Rabbi Baruch Efrati
Rabbi Baruch EfratiCourtesy

Halakhot pertaining to the corona pandemic are in bold.

Preparing for Yom Kippur:

  • It is a positive commandment from the Torah to do Teshuva to Hashem via confession (viduy) of the things we have done wrong and express regret. We should also take upon ourselves never to commit the sin again (דברים ל', רמב"ם הל' תשובה).
  • How does one do teshuva? First comes the realization that one has sinned, then one confesses in words to Hashem, abandons the sin and does not repeat it in the present time, regrets it cognitively, is shamed by it emotionally, and resolves not to repeat it in the future.
  • For Mitzvot that are Ben Adam LeMakom, you have to confess to Hashem and not to detail your wrongdoings to other people (יומא פו:). For Mitzvot that are Ben Adam LeChavero, you must confess and apologize to the person you have wronged as well as confess and apologize to Hashem.
  • If you have hurt your friend and your friend is unaware of it, for example, you spoke Lashon Hara about him, if the friend will not be hurt any further by knowing of the sin, you should apologize to him. If you think that your friend will be insulted and hurt by knowing about what you have done, do not ask for forgiveness (ממשמעות המג"א תר'ו, וכסברת ר' ישראל סלנט).
  • It is best to be stringent when it comes to Kashrut during Aseret Yemei Teshuva, for example, you should refrain from eating לחם של נכרי and חלב נכרי.(bread baked by non-Jews and milk not supervised by Jews) This also goes for those who are more lenient about this on all other days of the year (ראבי"ה בשם ירושלמי שבת פ"ג).

Preparing the synagogue in light of the pandemic

  • If it is permissible/possible to turn the women's section of the synagogue into a capsule for men, that should not be done and the women's section should be for women (Rabbi Dov Lior shlita). There are those who say women should be told to pray at home so that their prayer section can be used for a mens capsule because men must pray in a minyan and women do not have to do so (Rabbi Neventsal shlita)

In any case, it is important to prevent arguments and bad feelings that could result from disagreement over this issue.

  • It is against halakha to turn on, broadcast or view zoom during Yom Kippur. It is forbidden to use a microphone of any kind in shul. One should not turn off the mobile phone if there is any chance that he has been exposd to the corona virus and is liable to receive a call concerning the need to go into isolation (Rabbis Lior and Neventsal)
  • Halakha mandates obeying all the Health Ministry rules concerning the lockdown.

Erev Yom Kippur:

  • 'Kapparot' – Many of the big poskim have decided that it is best not to engage in the practice of Kapparot as there might be some suggestion of idolatry (רמב"ן ורשב"א בשו"ת ח"א שצה, וכן בשו"ע תרה). Although, it is our custom to do Kapparot on a chicken or on money. (It was Rashi's custom to do Kapparot on a vegetable but we should not do it any differently from what we have customarily done. (רמ"א ומג"א תרה). One can use a credit card for Kapparot after making a donation with it, by circling it overhead as with money.
  • If one does kapparot with a credit card say "ze haschum yelec litzdaka " – this is the amount that will be donated to charity.
  • Immersing in the Mikve (רא"ש יומא פ"ח כד בשם רס"ג) - We do not recite a Bracha on the immersion (רא"ש שם, שלא כרס"ג).
  • Ritual immersion is dependent on what is allowed by the Health Ministry. If immersion is not allowed, a long shower of 9 kabin (4 minutes of a medium water flow) is a substitute.This does not apply to women whose ritual immersion is for the purposes of family purity and who must go to a kosher mikva which functions according to Health Ministry instructions.
  • It is a positive commandment from the Torah to eat as much as you can on this day, especially delicacies (יומא פא, רא"ש שם, שו"ע תרד ומשנ"ב סק"א, ולא כרמב"ם). There are those who explain that the Torah is trying to make the fast easier for us with food (ב"ח תר"ד). And there are those who say that Torah is trying to make this day a little harder (ערוה"ש תר"ד).
  • Mincha is davened early, before the Seudat Mafseket. During Mincha, Viduy, confession of sins, is said during the silent prayer, but not during its repetition, Chazarat Hashatz. We do not say Avinu Malkeinu. (The Sephardi minhag is to say it)
  • A person praying on his own does not say the 13 attributes in slichot, although he is allowed to read them with cantillation as if reading the Torah (Rabbis Lior and Neventsal).
  • We light candles with a Bracha (…shel Yom HaKippurim) and we say Shehechiyanu, as is written in the Machzor. In addition, one should light a yahrtzeit candle, so that Havdala is recited on a candle that has been lit all day.
  • The father (and there are some whose custom it is also for the mother) blesses the sons and daughters, as is written in the Machzor. The children are supposed to kiss the parents' hands following the Bracha (כתבי האר"י)
  • Men should wrap themselves in their Tallit before sundown with a Bracha. There is a custom to wear a kittel so that we appear as the angels do and to remind us of the seriousness of this day (יום המיתה) and encourage us to do Teshuva.
  • Tefillat Zaka is said before Kol Nidrei by Ashkenazim.
  • If davening takes place in an open area, and a person is afraid that he might have to break his fast because he might find himself in danger healthwise, he should stay at home to daven without the outdoor minyan. If someone feels the heat outside prevents him from concentrating on his davening properly, he should pray at home by himself. (Rav Lior and Rav Neventsahl)
  • Someone davening alone at home should arrange to say the amida (the silent prayer, shmoneh esrey) at the time he thinks it will be said in the shul he davens in regularly (Rabbis Lior and Neventsal) and it is considered as if he were davening with a minyan.

