Ashdod rabbi comes out against public prayer during pandemic: 'Similar to murder'

Ashdod's Rabbi Yosef Sheinin says those who join group prayers are committing a 'serious sin,' considered as 'pursuing' the lives of others.

Michal Levi ,

Praying with a minyan
Praying with a minyan

Ashdod municipal rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Sheinin, on Sunday published a letter saying that those who pray with a minyan (quorum of ten men) during the coronavirus pandemic, despite the Health Ministry's orders banning the practice, are considered a "rodef" in Jewish law.

A "rodef" is someone considered to be pursuing another person with the intent of killing him.

"Among the Torah-observant community there is much pain over the inability to pray with a quorum of ten, and there are those who thought up the idea of holding 'porch minyans' which requires a rabbi who knows the laws on the subject well, and whether or not [participants in such groups] are considered a minyan. Because there are many details which change the law [in such a case]. And happy is he who keeps the law," Rabbi Sheinin wrote.

"But I became angry when I heard from trusted witnesses that even now, there are those who organize minyans in a way that violates the doctors' instructions, and they think they are keeping the commandment to pray with a group.

"I hereby announce publicly that such people have the law of a rodef, and they are not fulfilling a commandment - to the contrary, they are committing a sin. It is a serious sin, which we are concerned will cost lives." He noted that "even if there is only a small chance that we can save a life, we desecrate Shabbat (the Sabbath)."

"Our G-d, who commanded us to pray with a minyan, is the One who commanded us now to pray alone and in isolation," he emphasized.

"Everything the doctors say on this matter has the law of Torah from Mount Sinai. And all those who listen to this, G-d will protect them from all harm, all illness, and all mistakes. May illness be removed from our midst."