JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Rabbi David Yosef, the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and a member of the Higher Rabbinical Council, declared Wednesday that all shuls should be closed immediately in the wake of the steep rise in coronavirus infections. Rabbi Yosef stressed that even on Yom Kippur shuls should remain closed since “danger is worse than Torah prohibitions.” Rabbi Yosef stressed that if prayers cannot take place outdoors, people should pray at home individually.
הרב דוד יוסף, חבר מועצת חכמי התורה של ש״ס ובנו של הרב עובדיה יוסף: לסגור באופן מיידי את בתי הכנסת. גם ביום הכיפורים התפילה רק באוויר הפתוח או בבתים ביחידות pic.twitter.com/Erd2XBhO8P— יאיר שרקי (@yaircherki) September 23, 2020
However other rabbinical figures including Rabbi Yosef’s brother, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, maintains that the shuls can remain open under specific restrictions. In a letter on the matter the chief rabbi wrote that “people must maintain distancing rules, open windows and wear a mask.”
Moreover Rabbi Yosef stressed that “our Torah is a Torah of life which commands us to guard our health zealously and states that saving lives precedes the entire Torah.” He detailed the various requirements for public prayer:
- Each person should pray close to his home
- Hataras Nedarim (releasing of vows) can be done via telephone and other technological devices. Those who cannot hear it should rely on the previous year’s ceremony
- It is best not to immerse in a mikve unless it is a private one. Immersing in a mikve is an important custom but is not a halachic imperative and in the place where there may be infection, one should forgo immersion even if one goes every day
- Large shuls should not conduct prayers in large, crowded groups but should rather divide the community in a way which maintains health ministry regulations. They should make thick nylon curtains, divide up the shul and open all the windows if there is an air conditioner
- Shuls outdoors should have a canopy
- If there is not enough room for a large community, the women should pray at home
- Older people and those with preconditions should preferably pray outdoors
- In order not to spend too much time together communities should abbreviate singing tunes and additional prayers
Rabbi Yosef also quoted Rabbi Akiva Eiger who wrote during a cholera epidemic: “I have warned repeatedly that they should act in accordance with doctors regulations and protocols and should not violate their words.”
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