Halakhot of the Fast:

  • The fast starts at night (ויקרא כ"ג).
  • On Yom Kippur, refrain from 5 things: eating and drinking, washing, anointing, wearing leather and marital relations between husband and wife (גמ' יומא, פ"א ה"ד). According to the רא"ש they are all Rabbinical prohibitions, aside from eating and drinking, but according to the Rambam they are all prohibitions from the Torah.
  • You are prohibited from doing any creative work (Melacha) on Yom Kippur (ויקרא כג) (including lighting a flame from another flame, normally allowed on a holiday)
  • Women who have given birth, are pregnant, are weak or who have difficulty standing, are permitted to wash as they normally do – not for pleasure but for health and cleanliness reasons only (רמב"ם פ"ג ק"ב ערוה"ש תריג ס"ט).
  • For those who have a hard time fasting, you are permitted to chew flavorless gum on Yom Kippur ((ממשמעות מג"א תקס'ז, וכה"ח החמיר שם אפילו בבליעת רוק
  • A person who has been diagnosed with corona may wash his entire body if necessary (Rabbis Lior and Neventsahl).
  • Avoid bathing and washing for pleasure (שו"ע תריג) but washing for cleanliness purposes is permitted (ראשונים, מג"א שם סק"א).
  • Washing for cleanliness which is also pleasurable (for example, washing one's dirty face with warm water) is prohibited (ממשמעות הרמ"א שם ס"ד).
  • Washing one's hands with antibacterial substances such as alcogel is allowed and is not in the category of forbidden anointing or washing (Rabbis Lior and Neventsal)
  • It is best not to put on deodorant on Yom Kippur. But, if it will disturb you or others greatly if you do not put on deodorant, you can use spray, but not a solid or cream deodorant.
  • There are those who are stringent and say that it is best not to wear Crocs or Shoresh sandals because of their comfort level (ע"פ שער"ת תקנד סקי"א, ומשנ"ב שם סק"ה), however, according to the law, it is permissible and that is what the custom has become (ערוך השולחן שם ס"ה).
  • One should avoid touching one's spouse at night, but it is permissible during the daytime. (ט"ז תרטו סק"א, ערוה"ש תרטו ס"א, ושלא כמג"א ומשנ"ב שהחמירו).
  • If it is necessary, you can bathe your children on Yom Kippur, in tepid water. Take care not to use warmer water. (ב"ח ומג"א תרטז סק"א ומשנ"ב שם).
  • Children who have not yet reached Bar or Bat Mitzvah age do not have to fast, but it is customary to have them fast a little for educational purposes (boys from the age of 12, and girls frome the age of 11 fast) (ב"ח ומג"א ססק"ב).

Those who are exempt from fasting:

