Rabbi Yaakov Shapira
Rabbi Yaakov ShapiraHezki Baruch

The head of the flagship religious Zionist yeshiva, Merkaz Harav, in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, calls on the citizens of Israel, including members of the religious Zionist community, to obey the guidelines of the Health Ministry, wear masks, maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings.

"We are approaching Simchat Torah which is the culmination of all the festivals," he said. "The purpose of Simchat Torah is to bring to life the verse 'You are instructed to know that the Lord is G-d and there is no other besides Him.'"

"The world is currently undergoing renewal and renovation, this is meant to show us that everything is [in the Hands of] G-d alone, there is no other besides Him - but He pre-ordains a cure for every plague," he added.. "And the Torah requires of us to protect our lives very carefully."

"To celebrate Simchat Torah in the present circumstances, even though it is not easy, we should look at the yeshiva as an example. There are no students now, and this does not bring us any joy, all the more so during Simchat Torah. But the Torah tells us to be joyful during the holidays. We should rejoice with the Torah, and the Torah should rejoice with us; The Torah will rejoice with us if we keep to the guidelines. As it says "and you will guard your lives very carefully'.

"Do not get too close to each other, put on masks," said Rabbi Shapira. "I am not a doctor, but we are commanded in the words of the Torah to do everything possible so that no one will get sick, and so that whoever does get sick returns speedily to a state of good health. So that the People of Israel themselves return speedily to a state of good health."