Despite eased virus restrictions, the rabbis are playing it safe – Ynetnews

Posted By on April 22, 2020

While Israel on Sunday allowed prayers groups of up to 19 people to congregate in open spaces, many in the ultra-Orthodox community are choosing not to take unnecessary risks, given the outbreak of the coronavirus in many Haredi communities.

Prominent leader Rabbi Gershon Edelstein of Bnei Brak says it might be better to avoid public gatherings, including prayer groups, given the difficulty in adhering to the health regulations.

Worshipers in the Western Wall practice social distancing in prayer

(Photo: Reuters)

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau has also called for the public to refrain from joining prayer groups in open spaces if there is no one among the attendees to enforce the Health Ministry guidelines.

According to Lau, it is an offence to attend a public prayer where there is no strict adherence to the ministrys regulations, including a limit on number of worshipers, social distancing and wearing masks.

"Anyone who organizes a public prayer group needs to know it is his responsibility to safeguard attendants from loss of life," Rabbi Lau said. "Whoever joins such groups is responsible for following the guidelines and ensuring that others do too."

Worshipers in Bnei Brak stand apart to pray

(Photo: Itay Blumenthal)

A statement published on behalf of Rabbi Edelstein on Sunday reads: "Even now, when the authorities are allowing to hold prayer groups in limited format and in open spaces, it is up to everyone to be careful, and to keep to the cautionary rules instructed by physicians, and in no way attend prayers unless full precautions are followed. "

The statement said: Before joining any prayers, everyone should carefully verify whether it is possible to maintain precautionary measures, [including] the required distance between each person. If measures cannot be met, it is better to pray alone at home.

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein

(Photo: Shlomi Cohen, Kikar HaShabbat)

Edelstein added that the elderly and those who suffer from existing conditions such as diabetes or heart disease must pray exclusively in their homes.

Rabbi Edelstein, the 96-year-old head of the Council of Torah Sages, has since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis made sure to adhere to all government guidelines, especially on issues such as public prayer and Torah study.

In contrast, his partner in the leadership of the Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodox Jews, 92-year-old Rabbi Haim Kanievsky decided he would not necessarily adhere to the emergency regulations, even holding a prayer group in his own home despite a ban.

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Despite eased virus restrictions, the rabbis are playing it safe - Ynetnews

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