On Tuesday night, March 19, Chazaq and TorahAnytime hosted a livestream shiur titled “Chizuk for Turbulent Times.” First, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, rav of Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin in Brooklyn, imparted that we should follow the guidelines of the government and of the g’dolei Yisrael. “We are completely in the hands of the Ribbono shel Olam. This mageifah is teaching us that it’s all HaKadosh Baruch Hu.” Now, we can’t daven b’tzibur. We can’t learn in typical fashion. Children are denied the privilege to protect klal Yisrael.

“We have to know that if this is what Hashem wants, then this is what we want.” Rabbi Lieff added, “We have to celebrate. We are ovdei Hashem. He noted how, in his beis midrash, there is usually learning and davening going on from 5:30 in the morning until 11:30 at night. There are thousands who are davening and millions of dollars are donated to tz’dakah. “It is r’tzon Hashem that the doors are shuttered, but the gates to heaven are not closed.” He advised everyone to daven the same time you usually daven when you go to shul, and perhaps try to daven Vasikin. Wear a hat and jacket. Daven with your children. Say the following chapters of T’hilim: 91, 142, 83, and 130. Also, recite the K’tores. He explained that K’tores is a gift of an angel to Moshe Rabbeinu to forestall a plague. K’tores is kiddush Hashem. He advised everyone to make a kabbalah not to talk in shul when we are finally reunited with our shul. Leave the phone out of shul. Show kavod to the shul. Accept on ourselves to earn the right to daven in shul and to send our children to yeshivah. He taught that we are now required to not daven with a minyan, since that is what the g’dolim say. We still have this emunah of ein od milvado, even if Torah learning and davening is at home and children are not going to yeshivah. He said that the plague will just disappear, just as it came.

Next, Rabbi Eliezer Ginsburg, rav of Agudas Yisroel of Flatbush South and Rosh Kollel of the Mirrer Yeshiva, shared: “You must strengthen your mood. You must know that there is a Creator and there is hashgachah pratis. He shared the famous story in the Gemara when Rabbi Akiva was looking for a place to spend the night in a small village and no one would allow him to stay. All he had was a candle, a donkey, and a rooster, and each of these things was taken away. It seemed like things were going very badly for him but, in reality, it was all good as people came and attacked the village and killed everyone there. If the attackers had seen the light or heard the rooster or donkey, then Rabbi Akiva would have been killed.

Rabbi Ginsburg also lamented that we can’t go into our yeshivos or shuls, and our children don’t have school; though we can’t understand it, we have to know it’s good. This could be a test to bring Mashiach if we merit it. “He loves us. We are His children… Not being able to go to shul or to be in yeshivah weighs on all of us. What do we have to accept on ourselves? We have to say to Hashem: ‘Let us back into our shuls and we are going to respect your mikdash m’at much more.’ This is a place to be closer to Hashem and to separate ourselves from the world outside. We have to make sure those new inventions that take us out of shul when we’re in the shul are removed. No more texting in shul. It can’t be brought into the shul.”

Rabbi Ginsburg imparted that Hashem gave us beautiful shuls, homes, businesses, and families. How much did we appreciate it and recognize that it was all from Hashem? “A small virus has turned over the whole world. Clearly, it’s the hand of G-d. We are the nation that accepted the Torah that carries the responsibility of the world. We have to say to Hashem, ‘I recognize that it’s You.’ This will give Hashem nachas ruach. This will turn it around, and He can put the virus into the sea. It’s up to us, klal Yisrael.”

He advised, “Be strong. Don’t become depressed. Have emunah.”

Following this, Rabbi Osher Weiss, Rosh Kollel of Machon Minchas Osher L’Torah V’Horaah, spoke. “Everyone feels isolated. We are all connected – our families, our communities, the world. How do we deal with this crisis?” Rabbi Weiss taught that it is a positive mitzvah to cry out to Hashem. Scientists say that pandemics just happen; but we believe in hashgachah. Nothing happens unless Hashem wants it to happen. “A y’sod in our emunah is that when tragedy strikes our people, it’s Hashem calling out to us.” We don’t know what Hashem wants, but we do know that we need to be better – with more Torah and more t’filah. We need to take advantage of every situation and circumstance. Davening at home is an opportunity to daven better. Take time and say the Korbanos. “Focus on every word.” He suggested spending one hour for Shacharis and 15-20 minutes for Minchah and for Maariv. This is an opportunity to spend more time with your spouse and children. Learn together and turn it into quality time. You can do chesed by calling people on the phone. Learn more. There are many shiurim online. “Take advantage of these crazy circumstances. Be aware that this is from Hashem. We must work on Torah, t’shuvah, tz’dakah, and t’filah.”

This shiur can be viewed on TorahAnytime.com.

Livestream Virtual Melaveh Malkah

On Motza’ei Shabbos, March 21, Chazaq, the Queens Jewish Link, and TorahAnytime hosted an uplifting, livestreamed melaveh malkah titled “Finding Light in the Darkness.”

