Hagaon HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, the Rav of the Ramat Elchanan neighborhood of Bnei Brak, and the son-in-law of HaRav Elyashiv, z’tl, paskened that if someone defiantly chooses not to wear a mask, in some cases he’s considered as if he’s knowingly harming himself and there’s no need to daven for his refuah.
Kikar H’Shabbos reported that someone approached Rav Zilberstein, one of the greatest poskim of the generation with specific expertise in medical issues, saying: “In a certain shul, there’s a tzaddik and talmid chacham who says Tehillim for cholim and many people give him names to daven for.”
“One shul member who has health issues comes to shul without a mask. Other mispallelim, including the talmid chacham, asked him to wear one but he absolutely refused. The talmid chacham said to him: ‘You’re destroying yourself with your own hands. Don’t come to me asking to daven for you.’”
“Sure enough, the man contracted the virus and when he was hospitalized in serious condition, his family members asked the talmid chacham to daven for him. The talmid chacham responded that he doesn’t want to daven for him ‘because we warned him that he’s knowingly committing suicide and that he shouldn’t come to me if he gets sick.’”
The man then asked Rav Zilberstein his shaila: “Am I obligated to daven for someone who goes to shul without a mask?”
Rav Zilberstein responded: “If the patient was already unhealthy even before he contracted the coronavirus and maybe he wasn’t even completely in his right mind, we have a chiyuv to daven for him despite the fact that he didn’t wear a mask.”
“There’s a lot of confusion and there are people that rationalize that there’s no need to wear a mask. The Minchas Elazar said that if a person puts himself at risk in order to save his possessions and he’s saved through a neis, he doesn’t bentch Hagomel.”
“There was an incident of a Jew who owned precious stones and he walked in the street holding his package of precious stones. An armed thief accosted him and tried to steal his package. Although the Jew was aware that the thief was armed, he refused to cede the package and instead fled the scene. The thief shot at him but didn’t succeed in hitting him.”
“The Jew approached us and we paskened that he’s a pere adam [wild man] who put himself at risk. According to the din, he was obligated to give over his possessions and not risk his life and therefore he doesn’t bentch Hagomel. Hagaon Rav Chaim Palagi wrote that a person who drank poison and put himself at risk but the doctors managed to save his life, doesn’t bentch Hagomel because he brought the tzara on himself with his own hands. But if he drank it due to great distress because he was starving then he does bentch Hagomel.”
In conclusion, Rav Zilberstein paskened: “We don’t need to daven for a person who knowlingly harms himself for no reason. If the man is saved, he doesn’t bentch Hagomel. But if prior to his extremist actions he was already in a difficult situation or he was ill, then we daven for him. If he’s saved, the man has to bentch Hagomel.”
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