The corona virus is spreading in the United States, and hitting hard Haredi neighborhoods in several cities, where dozens of Haredim have succumbed to the plague and thousands more are hospitalized, including Rebbes, Roshei Yeshivas, and millionaires, some of whom are in very serious condition.
Many Haredim passed away over Shabbat, including Rabbi Shimon Susholtz, Rav of Congregation Keren Orah in Kensington, Flatbush;
Rabbi Boruch Hersh Feder, 73, a teacher in a Satmar yeshiva in Williamsburg;
Rabbi Dovid Don Reiss, 77, distinguished member of the Belz chassidut in Boro Park;
Rabbi Yisroel (Izzy) Fogel of Boro Park;
Rabbi Mordechai Zev Halberstam, 42, of the Bobov chassidut in Boro Park;
Rabbi Aharon Hersh Kleinman of Boro Park;
Rabbi Mordechai Gurary, 84, Rav of the Chevra Shas Shul in Crown Heights;
Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Schmidt, of Lakewood, one of the owners of Paskez Candy;
Rabbi Chaim Weil of Lakewood; and
Mrs. Pacifico, whose husband, Alexander, passed away a week ago.
A member of the burial society Hevra Kadisha said painfully Saturday night that he had not seen this kind of carnage in the religious Jewish community in decades, and added that Hevra Kadisha teams were rotating round the clock to prepare the dead for proper interment.
“I can tell you the situation is crazy, and you have no idea how many people have been killed,” he said, musing, “The angel of death seems to have been given the green light to act, God forbid.”
202 new cases of the coronavirus were identified in the US as of Sunday morning, with 2,229 deaths so far.
In Israel, 246 new cases have been detected, bringing the national figure as of Sunday morning to 3,865, with 13 dead.
Interestingly, the lead headline on JTA’s website Sunday morning was: “The coronavirus hasn’t stopped immigration to Israel.” The article cites the Jewish Agency’s figure of more than 800 new olim arriving since the beginning of March, with another 200 expected before the start of the Passover holiday on April 8. Apparently, only about 100 new olim have canceled their plans.
Forgive me, but could there be any doubt that this is min HaShamayim?
Rav Elyashiv, the Vilna Gaon’s Lottery and Coronavirus
There is a ancient Jewish tradition, that in more modern times is attributed to the Vilna Gaon, called the “Goral HaGra”.
It is a lottery which is done at times of extreme need. When divine assistance in required to answer a question of national significance. Great rabbis have passed down this tradition, which allows for a query to be made via a specific protocol and then a Chumash is opened to a random page and a Pasuk is pointed to. This verse is understood to be the answer to the query that was posed.
It was used during the Holocaust to determine in which direction the Mir Yeshiva should escape to (eventually leading them to Shanghai) and again by Rav Aryeh Levin z”l to identify the remains of the mass grave of Jews killed in the Old City of Jerusalem during the War of Independence.
There are very few rabbis alive today who are knowledgeable and qualified to conduct this ceremony. But it was performed this past week in Jerusalem by none other than Rav Aryeh Levin’s grandson and son of the famous Posek, Rav Binyamin Elyashiv Shlit”a.
Rav Binyamin Elyashiv is recognized as one of the poskim, leading Halachic deciders, in the Haredi community in Israel today.
Rav Elyashiv was asked by a American Jewish supporter of Torah institutions how they should be responding to the CoronaVirus in this time of crisis and whether they should relocate to Israel. The response received by the divine lottery was nothing less than miraculous.
The verse that was chosen came from Deuteronomy 1:8, where it states, “See, I have set the land before you; come and possess the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them and their descendants after them.”
This led the holy rabbi to explain to his grandson that this is a revelation and a clear sign that it is time for world Jewry to make their way back to the Land of Israel. “Israel is the safest place for a Jew to be now,” the rabbi said, “We are very close to the final redemption. It will all be over very soon here.”
He also said that those who are left outside of the Land, but continue to support her, will also be recognized as being native to the land.