If you don’t like wearing a mask or you are uncomfortable wearing one, that’s just too bad. What if you don’t like stopping at red lights? Do you just plow right through? I don’t think so.
We are indeed at an advanced stage of our national response to COVID-19, and the havoc it has caused in so many communities and families is still difficult to grasp. Still, because it has been so long, I have noticed emails from at least two local shuls stating that they are now featuring a “mask section” and a “no-mask-needed section” in their shuls.
One of the greatest casualties of this period has been the truth. We are determined to follow the directives of our leaders and experts, but there are very few things that they agree about. If there was across-the-board agreement then there wouldn’t be these different sections in our shuls.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, a retired neurosurgeon, recently wrote that there are risks in wearing masks as well. “By wearing a mask the exhaled viruses will not be able to escape and will concentrate in the nasal passages, enter the olfactory nerve, and travel into the brain,” writes Dr. Blaylock.
Dr. Blaylock also promotes “chemtrail” conspiracies alleging cancer-causing nanoparticles have been knowingly released into the atmosphere in a government-corporate scheme.
On the other hand, the majority of doctors, especially infectious-disease specialists, say that wearing a mask is a smart and prudent approach to limiting the spread of the virus, and that seems to be the approach that most people are comfortable adhering to — for now, anyway.
Back in early February, I was flying home from Florida, sitting in the middle seat of one of the rows in front of the plane. My wife was sitting to my left. On the right, in the much-coveted aisle seat, was an Asian man wearing a face mask. I noticed it, obviously, but did not think anything of it other than the fact that it is a good way to make sure you diminish the amount of polluted air you inhale.
This was before any of us were familiar with terms like coronavirus, social distancing, and quarantine, along with other terms that have become part of our daily vernacular.
At the end of the day, you have to make your own intelligent choice. Some shuls have said that everyone should wear a mask when entering the shul. When you are sitting in your seat, socially distanced from others, you are free to remove your mask. Of course, if you are more comfortable keeping the mask on through the services you are welcome to do so.
Over the last few weeks, the 5TJT has come under some criticism for running a series of articles by Dr. Gila Jedwab, a dentist with a practice in Cedarhurst. I’m not going to say that she is a spiritual person, because I think that all of us are essentially people with a spiritual disposition. We believe in and pray to Hashem daily, and in this time of national crisis we wear masks.
Some who were rattled by what she wrote felt she was saying that when it comes to the masks, we should throw caution to the wind and depend solely on Hashem. Almost everyone I spoke with took umbrage at that assertion. One doctor who contacted me said that she knows nothing about the spread of disease and even less about bitachon, faith in G-d.
I told the doctor, and some of the others who wrote and called, that everyone in our office wears masks when we move around, and just because one writer is suggesting that we focus a bit more of our attention to our faith in G-d, it does not mean we are advocating or suggesting something contrary to prudent public health policy or anything that can cause harm to others, chas v’shalom. Such an accusation is a misinterpretation of what Dr. Jedwab was saying.
One rabbi wrote to us, saying that it was the most dangerous article we ever published. Another wrote that he wished censorship was a possibility, because then he would do what he could to censor us. It reminded me about a piece I wrote a few weeks ago after speaking with City Councilman Donovan Richards of Far Rockaway. We spoke about how peaceful the local demonstration was in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. I wrote that the civility of the protest bodes well for the future of local black and Jewish communities working together.
After I made that assertion, I received more than a few letters calling my entire existence into question and questioning if there was any real substance or meaning to my life. I respect that people can disagree, but there is also a wrong and right way to make your opinion known.
As I understand it, Dr. Jedwab was trying to say is that as frum Jews, perhaps we should rely more on Hashem than on surgical masks. No one said that it is better to throw your masks away. I think what she was suggesting is that masks should not become the sum total of our religion at the present time.
I told some of the critics who contacted me that I viewed the piece as more philosophical, hopeful, and poetic than anything else. Dr. Gila Jedwab is fantasizing in print about a world where grandparents can freely hug their eineklach and where one day, hopefully soon, we won’t have to wear these masks anymore.
So let’s be clear. For now, masks are vital and imperative to protect your health and the health of others. At the same time, we should all be davening to Hashem and asking Him to stop the spread of this plague, the sooner the better.
It is also becoming clear as time passes that some of the policies being implemented are politically motivated. That is not news; we’ve written that here in the past. Because President Trump has not been seen wearing a mask (maybe he did once), people act as if wearing a mask means you are anti-Trump and not wearing one means you are standing with the president.
That is not a good or effective conclusion to draw. I know many people who wear masks and support the president. But in this election year, politicians are trying to contort the issue into an equation that figures that pro-Trump means no mask and danger, while wearing a mask means that you are for the Democrats and pro-safety. It is a sad state of affairs if that is what all this has come down to.
It is additionally disappointing that we are drawing conclusions about people based on when and where they wear masks or don’t wear them. I mean, it seems legitimate and reasonable that some of our shuls are designating non-mask-wearing sections of their shuls. They are not doing that because they do not care about people’s health. Perhaps it is because some people feel that they have already had the virus and have antibodies, and most medical doctors will tell you that it is doubtful that such a person can get the virus again or pass it on to others. Those people might want to go to their regular shuls and they are being accommodated.
But the doctors will also tell you that the antibodies might only be effective for anywhere from two months to forever, so continuing to wear a mask cannot do any damage and is a good preventive tool.
All that being said, the bottom line is that if a writer wants to dream about the day when we won’t have to wear masks anymore, that does not make her an enemy of the people. Keep your cool and your mask on.
Contact Larry Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow 5TJT.com on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.