Chief Rabbi: 'Health Ministry coronavirus prevention guidelines halakhically binding'

Chief Rabbi Lau issues specific prevention guidelines for maintaining Jewish communal and personal life.

Mordechai Sones ,

Chief Rabbi David Lau
Chief Rabbi David Lau
Flash 90

Following the recent Health Ministry and other instructions, Israel Chief Rabbi David Lau issued halakhic guidelines on coronavirus disease prevention.

Rabbi Lau said: "Last night, the Prime Minister and Health Minister announced precautionary measures that we are obliged to exercise for fear of the spread of coronavirus disease.

"These guidelines also apply according to halakha! People should keep from harming others even more than themselves. The coronavirus can also pass from a completely healthy person to another and jeopardize others. This requires strict adherence to instructions given even if they are difficult and burdensome."

Rabbi Lau then listed specific prevention guidelines for maintaining Jewish communal and personal life:

Synagogues

  • In accordance with expert guidelines to limit the number of worshipers to one hundred persons, it is compulsory to divide minyanim in synagogues into a number of minyanim, each of which may number up to one hundred persons.
  • If there is much crowding in the synagogue, even though it does not have a hundred people, it should be divided into several minyanim.
  • Synagogues and study halls (batei midrash) must be properly ventilated, in accordance with expert guidelines.
  • It is mandatory for synagogue gabbais to maintain maximum hygiene throughout the synagogue space, including ample supply of proper disinfectants.
  • A person who is in isolation or who is at high risk should pray at home and try to coordinate his prayer time with the time the community prays.

Torah learning

  • The routine of life must continue, so one should not cancel a minyan or Torah lessons (unless otherwise determined by those responsible for public health).

Yeshivot and educational institutions

  • According to Health Ministry instructions, educational institutions are continuing as usual for now. In the yeshiva world, Torah continues to be learned more intensely, and the power of the Torah and the voice of Torah will stand for all of Israel and the world at large, until other guidelines are given.

Mikvah use

  • Family life and family purity laws should be continued and there is no place for fear. A woman who, according to Health Ministry guidelines, is supposed to be in isolation should act as her condition requires.

Weddings

  • Do not postpone a wedding due to the current situation. It is preferable to hold it with a small audience than to postpone it. This is also true because we do not know when it will again be possible to hold mass celebrations.

Visiting the sick

  • It is an important mitzvah to visit the sick, but in this situation it should be avoided. Nor should homes for the elderly be visited for fear of transmitting the disease. At the same time, one must find a way to help those individuals whose plight is unseen.

Rabbi Lau continued: "Adhering to these instructions is a Torah obligation: 'And you must greatly watch over your lives.'

"The present situation requires much prayer, and therefore at the end of evening, morning, and afternoon prayers one should add chapters 13 and 20 in the Psalms together with the congregation, and the misheberach prayer for the sick.

"Also, be sure to say a hundred blessings a day, as the Gaonim wrote that King David mandated that Israel bless one hundred blessings each day when a plague broke out in his time, and the plague stopped."

The Chief Rabbi closed with a prayer: "Save us from sword, captivity, pandemic, and plague, and any kind of trouble and grief. Save us, for our eyes are unto You. See our troubles and hear the voice of our prayer, for You hear prayer. May we celebrate the coming Passover Feast of Redemption with joy, gladness, and together as a nation."

Megillah reading in Tel Aviv Great Synagogue
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