After it was reported that for the first time in 80 years, Beth Medrash Govoha will not host a mesibas Purim, communities across the country have been announcing restrictions and cancellations for Purim in light of Covid-19 concerns, putting a damper on any planned celebrations.
Each year, hundreds upon hundreds of people gather at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, for a Purim mesibah on the first night of Purim, Motzoei Taanis Esther. Not this year, as the yeshiva has been compelled to cancel an event that has been called “the highlight of the year” for any attendees.
Meanwhile, in a letter, Agudath Israel’s Midwest Region Council of Synagogue Rabbonim released a letter in which they state that “Purim…like much else that has happened this past year will have to be different than in the past. Despite our firm belief in the power and the merit of yzedakah and specifically hachzakas hatorah, we nevertheless strongly request for groups not to be sent to our community this coming Purim to collect funds. In addition, even bachurim from Chicago that [sic] will be home for Purim should be asked not to go around collecting.”
The letter goes on to state that this “request is unfortunately what is necessary at this time, bearing in mind the potential health concerns and chillul Hashem that this can chas v’shalom create. This is in addition to the fact that we have received reports that many households are not comfortable at this time opening their doors to the influx of visitors.”
The Chicago letter is signed by Rabbi Zev Cohen, Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Levin, Rabbi Dovid Zucker, Rabbi Henoch Plotnik, and Rabbi Yaakov Robinson on behalf of the Chicago Rabbanim of the Midwest Agudas Yisroel Vaad HaRabbanim.
A similar letter was released by rabbonim in Los Angeles.
In Baltimore, Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer penned a letter on behalf of the Vaad Harabanim of Baltimore, stating that “We ask that our community shuls remain committed to mandating mask wearing and social distancing during davening, learning and shiurim. We understand the discomfort, but it is a small price to pay for safeguarding the health of your neighbor.”
As far as Krias HaMegillah, the letter states that “When possible, shuls should arrange for multiple Megillah readings so that all have the opportunity to fulfill this sacred mitzvah… Community Purim seudos, mesibos or other gatherings, even with appropriate precautions, should be avoided. Purim seudos must necessarily be limited due to social distancing requirements, avoidance of prolonged exposure, and singing and dancing in enclosed spaces. For those who have not achieved immunity, the Purim seudah would best be conducted within the family ‘bubble.’”
Rabbi Hopfer goes on to state that in fulfilling the mitzvah of mishloach manos, “it would be prudent to minimize social interaction with the people to whom we give.” As far as matanos la’evyonim, “Bochurim should not go out in groups to collect money.”
In Chicago, a special fund is being set up for individuals to contribute to, and after Purim the funds will be distributed to the yeshivos that have regularly come to the community in the past.