TThe leading rabbis of the ultra-Orthodox, non-hassidic community – Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein – issued a series of instructions calling for worshipers to take health precautions over the upcoming Simhat Torah holiday.
But the raucous nature of the celebrations and the often tight quarters in many synagogues mean that the rabbis’ instructions will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to comply with.
Although they said “great efforts” must be made to pray outdoors, they did not issue an outright ban on prayer services inside synagogues.
Simhat Torah is marked by jubilant dancing, frequently in circles while holding hands, as well as large and lengthy prayer services.
The two rabbis said those people dancing should not hold hands and people should stand on the spot instead of dancing around in circles, adding that those holding Torah scrolls should disinfect their hands as well.
They added that the traditional hakafot (circuits) made of the synagogue with Torah scrolls should be shortened, and that people should not directly kiss the scrolls, as is traditional, but could do so via their prayer shawls.
The rabbis also said that worshipers should keep as far away as possible from one another during the celebrations and wear face masks.
They also said that instead of calling every male up to make the blessings over the Torah, just 10 men and boys could be called up.