Israeli rabbis get with the program against the coronavirus – Haaretz

Posted By on March 12, 2020

Ive repeatedly issued warnings that ones behavior must be in accordance with the judgment of the doctors and not violate their instructions, said Rabbi Akiva Eiger, a renowned adjudicator of Jewish law in the early 19th century. He wrote these words during a cholera outbreak in Europe.

Sure enough, these words also opened a statement by the Chief Rabbinate last week to Israels religious Jews. Every public gathering raises a concern of infection, God forbid, so it is obligatory to observe rules of hygiene, the Rabbinate wrote. It then lists instructions like airing out synagogues and strictly observing the quarantine orders.

The coronavirus panic hasnt passed over the religious-Zionist and ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, communities. Haredi media outlets are covering the issue extensively and it has been making front-page news. The outbreak has become an epidemic, read a recent headline in English-language publication Yated Neeman.

The Haredi news websites, meanwhile, are reporting every update, with an emphasis on new confirmed cases of people who spent time in Haredi neighborhoods.

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Anyone who must be in quarantine according to the health authorities guidelines is categorically forbidden to break the quarantine to pray with a quorum and must observe the instructions, says the Chief Rabbinates document, which was issued the day after another order from the Rabbinate: Dont kiss mezuzahs. One must remember the words of the Tosafot: A man must take greater care not to harm others than not to harm himself.

The document states that in general one can maintain his or her routine while taking precautions, but then comes a long list of halakhic Jewish law guidelines regarding hearing the Torah reading and reading the Megillat Esther the Book of Esther on Purim.

Anyone in quarantine must find a creative solution for hearing the reading of the megillah without coming out of quarantine, the statement reads. Anyone who lives on the ground floor or the first floor can hear the reading through a window. On higher floors one can hear the reading from the stairwell.

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Indeed, this week a raft of photos have been published, mainly from the Chabad movement, of readings provided on the street, in courtyards or through doorways.

Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, a member of Degel Hatorahs Council of Torah Sages, issued a halakhic ruling that anyone meant to be in quarantine must not come to synagogue and must hear the megillah read by someone outside his home. Otherwise, he could infect others and God forbid be guilty of the sin of bloodshed.

Zilberstein issued the ruling in response to a query from a department head at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv. He who answered Queen Esther and Mordechai the Jew will hear our cries and send a full recovery and remove the plague from our people, the rabbi wrote.

Another issue of concern is immersion in a mikveh, a ritual bath, especially for women, who must immerse every month under the rules of family purity.

The mikvehs for womens immersion are under constant supervision, so there is no reason to fear keeping the mitzvah of purity properly, the Rabbinates document states. However, anyone who must be in quarantine must postpone her immersion until she is permitted back out.

Im not afraid to go to synagogue, said a Haredi resident of Jerusalem. The Health Ministry hasnt said that its forbidden, so I dont see any difference between a synagogue and a school, sports event or a Purim event in the Mahaneh Yehuda Market.

But someone else was more cautious: My father has given up his Torah class and praying in his synagogue. Now Im trying to convince him not to go on Shabbat, either. Hes 70 and so the concern is greater.

Itzik Rahimi of Jerusalems Neveh Yaakov neighborhood noted that in his synagogue the towels near the sinks have been replaced with paper towels. His brother Yosef says the dean of his yeshiva is in quarantine but the students havent been given any special instructions.

Avichai, another neighborhood resident, told Haaretz that many Haredim arent aware of the risks. A lot of us arent hooked up to the media at all, and theres no panic here, he said. People are going on with their lives as if nothing were happening.

On the other hand, in the large Hasidic courts there have been orders to take precautions. The Belz Hasidic court ordered unmarried young men not to come to the courts main Purim meal due to the Health Ministrys order banning gatherings topping 2,000 people. The Gur Hasidic court ordered adherents from outside Jerusalem not to come to the central study hall on Purim.

This Purim has seen other changes. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef decided not to receive the public as he usually does on the holiday. Due to the instructions of the Health Ministry, there will be no reception this year, reads a sign on a door, adding that names for blessings or mishloach manot Purim gifts of food can be left by the door.

In the home of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, a leader of the Degel Hatorah party, extra tables were put in front of the rabbi to create a barrier between him and visitors who had come to seek his blessing, and he didnt shake anyones hand.

For now, the Haredi schools, like other schools, are operating normally, although the rabbis who advise the independent Hinukh Atzmai network said the schoolkids should read 10 chapters of Psalms every day.

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Israeli rabbis get with the program against the coronavirus - Haaretz

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