Chief Rabbi Lau: Prayer services must be fewer than 100 worshipers

He insists that adhering to Health Ministry guidelines to combat the spread of coronavirus is a religious obligation.

David Lau
Prayer services with more than 100 worshipers should be divided into smaller groups due to ongoing fears about the novel coronavirus, Chief Rabbi David Lau said Thursday.
His new guidelines to synagogues followed a Health Ministry directive banning gatherings of more than 100 people.
A synagogue service with less than 100 worshipers that is crowded also should be divided into smaller groups, Lau said.
Anyone in quarantine or in a high-risk group should pray at home at the same time the community with which he usually prays is holding its service, he said.
Prayer services and Torah classes should not be canceled, and normal life should continue as far as possible, Lau said.
Weddings should not be canceled, but the number of guests should be reduced, he said.
People should not visit the sick at this time, even though it is an important religious obligation, so as not to increase the possibility that the coronavirus will be spread further and among vulnerable population groups, Lau said, adding that the public should also refrain from visiting old-age homes.
The severity of the coronavirus pandemic means Jews should increase their prayers, and congregations should say Psalms 13 and 20 as well as the prayer for the sick after every prayer service, he said.
“Adhering to these instructions is a Torah obligation [in accordance with the biblical verse]: ‘You shall very much protect yourselves,’” Lau wrote in his new guidelines. “A person is obligated to ensure that he does not harm others more than he is obligated to protect himself from harm… Total adherence to these instructions is necessary even if it is difficult and burdensome.”