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Why I Won’t Be Going to Shul This Yom Kippur

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In Israel, indoor synagogues will be allowed to meet for Yom Kippur, however, many medical experts are opposed to any type of indoor prayer service. Being inside a room with other people for a long time, especially with singing, is considered a real Coronavirus risk -even if people are standing 2 meters apart and wearing masks. The Tzohar rabbinic organization recently put out a statement asking synagogues to move their services outside, in light of medical recommendations and the recommendation of Israeli Coronavirus “Czar” Roni Gamzu to close indoor synagogues. The organization also committed to moving all its Yom Kippur services to outdoor spaces. Similarly, Rabbi Haim Yosef, of the famous Yosef rabbinic family, has issued a statement against prayers indoors, imploring people to pray in an outdoor minyan, or by themselves, over Yom Kippur. I wish that rabbinic opposition to indoor prayers would become more mainstream. I think that there are many halachic principles mandating against indoor prayer services, in light of the high number of Coronavirus cases and the real risk caused by being inside the same space with other people:

  • Rachmana Anus Patrey: People who are unable to fulfill mitzvot, are not obligated to fulfill those mitzvot. This year, we are unable to fulfill the mitzvah of public prayer on Yom Kippur. Being unable to do something in a way that doesn’t endanger our lives or the lives of others counts as not being able to do that thing.
  • Venishmartem Meod Lenafshoteichem: The Torah instructs us not to endanger ourselves or take risks with our health. In a situation where indoor gatherings are a serious health risk, this Torah principle may override the rabbinic obligation for public prayer.
  • Pikuach Nefesh: There is a halachic principle that saving people’s lives overrides negative commandments, including Torah prohibitions, such as not lighting a fire on Shabbat. In general in halacha, the justification needed for failing to fulfill a positive rabbinic commandment, such as public prayer, is less than the justification needed for disobeying a Torah negative commandment, such as........

    © The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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