Other Side of the Bench by David Seidemann


In pre-corona days, I would wake up around 5:30 a.m., hit a 6 a.m. minyan, rush home, grab a bite, and be off to my office in Brooklyn or to one of the courthouses in the five boroughs or Nassau County.

With the introduction of coronavirus into our lives, and after outdoor minyanim were permitted, I would arise at 7 and attend an 8 a.m. service outside my home. Recently, however, for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve been waking up at 4:30 a.m. I lie in bed for about a half-hour, thinking of all the things I need to do that day. I plan it all out, but at the end of the day I do not accomplish many things on the list. We all wish we could close our eyes, blink a few times, and everything will be back to normal. But I am not even sure if I remember anymore what normal was.

I wake up today to the news that Trump says it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Ten more states have been added to the quarantined list. Florida, Texas, and California are out of control in terms of the virus. The cities of Portland, Chicago, and New York are out of control in terms of gun violence. Those in charge of those cities are actually refusing federal assistance in terms of personnel to quell the violence. Federal money? I am sure they will accept that. Boots on the ground? No way. That would be handing Donald Trump a victory of sorts, and they would rather see their cities disintegrate than have Trump receive credit for putting an end to anarchy.

Overnight, Israel reports over 1,900 new cases of the virus. A couple in Missouri rightfully, under the castle law of the state, defends themselves and their property from persons they believed were going to attack them, and they now face indictment in what can only be explained as a partisan political move. Thankfully, the Republican governor and the state attorney general have vowed to step in and attempt to correct the wrong.

Then there is the heat wave and the economic disaster component of COVID and the refusal of many to comply with social distancing. The vitriolic rhetoric from those who now have the audacity to call this pandemic “Trump’s virus” when they themselves were quoted early on downplaying the threat, were encouraging community parades and festivals, and most recently were saying that mass protests were permitted and social distancing was not so important — but only if one is protesting.

Then we witnessed the defacing of monuments and the censoring of anything and everyone that doesn’t espouse views that align with the new woke movement. The list goes on. It’s no wonder I can’t sleep past 4:30 a.m.

Such is the destruction we live with presently. But then we add to the mix the destruction we mourn every year at this time, the destruction of the two Temples in ancient Jerusalem that were not mere edifices but represented a way of life. They ensured that way of life until we lost the merit of having those physical structures in our midst.

When one loses a parent, Jewish law requires a mourning period that decreases in intensity as time progresses. We sit shivah with all of its restrictions for a week. We then continue into the shloshim, or 30-day period, where certain restrictions are relaxed. When the shloshim conclude, we continue to observe other conditions for the remainder of the year, but with more leniency.

When presented with the obligation to mourn the destruction of the Temples, the mourning process is just the opposite. We begin with the 17th of Tammuz, the first day of what we call the Three Weeks, when certain activities are prohibited. We intensify restrictions nine days before Tisha B’Av, add more restrictions in the week that Tishah B’Av occurs, and it all culminates with the day of Tisha B’Av itself.

Even when restrictions that govern mourning a parent relax, there is little chance of forgetting one’s parent. We look in the mirror and see our mother or father. We gaze upon our children and see our parents. Our homes are filled with artifacts from our parents. Shelves are lined with their pictures. Videos of them are a click away. We share their last name and have children who carry their first names.

But when it comes to a building, and especially to a building that imposed certain obligations upon the nation, it’s a lot easier to forget. Society can crumble when its institutions are weak or when the family falls apart. We have seen evidence of both in our times.

So our tradition instructs us to make sure both are strong. Community institutions can fall prey to being ignored, and there is the ever-present danger that they will weaken through our apathy, so we are reminded to strengthen them by recognizing their importance. Therefore, we are instructed to mourn their loss in increasing intensity.

The family structure is also vulnerable. We must mourn the loss of our family leaders because they have lit the way for us. Their memories are fresher in our minds; turning our back on their teachings would be so much more noticeable to us, so we can mourn them in descending intensity.

Nevertheless, both must be mourned. We must strengthen our nation as a whole, we must strengthen our families, and we must not let the shrill voices of anarchists destroy what we have struggled to build.

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or ds@lawofficesm.com.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here