The medical condition of one of the leading rabbis of the non-hassidic ultra-Orthodox world, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 92, is deteriorating. He had contracted coronavirus last week. A statement by his spokesperson sent Friday afternoon said that Kanievsky’s fever had spiked and he had developed other symptoms overnight. Doctors said he was now in a “second, dangerous phase of the disease.” Nonetheless, the rabbi was continuing his usual routine, the statement said, and called on the public to continue to pray on his behalf. A prominent haredi journalist also shared a photo of the rabbi studying Torah in his home.After Shabbat, another statement said that the rabbi’s condition “is good, he continued his daily routine of studying Torah and ate the holiday meals under close medical supervision.”
מחול השמועות ברחוב החרדי לא עוצר. בבית הרב קנייבסקי מפרסמים תמונה של הרב מלפני זמן קצר pic.twitter.com/mcowrp6eUl— אהרן רבינוביץ (@AronRabino1) October 9, 2020
Kanievsky’s illness was announced last Friday, on erev (eve of) Sukkot, a day after he and his colleague Rabbi Gershon Edelstein had disseminated a letter calling on the haredi public to adhere to Health Ministry guidelines over the holiday.Kanievsky also said people should be tested on the interim days of Sukkot because being screened for coronavirus is “pikuah nefesh,” the equivalent of saving a life.However, the statements could have come too late, as coronavirus has burned across the ultra-Orthodox community at a much more rapid rate than the rest of the country.A report shared by the Health Ministry with The Jerusalem Post last Thursday showed that haredim continue to constitute around 40% of new diagnoses per week and that an average of 24% of haredim tested for the virus are positive.The rate of severe cases is 0.18 per 10,000 population, compared to a rate of 0.14 per 10,000 in the general population.The ministry, along with the Education Ministry, shared a report last week highlighting that some 51% of infected children were from the ultra-Orthodox sector.Kanievsky was not always supportive of Health Ministry rules. Last month, just before the High Holy Days, the Kikar HaShabbat haredi news website reported that Kanievsky said yeshiva students should not get tested for coronavirus, because it could disrupt their Torah studies. He also ordered yeshiva heads not to quarantine students exposed to virus carriers, as required under Health Ministry regulations.Kanievsky is not the only prominent haredi rabbi to have contracted coronavirus. The Kretshnif Rabbi of Rehovot was also diagnosed with coronavirus. A report from his spokesperson last week said that the rabbi is being treated at home and is in stable condition.Last week, the grand rabbi of the Pittsburgh hassidic group, Rabbi Mordechai Yissachar Ber Leifer, died from COVID-19 at the age of 64. Thousands attended his funeral procession in Ashdod, against Health Ministry regulations, which led to violent confrontations between police and his followers.