Coronavirus crisis: weddings canceled, simchas go live-stream

Rabbinic group Tzohar launches initiative to send rabbi to marry couple wherever they need.

Wedding ring (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Wedding ring (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The coronavirus outbreak has created increasing obstacles to Jewish community life, in Israel and abroad.
All started with people having problems to travel to attend their friends or family members simchas, from weddings to bar/bat-mitzvas. Many had to opt for fulfilling the commandment of reading the scroll of Esther on the holiday on Purim live-streamed instead of in person, while countless Purim parties had to be cancel, especially in communities where the outbreak hit the hardest, for example in Italy and in some areas in New York, where children from schools closed for precaution after finding out that some of their students might have been infected were encouraged to have their bar and bat mitzvas also in streaming, and in many cases still gathered hundreds of online guests.
In Israel, on Wednesday night, the announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prohibiting all events with more than 100 people attending forced hundreds of couples to alter or cancel their plans, at the very beginning of a season, the weeks between Purim and Pesach, that is one of the most popular for people to get married.
Among them were Eilat residents Litamar and Yaron. The bride, who spoke with The Jerusalem Post on the way to the chuppah, explained that their original party was supposed to have 260 guests.
“Then because of the coronavirus the number went down to 220, and finally after the announcement yesterday we had to reduce the guests to 100,” she said, explaining that her future husband’s family is from France so they could not make it.
Moreover, the rabbi who was supposed to marry them had to enter self-isolation because he had traveled abroad. However, they also found a lot of support to their situation.
“The hall really helped us, they helped us making the relevant decisions, and they met our needs,” Litamar added.
Regarding the rabbi, the couple had chosen to get married through Tzohar, a rabbinical group that among others accompanies couples throughout the marriage procedure. After the problem arose, they immediately helped with designating another rabbi.
As Tzohar founder David Stav explained to The Jerusalem Post, as soon as they heard of the authorities decision of banning events with over 100 guests, the organization launched an initiative to support all couples in need.
“We are standing before two problems: on the one hand parties need to be canceled and the couples cannot have the event that they had planned, on the other hand we want people to get married as soon as possible, we think it is not desirable to postpone the ceremony itself, so we are telling everyone that a rabbi will come to marry them wherever they are,” he said.
Stav explained that couples might decide to get married at home or in other venues in different locations from where they originally planned, and that could present complications, but thanks to the extensive network Tzohar has, they are ready to send someone to perform anywhere they are needed, both for couples who had already chosen to use their services and for those who didn’t. In addition, the bride and the groom do not need to worry about taking care of the bureaucracy, as the organization does.
About 600 rabbis all over the country are affiliated with Tzohar and on average every year they perform around 4,000 weddings. The rabbi pointed out that in just a few hours after announcing their availability to help, he was personally contacted by five couples who needed to change their arrangements.
Asked on whether some form of ceremony will be hold for those who will decide to have the party at a different time, he explained that “the rituals cannot be repeated, but we will find a way to emphasize the connection with the ceremony that has been held now.”
Stav highlighted that he feels the pain and the sorrow of the couples.
“G-d tells us that whenever there is a problem He is with us. The first thing I want to express is that I am with them. I also tell them to remember that a party is only a party, the main challenge of life and the main source of happiness to each one is to be with their spouse. I tell them to take this as something that will strengthen them and will allow them to flourish from it, but also take it easy,” he said. “Don’t think that cancelling or postponing the wedding says something bad about you, or it is a sign of bad luck. With the help of G-d you will just be strengthen from this.”
“It’s a time of challenge for the Jewish people and for the entire world,” he concluded. “It is a time to follow instructions and to pray, it is in our power to pray that G-d will redeem us and cure us from all these problems and send a refuah shlema, a complete recovery to all those who need it.”