Halacha and COVID-19—fateful choices

We Orthodox Jews appear to be having a “Coronavirus contest”—who can say “no” the most.

  • A rabbi rules that people praying on close but separate balconies can’t be considered a “minyan,” a prayer quorum of ten men.
  • A rabbi informs a worshipper that a certain mask is improper because the straps holding it to his face go behind the head and get in the way of the straps of his tefilin.
  • Another rabbi tells worshippers lined up on two sides of a narrow street for social distancing that they don’t constitute a single minyan.
  • A “Corona monitor” at a synagogue confronts a worshipper, calling him a “liar” and a “cheater” for the heinous crime of wearing a face shield instead of a mask.
  • Citing Health Ministry restrictions, a synagogue closes its women’s section.

This is the face of Orthodox Judaism as the pandemic drags on—and there is every reason to believe that it will drag on for at least a year.

How long will it take until people rebel against this unreasonable behavior and either stop taking part in services or try a different stream of Judaism?

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