The Gov. vs. the Supreme Court | Yakov Saacks | The Blogs – The Times of Israel

Posted By on December 5, 2020



Rabbi Yakov Saacks, The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY


Last week the Supreme Court made its voice heard in favor of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Orthodox Agudath Israel of America, who have churches and synagogues in areas of Brooklyn and Queens, and who have at one time or another been designated as red and orange zones. In red and orange zones, the state capped attendance at houses of worship at 10 and 25 people, respectively.

The justices acted on an emergency basis, temporarily barring New York from enforcing the restrictions against the groups while their lawsuits continue. In an unsigned opinion, the court said the restrictions single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.

Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendments guarantee of religious liberty, the opinion said.


While I am not personally a big fan of the Governor, I do believe that he does care for his State and that he legitimately feels tremendous concern and is rightfully scared for the people under his jurisdiction. Having said the above, our Governor (like someone else from Queens we know) was not so happy when the ruling came down, and he dismissed it as irrelevant as there are currently no restrictions in place.

Instead of hearing their wisdom, he, in his unqualified manner, simply dismissed it as politics. He opined that the new Supreme Court just wants to make a political point.

Not so fast Governor.


The Supreme Courts ruling was anything but irrelevant. It was fundamental and especially so if he is considering another lockdown, which he has hinted at doing.

To me the most important opinion came from Justice Gorsuch where he wrote in support of the courts decision. He noted that while Cuomos executive order arbitrarily limited church attendance in COVID hotspots to 10 or 25 people, it put no such restrictions on liquor stores, bike shops, acupuncturists, accountants and other supposedly essential businesses.

Gorsuch also wrote, So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians.


If you were around Downstate New York for the strict Coronavirus lockdowns imposed earlier this year, you totally understand what Gorsuch meant. Many of us found ourselves heading into over-crowded box stores while nonessential smaller shops, businesses and yes, houses of worship, were involuntarily shuttered. The logic was hard to figure.

As I have written before to be selective in discrimination is wrong. The state made a mistake, the Governor overreached and now thankfully the Supreme Court has spoken.


As I have also written before, the well-publicized albeit secret Hasidic wedding with 7,500 attendees was wide of the mark and had no place during this pandemic. Even if you wish to postulate that a Hasidic wedding is a deeply religious experience, which it is, it still has no place when Corona is lurking about and people can and will get sick. Who will take the blame if people end up getting sick or making others sick or worse cause them to die? There is nothing religious about this. In fact, the Torah which is where every religion stems from, would tell you that such a wedding is not allowed and the perpetrators should be punished for hurting society. There was nothing holy about attending this wedding and everything unholy. Not wearing masks makes it ten times worse. Not right.


Regardless of the important Supreme Court decision, I do not plan on taking advantage of it. I could never imagine holding an unsafe event without proper social distancing, masks and continued disinfecting until the all clear is given. I guess you could say I answer to a higher authority. So, while I deeply applaud and appreciate the Justices, for me, it is a moot point.

The way I see it, I am not only accountable to my immediate community, I am also answerable to my greater community, which if you think of it has no real borders or boundaries.

Stay safe. Be smart. Feel free to share.

Rabbi Yakov Saacks is the founder and director of The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY. The Chai Center has been nicknamed by some as New York's most Unorthodox Orthodox Center.

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The Gov. vs. the Supreme Court | Yakov Saacks | The Blogs - The Times of Israel

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