Were the Council of Torah Sages following Rambam?
In the previous post, I expressed dismay at the absurdity of the Kol Korei from the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel of America. Proclaiming the pandemic to be an appeal from Heaven for us to correct our ways not only as individuals but also as a community, they identified the collective sin as materialism. A number of people argued that in doing so, the Moetzes was simply following the guidance of Rambam:
"It is a positive mitzvah of the Torah to cry out and to blow the trumpets whenever any danger afflicts a Jewish community... This is part of the procedure of repentance, for when difficulties occur and people come to pray, they realize that these happenings befell them because of their sins... and this will cause the troubles to be removed. However, if they do not pray, but instead say, 'Such is the way of the world...' - this is a cruel approach, that causes people to maintain their evil ways, and will bring further suffering." (Hilchos Taanis 1:1-3)
But this is deeply, deeply mistaken.
We have to differentiate between two things: the pandemic as a whole, and the distressingly high rate of sickness and death in the charedi community (which is supposed to be a community that is more sensitive to pikuach nefesh).
With regard to the pandemic as a whole, from a traditional religious perspective, while there may be a metaphysical cause, it is absolutely impossible to identify what it is. Nobody is using prophecy or the gorel haGra (or even claiming to do so). There are many potential sins, and it could be anything. It could be materialism. It could be licentiousness. It could be bittul Torah. It could be abuse and those who are complicit in covering it up. It could be cheating and disregard for civil law. It should also be noted that considering that Covid is a global pandemic, it would be rather strange to pin the blame on the actions of a subset of the Orthodox Jewish community; it would be more reasonable, and certainly more Maimonidean, to blame it on a global disregard for public health.
So, perhaps we can be grateful that the Moetzes picked the genuine problem of materialism rather than a silly thing such as sheitels, but that would be setting the bar rather low, and it rather conveniently ignores the more "yeshivish" sins. And, as stated, it is ultimately impossible to know, or even to have any serious evidence at all in favor of any particular theory.
On the other hand, when it comes to the rates of infection and death in charedi communities worldwide - which, instead of being lower than that of the general public, are instead several times higher - there is a very obvious cause to which it can be attributed. And that is a phenomenon which, while not unique to charedi communities, is certainly disproportionately widespread in them: holding mass indoor crowded events (which are known to spread disease) and a disregard for health precautions such as distancing and wearing masks. Disregarding health precautions might not be a yeshivishe-sounding type of sin like tzniyus or materialism, but it most certainly involves multiple genuine aveiros, all the way up to murder (in the category of shogeg karov lemezid). For the Moetzes to dismiss that in a single insignificant line about how "Certainly, in this time of danger, we must act with great care for the health of our communities" is inexcusable.
If you're trying to avoid assigning any wrongdoing to the Gedolei Torah, hiding behind Rambam - a Torah giant who put enormous emphasis on health - is not the way to do it.
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