Misaskim Pleads: Stop the Toxic Spread of Information

Misaskim co-sponsored 500 lunches Monday for Maimonides medical staff. (Misaskim)

As head of Misaskim, I am on the front lines in dealing with the multitude of tragedies in recent days. Misaskim has been inundated with calls and emergencies. With an unprecedented amount of niftarim in such a short period of time – and dozens of young, innocent yesomim added to our list – it has been a very tough week at Misaskim. Misaskim’s mission is to alleviate tragedies with compassion – which is ever more important at a time when the traditional sense of shivah is not fulfilled. In addition to ensuring kvod hameis, each niftar has a family that he or she leaves behind, who need comforting in such trying times.

Recently, our mission went from difficult to impossible. The coronavirus – along with the self-quarantine and isolation requirements – became a cause for sensational news and social media obsession. Everyone wants to be the first to declare “Breaking News,” and boredom generates tumult and gossip. In recent days, Misaskim was called to notify family members about the passing of their loved ones, only to discover that the family already found out via WhatApp – without the available support or crisis intervention team. In another disturbing instance, an unsubstantiated and inaccurate message went viral about a woman supposedly in critical condition – whose husband passed away merely hours before and was not even brought to kevurah yet. How can we properly assist in the grieving and healing process if a young almanah or family of yesomim sees such a message? Our comforting presence, promises of assistance, and hours of hard work of planning and logistics gets nullified in an instant!

I am reaching out today to ask for your assistance in helping us fulfill our mission. We do not expect everyone to witness tragedy the way we do or enter into quarantined homes to assist bereaved families. We do not even anticipate you to pay a personal shivah call because of social distancing and in accordance with the psak halacha of our Rabbanim. However, you can fulfill the mitzva of nichum aveilim by waiting before forwarding a message, by stopping the spread of false, unsubstantiated posts, and by refraining from commenting carelessly on news websites. Instead of being the first to know when someone passed away, be the first to say Tehillim, accept upon yourself a Perek Mishnayos, or make a phone call – in a sensitive and respectful manner – to a mourner.

In this zechus, may we be zocheh to the prophecy of Yeshayahu Hanavi that bilah hamaves lanetzach and may we speedily merit to eat min hazvachim umin hapsachim .