COVID-19: Top haredi rabbi says those flouting restrictions are ‘sinners’

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein said observing COVID-19 health regulations was ‘a great religious obligation’ and that anyone not doing so was ‘deserving of punishment.’

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein  (photo credit: COURTESY OF OFFICE OF RABBI GERSHON EDELSTEIN)
Rabbi Gershon Edelstein
(photo credit: COURTESY OF OFFICE OF RABBI GERSHON EDELSTEIN)
Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, one of the two most senior Ashkenazi, non-hassidic ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the country, has said that anyone who is careless in observing COVID-19 health regulations is a sinner and deserving of punishment.
“We have had the corona illness for nearly a year, and this disease is harmful; there are very sick people, people who have died. [But] if people are careful, they do not spread the disease and do not contract it,” Edelstein said in a live broadcast address on Tuesday night.
As has become his practice, the rabbi was speaking from behind a perspex plastic partition.
“The principles of caution are a great [religious] obligation,” the rabbi said in reference to government health regulations.
“If someone is not cautious, then he harms others and puts them in danger.... Someone who is not cautious sins [and violates the religious precept] of ‘you shall protect your own lives’ and is deserving punishment,” continued the rabbi.
Edelstein repeated again his call for the ultra-Orthodox community to get vaccinated, calling the vaccine “a great salvation,” and said that there was no danger from it and there should be no concern about the safety of the shots.
Edelstein has more vehemently urged observance of COVID-19 regulations than his ultra-Orthodox leadership colleague Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, but like Kanievsky has also refrained from calling for the closure of synagogues and has been extremely reticent about closing schools.
The rate of COVID-19 infection in the ultra-Orthodox community remains high, and some 25% of all coronavirus cases continue to stem from the sector, while it represents only 12% of the general population.
The weekly average for positive COVID-19 tests in the community also remains high at 20%, compared to the national average of 9.7%.
Positive test rates are even higher in some ultra-Orthodox cities – 27% in Immanuel, 24% in Betar Illit, and 22% in El’ad.