In vague letter, Kanievsky implies: Keep schools open but keep COVID rules

"We must remember that the mitzvah (commandment) imposed on us is to preserve health, danger is more severe than prohibition."

(L-R) Rabbis Gershon Edelstein and Chaim Kanievsky (Photo credits: Flash 90) (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
(L-R) Rabbis Gershon Edelstein and Chaim Kanievsky (Photo credits: Flash 90)
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
Leading Israeli haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis, including Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein and Rabbi Shalom Cohen, published a letter on Thursday calling on the public to strictly follow coronavirus guidelines while also continuing learning in Torah institutions, despite Health Ministry regulations restricting school openings.
"We must remember that the mitzvah [commandment] imposed on us is to preserve health; danger is more severe than prohibition... because it is our lives in this case – and whoever is not careful does not have any of the attribute of kindness of a man to his fellow. There is even [an idea of] an act to the detriment of another in this," wrote the rabbis, according to the religious news outlet Ladaat.
Israel will be entering its third coronavirus lockdown starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday. During the lockdown, only preschools and grades 1-4 and 11-12 will be allowed to come to in-person classes. It is unclear whether the letter was calling on or encouraging the haredi public to violate these regulations. All grades in red and orange cities and neighborhoods, a number of which are haredi, are forbidden from having in-person classes.
The rabbis also stressed that those celebrating joyous events such as weddings should be careful to protect the health of others and of those present.
While Kanievsky has insisted on opening haredi schools regardless of national policy in the past, during the last lockdown he and Edelstein instructed schools not to open until such a step was coordinated with local authorities.
Kanievsky and Edelstein both received the coronavirus vaccine this week and called on the haredi public to get vaccinated.
On Sunday, Kanievsky urged people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. In a video posted on WhatsApp, he was asked whether “it is optional to [get the vaccination], or must one get it?” and answered that everyone needs to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus.
"On this fast day we will remember to awaken in repentance and good deeds and, thanks to the Torah and the strengthening, we will receive the aid of heaven for recovery and health for all the people of Israel in every place," concluded the rabbis in the letter. 
On Friday, Jews around the world are observed Asarah B'Tevet, the fast of the 10th of the Hebrew month of Tevet, commemorating multiple tragic events in Jewish history including the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, and refrained from food and drink from daybreak until nightfall when they recited the kiddush sanctification of Shabbat over wine.
Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as the Rambam or Maimonides, wrote that fast days serve to remind us of "our wicked conduct and that of our ancestors, which resembles our present conduct and therefore brought these calamities upon them and upon us." (Mishneh Torah, Fasts 5:1) The goal of the reminder is so that "we will repent and improve [our conduct]," according to the major 12th century medieval Torah scholar.
Cody Levine contributed to this report.