Beijing rabbi: 'Outdoor group prayers are killing people!'

Chabad's Rabbi Shimon Freundlich urges precautions to avoid contracting coronavirus, says groups praying outdoors are 'killing people.'

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich
Rabbi Shimon Freundlich

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, the Chabad-Lubavitch shaliach to Beijing, spoke about common coronavirus exposure, and how people can get sick even if they believe they are following social distancing guidleines.

"When somebody coughs, sneezes or spits, the droplets remain in the air up to 60 seconds at a distance of three feet, or one meter," he explained. "When you walk down the street, you may not even know that 60 seconds beforehand, somebody sneezed or coughed in that place. That it is now in your hands, even if you are wearing gloves, or your face.

"It is for that reason that when you come home, the first thing you should do is take your shoes off by the front door, take your coat, and leave it at the front door, before you touch anything else in your residence, go straight to the sink, wash your hands with disinfectant soap, as well as your face. Those are the two areas that are exposed outdoors."

Taking aim at those who find creative ways of praying with a minyan (quorum of ten men) without violating social distancing guidelines, Rabbi Freundlich added: "I'm saying this because this concept of outdoor minyanim (quorums of ten men for prayer) is a terrible, terrible idea. It is KILLING people! It is putting people's lives at risk."

"Why? For the simple reason. If, at normal outdoor temperature, the droplets last for sixty seconds, imagine with a little bit of wind how far that is carried. It doesn't matter if you're two meters apart. You touched the etz chaim (wooden rollers) of the sefer Torah (Torah scroll). Somebody touched it beforehand, and the virus has attached itself to their gloves, you are now going to get it as well. Outdoors, it's impossible, for that length of time, for a person not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth, which is how it enters into the body."

Slamming those who still doubt the rationale behind the guidelines, he asked: "I want to know, if it is really okay by all the medical experts and professionals to have minyanim outside at a distance of two meters, why does Misrad Habriut, the Ministry of Health in Israel, and all over the world, and the CDC, and the WHO, why don't they come out and say, 'It's okay to go to the beaches, it's okay to go to the parks, it's okay to go to the public playgrounds, just keep two meters away.' Why don't they put police over there making sure people are two meters apart and then it would be safe?"

Jewish law, he says "is full of the importance of the minyan. NOT when it comes to a pandemic. Not when people's lives are at risk. People are dying. But somehow, people have to run to this minyan."

"Pikuach nefesh (saving a life) docheh hakol (pushes away everything else)," he emphasized. "The minyan is also included in 'hakol' (everything). And therefore I implore you to make sure that you do not do anything reckless and irresponsible and because YOU want to, you FEEL LIKE you want to do it."

"Understand. G-d can do anything. He created the world, something from nothing, He split the sea...G-d can take care of this pandemic. But we need to be responsible. We are fighting an invisible enemy. Because you can't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Rabbi Freundlich explained that he is "not questioning the knowledge of your rabbi [if he says what you're doing is okay], I'm not questioning his intellect." Rather, he says, our recent Torah portion discusses a leader who inadvertently makes a mistake.

Turning to rabbis, community leaders, and laymen, he urged: "If you want to be healthy, if you want to put a stop to this virus, there's only one way: You stay indoors. And you'll do it. When I was in China, everybody called me, they wanted to know how is it that I didn't get infected by the virus, how is it that my community didn't get infected by the virus, and everybody took my word for it then. And everybody wrote up in the newspapers why and how this is possible, because they trusted what I said."

"I'm telling you, the same Shimon Freundlich who told that to you then, is telling it to you now. And the ONLY WAY we're going to go and get rid of it, is if there's a total lockdown and you only leave your house for necessities.

"Take care of yourself, your loved ones, your community, the world today, so that we can have a brighter, better, revealed goodness tomorrow."