Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leading Lithuanian-haredi rabbi, published a special letter in which he called to "make a permanent rule" regarding the serious prohibition of entering a synagogue with a mobile phone, Kikar Hashabbat reported.
The letter comes as Israel's Health Ministry sets regulations for the reopening of synagogues after their closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In his letter, Rabbi Kanievsky wrote: "It was due to our sins that we were chased out of the synagogues and study halls, as a servant who came to pour his master a drink and spilled the jug on his face."
"It seems that this is a sign from Heaven for the sin of degrading the holiness of the synagogue by having phones on during prayers, and speaking on them. This is a great degradation of prayers and the holiness of the synagogues...and it is against Jewish law."
He called "to make a permanent and ancient rule, that it is strictly forbidden to enter a synagogue and pray with a mobile phone which is not turned off and is not disconnected during the entire duration of prayers."
The synagogue's sextons, he wrote, have a responsibility to take precautions and to warn the public that this rule must not be violated. When the synagogues reopen, rabbis should speak encouragingly to their communities, and emphasize the great prohibition against desecrating the holiness of synagogues and study halls.
"In the merit of us taking these things upon ourselves, may G-d soon return us....to synagogues and study halls with many people, and may our prayers be answered willingly and with love," he concluded.
The letter was also signed by Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, another prominent Lithuanian-haredi rabbi, who added: "In addition, one should be careful not to speak of idle things in the synagogue."