Simchat Torah celebrations in Ramat Gan
Simchat Torah celebrations in Ramat GanArutz Sheva

Ahead of the Simchat Torah holiday, which is well known as a day defined by social gatherings, the Tzohar Rabbinical Council has issued a series of recommendations how to properly observe the day while abiding by coronavirus restrictions.

The organization said that "people should avoid any physical contact during dancing and rather people can surround the Torah scrolls from a safe distance from one another. The Torah should not be handed from one person to the next, but one person should be responsible for its transfer and people should avoid kissing it even when it passed near them."

Rabbi David Stav, Chair of Tzohar, urged communities with large numbers of children to refrain from the traditional custom of “Kol HaNearim” where children gather together under a tallit for a blessing. Rather the blessing can take place from a distance.

With Simchat Torah services often including the chance for large numbers of the community to receive the chance to be called to the Torah, Tzohar said that "the small nature of the teffilot this year would still allow this custom to go ahead assuming people properly distanced and observed the necessary regulations. Anyone who typically observes this custom but is worried for their health should refrain from observing it this year."

“As this deeply challenging holiday season concludes, we need to be ever more careful that we not be relaxed and remain attentive to the restrictions,” said Rabbi Stav. “Simchat Torah should be defined by joy and being together with friends and family but there is no doubt that our health and the health of our communities is more important than that concept of the day. The holiday should still be observed but taking every precaution into account.”

Tzohar also said that the custom in many communities for large gatherings on the night after Simchat Torah for a second round of dancing backed up by music known as Hakafot Shniyot should not be observed this year.