way that we are not in control of our own destinies, and we are mere pawns on a Heavenly chessboard. Yet the recognition of this most fundamental concept — that our fates are decided solely by our Creator — is also the greatest source of solace and strength. Our only path is to fortify our hearts with emunah and bitachon, and to pour out our souls in tefillah. Only the Shomer Yisrael can protect us, and it is only to Him that we turn to at his time.

And yes, as we gird ourselves for some hectic, challenging weeks ahead, part of our requisite hishtadlus is to put aside all the fake news that is pouring in on all sides.