I am plagued, no pun intended, as I sit here deliberating about what I should be writing about for my article this week. I have repeated too many times to count, about the myriad of stimulus from the United States Government that is being made available to individuals and businesses who are in need. I am winded from talking to so many people about the risks and considerations about the new Mortgage Forbearance provisions as made available through the CARES Act. I am exhausted communicating to people as to the current threats in the banking world, and why interest rates are not yet below 3.00%. More than anything, I am pained, by the suffering out there in every direction that I look.
It started a few weeks ago when my shul announced that they would be closing its doors, and membership was requested to daven alone in their own homes. After contemplating all of my viable options, including going to neighboring communities who had not yet shut-down, I went to the last evening teffilot available at Beth Abraham. Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger, our amazing Morah d’Asrah, calmly got up to speak between mincha and maariv, as what I can only describe as a “town hall like” dialogue. He listened intently, and his responses were carefully measured and articulated. It was clear to most in the room, that to the extent that the community Rabbanim were able, most of our questions and concerns had already been deliberated and discussed by them.
The next morning with a tremendous sense of nervousness and unease, I woke up early to daven alone in my home. I took some solace in knowing that I was davening in synch with many of my vasikin friends, but that too didn’t give me comfort. One of my cousins posted an audio file on our family chat about the famous Chassidic brothers, Rav Elimelech and Rav Zusha who traveled from town to town with their identities hidden from the public. This story has since made its way around social media, so I won’t go into full details, but in this anecdote, they were thrown in prison and left alone in a cell with a pale of waste in the middle of the room, which prevented them from praying.
One brother excitedly said to the other, “the same G-d in heaven and earth that commanded us to pray, is the same One that is now requiring that we don’t pray to Him right now. With that, they took comfort in knowing they were fulfilling His commandments by refraining from prayers. I too took some solace in that story for my own mission of prayers, but it proved to be somewhat short-lived.
The inspirational tale hadn’t helped me reconcile all of the pain and suffering that I see, or foresee throughout our communities. Shuls and Schools are empty. Businesses are closed. Stores are shut. So many people are losing their jobs, without regard to their skill or competence. The unemployment numbers for the past week are staggering, reaching historical figures, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the great depression. Conversations that I am having on a daily basis, ranging from people frantic to save a few dollars, those anxious to cash-out on desperately needed funds, or homeowners asking for guidance on mortgage forbearance as they cant make their payments. I questioned how I can be of help, when I cannot be of assistance to so many.
Then, I recently remembered a story that I heard from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, Mashpia in Yeshiva University and Morah d’Asrah of Congregation Aish Kodesh. He detailed how one late evening he came home after a long day, and climbed into bed, thru for the night. Suddenly, their newborn baby began to cry. He motioned to his wife that he was unable to attend to the cry of the infant, as he was drained from his endless demands as community Rabbi, and school melamed. His wife, equally exhausted from her motherly responsibilities, jumped out of bed, lifted the baby and said, “Thank you G-d, for allowing me to fulfill your commandment to ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” In recalling this story, Rabbi Weinberger made note of how it made an impression on him, reminding him, that every task placed before us allows us to serve G-d in one way or another, even if it not in the mission we previously served.
For some, it’s changing the soiled diaper of an infant, for others, it’s doing the shopping or home chores - and for some, it could be all of the above as well as giving advice, guidance or simple motivation to those in need. We are all being tasked with new assignments on how we can serve G-d. It might not be what we signed up for yesterday, but new orders are being given daily, and He is confident that we can succeed with our new roles. With that, I have some comfort in knowing that every burden that I am tasked with is filled with a commandment from G-d that I am fully able to achieve like no one else can. Wishing you all much luck and success in your new missions! Shout out to all of our Rabbanim who are carrying much of the weight of our community throughout these challenging times. We thank you and wish you continued health and strength in all of your endeavors on our behalf. Continued prayers to everyone impacted by this deadly pandemic.
Shmuel Shayowitz (NMLS#19871) is President and Chief Lending Officer at Approved Funding, a privately held local mortgage banker and direct lender. Approved Funding is a mortgage company offering competitive interest rates as well as specialty niche programs on all types of Residential and Commercial properties. Shmuel has over 20 years of industry experience, including licenses and certifications as a certified mortgage underwriter, residential review appraiser, licensed real estate agent, and direct FHA specialized underwriter. He can be reached via email at [email protected]