  • A woman who is pregnant, no matter what stage of pregnancy she is in, who experiences severe headaches, is permitted to drink water in 'shiurim', and if that is not enough for her, she may drink a large amount.
  • A pregnant woman who experiences repeated contractions or whose water has broken, can drink without 'shiurim', even if she does not have a headache.
  • A woman who has given birth 3 days prior to Yom Kippur, is prohibited from fasting (שו"ע תריז ס"ד)
  • A woman who has given birth seven days prior to Yom Kippur, if she or her doctor feel she must eat, is permitted to eat in 'shiurim'. If that is not enough, she is permitted to eat as she chooses. (בת קכט. ושו"ע תריז ס"ד)
  • A woman who is nursing and who is worried that she will have less milk for the baby because of the fast, is permitted to drink in 'shiurim' (תורת היולדת בשם חזו"א, עדות הגר"א נבנצל בשם הגרש"ז), There are poskim who say to be Machmir (stringent) if the child is willing to drink formula (שו"ת אז נדברו ח"ט ט).
  • Medical staff in the corona wards, who wear protective masks that cause them to perspire – and feel they are not working up to par because of the fast, or feel weak or less professionally able, drink "shiurim" (Rabbis Lior and Neventsahl)
  • A sick person who is in danger (חולה בסכנה) can eat and drink immediately, as well as someone whose classification of sick and in danger is doubted. This person does not have to go around searching for a Rav to ask whether or not he is permitted to eat. He should eat right away. (ויקרא יח, יומא פב, שו"ע תריח ס"ח)
  • A sick person who is not in danger but feels that because of the fast, he might become in danger, is permitted to eat in 'shiurim'. (שו"ע תריח ס"א)
  • Whoever eats and drinks in "shiurim" should eat the volume of a matchbox every seven minutes (ערוה"ש תריח סי"ד), and should drink the amount of less than the water held in one cheek. (שו"ע תריח ס"ז)
  • For the average person, this is about a fifth of a plastic cup or 40 cc every 7 minutes (Rav Lior) . it is preferable to drink nourishing liquid. (Shulkhan Aruch ) and some say every 5 minutes (Rabbi Lior)
  • It is preferable to eat foods that are sweet and healthy. In a case where eating /drinking in shiurim every 7 minutes is not enough (שעת הדחק) one can do so every 4 minutes. If there is a need to drink more (drink only) one can drink in shiurim in 1 minute intervals this is still belter than drinking as usual. (כשיטת הרמב"ם שביה"ע פ"ב, וב"י תרי'ב- כרביעית הלוג)
  • A sick person who is not in danger is permitted to take medication (pills) without water (אג"מ או"ח ח"ג צ"א).
  • A sick person who is not in danger must fast normally. This includes people who experience regular headaches, general weakness, and other such symptoms. If in doubt, ask one of the doctors in the neighborhood.
  • A person in isolation fasts regularly (Rabbis Lior and Neventsal)
  • A person in isolation who is beginning to develop symptoms of the coronavirus must drink shiurim (Rabbi Nevetsal) and some say that if he feels well he should call his doctor or medical center on Yom Kippur and drink only if they instruct him to do so (Rabbi Lior)
  • A person who had the virus and was moderately to very ill, but recovered, eats and drinks shiurim if Yom Kippur is within 3 months from the day he recovered.(Rav Lior)
  • Someone who is permitted to eat on Yom Kippur does not make Kiddush , but he should add Yaale VeYavo during grace after meals (שו"ע תריח ס"י). One who eats on Yom Kippur for medical reasons is permitted to receive Aliyot LaTorah except for Maftir and Mincha (שו"ת רעק"א סכ"ד).

Yom Kippur

  • In the morning, wash Negelvasser (the morning hand washing with a cup) up to the knuckles (תו'ס יומא עז).
  • Cohanim wash normally during Shacharit. If they have stayed clean, they do not have to wash hands again for Mussaf (ע"פ ערוה"ש תריג ס"ד בשם רמב"ם).. But, during Neila, Cohanim must wash their hands again as there was a break.
  • We have been promised by Hashem that Yom Kippur atones for all those who have done Teshuva and that is why it is important to gather your strength and do Teshuva on Yom Kippur, even if it is difficult.
  • One who feels that the fast is difficult for him and feels that he cannot continue to daven, should lie down and not break his fast, even if it means that he will not daven with a minyan or will not daven at all.
  • If a woman sees that the fast is extremely difficult for her, her husband is exempt from davening with a Minyan and he must assist her so that she will lie down, fast, and not exert too much energy. The same goes for men who find it difficult to fast.
  • A husband or father or person obligated to daven with a minyan in ordinary times who is caring for household members who are in quarantine, may leave the davening in order to help them, but should stay in shul for the Amida (silent prayer, Shmoneh Esray), Torah reading (Rav Lior). Some opinions are that he should stay at home for all the davening ( Rav Neventsal)

End of the Fast

  • During Arvit following the fast, say "Ata Chonantanu".
  • Havdala is done using the flame from a candle that has been lit the entire holiday, with wine, without besamim
  • Kiddush Levana should be said even though you haven't yet eaten, as we are joyous that we have been forgiven for our sins. (אחרונים)
  • After the holiday is over, it is customary to do an action that is connected to constructing the Sukka, even if it is only a symbolic gesture (ערוה"ש, גר"א) and to eat with joy. (רמ"א תרכד ס"ה)
  • Shacharit on the following day begins a few minutes earlier than usual. (משנ"ב תרכד סי"ד)

Gmar Chatima Tova and blessings for a healthy year for all of Am Yisrael and the entire world.

Rabbi Baruch Efrati studied in Merkaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem and serves as a rabbi in Efrat. He is a prolific and much-read writer on Torah issues and heads the "Derech Emunah" (Way of Torah) movement of young Israeli Orthodox rabbis.