The beginning was a live message from Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita, co-founder and Rosh HaYeshiva of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia. “We are living in very trying times, unfortunately. We don’t know exactly what the Ribbono shel Olam wants, but He wants us to become better, that’s for sure. He gives us a Torah so we should become better. He teaches us all the time. Unfortunately, it’s a time that the Ribbono shel Olam separates us; but at the same time, we have to feel that we are missing something, because we can always learn from one another. We’re called klal Yisrael because we all have one aim: to get closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We have to always think: What I can do for you? If we always think about what I can do for others, we will become better. We are missing the friendship for one another. His brachah was to think of that inyan of friendship that is so important. Know that it is so important to be part of klal Yisrael. Think as a ben Yisrael. A ben Yisrael thinks, “What can I do for you?

Next, Rabbi YY Rubinstein shared, “We are all looking for chizuk. The Kotzker Rebbe said that a Jew has to believe in three things: Hashem, klal Yisrael, and yourself. We have to remember always that we are descendants from the Avos and the Imahos, and we are from greatness. He then shared the following question of the Alshich: Why does the Torah say that the Akeidah was a test for Avraham Avinu, and it doesn’t say that it was also a test for Yitzchak? He answers that Yitzchak’s nature was to always follow whatever Hashem wanted; so for him, this was not a test. However, for Avraham, whose whole essence was kindness, this was a test. “A test is when it’s difficult. These are testing times.”

He shared a story of a young girl who lost one parent when she was only 12 and then lost the other when she was 15. Yet, this young orphan told Rabbi Rubinstein that she knew it was all from Hashem and she accepted His will. “In difficult times, greatness emerges. When Jews produce their greatness, it’s the greatest.”

He shared that we are in a difficult situation. “Don’t panic. A great rav said that if there is a plague in the city, people run away. He shared a story from the Gemara of a Jew who was walking down the road during an epidemic, and the Angel of Death accompanied him. The man asked, “How many lives will you take?” He replied, “5,000.”

However, in the end, 15,000 died. The man accused the Angel of Death of lying. The Angel of Death replied, “No, I took 5,000. The other 10,000 died from worrying themselves to death. They panicked.”

We can’t forget that Hashem is in control. Worry can weaken your defense system. We have to know that we are in the Hands of Hashem. Of course, you have to guard yourself to the best of your ability. Don’t rely on a miracle, but know that everything comes from Hashem.

He noted that it’s a strange phenomenon that the target audience for this disease is older adults and those with pre-existing conditions. Children don’t get it. Diseases usually target children. In the sefer Beis Elokim, in the beginning, the author talks about disease. When there was a plague during the time of the Beis HaMikdash, it was clear that the plague came from Hashem. At that time, children were not affected and only adults were struck by it. At that time, it was a direct result of sin, and we could see the yad Hashem clearly. We don’t have that clear revelation today.

So, what is the message of this virus? he asked. It is to strengthen our belief in Hashem and that everything comes from Hashem. The foundation of all of our belief is that Hashem is there every day and miracles happen every day. He suggested that we keep a diary to strengthen ourselves in our relationship with Hashem. List times in your life when you clearly saw Hashem in your life. It will strengthen your emunah. He concluded, “Corona is clearly from Hashem. Ask yourself what have you done as a consequence of this terrible situation? What have you done to change – to become a better person? We need to look for a response from ourselves that shows that we believe in Hashem, in klal Yisrael, and in ourselves.”

Next, Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, rav of the Agudath Israel of Staten Island and a well-known author and speaker, shared: “We’re bereft of the tremendous koach of davening in a minyan.” So now, trying to make the best of this, when we daven alone, we can daven at our own pace and learn what the davening means. He shared how saying the Sh’ma is important. “In time of danger, listen, Tatty in Heaven, we are all believers. Please come to our aid.” He taught that we should be careful with the z’manim of k’rias Sh’ma as it’s a tremendous z’chus. “At the time when we are usually focused on matzah, we are focused on guarding our health.” He taught that the yeitzer ha’ra is compared to a fly. One explanation for this is that flies keep coming back, just as the yeitzer ha’ra doesn’t give up. Also, it’s found by sweets and garbage. The yeitzer ha’ra attacks us with taavah and garbage. Also, a fly looks fairly innocent. It’s a tremendous mitzvah to protect our health. Guarding your health supersedes Yom Kippur. He added, “This new reality is a very big challenge.” The only place in the Torah that mentions isolation is in relation to the m’tzora. He has to separate because he caused separation of others. “Now we are separated.” Rav Chaim Kanievsky said we need to re-educate ourselves and re-learn the laws of lashon ha’ra. Quarantine brings tremendous challenges. It’s also a time of opportunity: time to learn more and an opportunity to give more time to our children and spouse. He also shared the Gemara that teaches that worry weakens the constitution of a person. He taught that there is constructive worry, where we do what we must to protect ourselves, and then there is worry that is not constructive, where we are just sitting and worrying, and that is negative. Gloom is caused by too much media. There is a pasuk in Mishlei that states that the spirit of man sustains him while he is sick. We have to be b’simchah. We need to do this for our families. Torah learning gives us simchah. “The worst thing is to go around without hope.”

He quoted a pasuk from the Chumash that in all your ways you should acknowledge Hashem. At home, we have the opportunity to acknowledge Hashem. Remember that tz’dakah saves from death. T’shuvah, t’filah, and tz’dakah – and learning Torah – is what we should focus on now. Also perform good deeds. When we have mercy on others, then Hashem will have mercy on us.

This program can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.

By Susie Garber