Haredi leader forbids public #prayer, tells followers to abide by #virus rules

A senior ultra-Orthodox leader forbids public prayer and calls on his followers to abide by the government’s regulations against gatherings, amid large-scale violations of these restrictions by the country’s Haredi population.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky says that it is a matter of saving lives, known in Hebrew as pikuah nefesh, which in Jewish law overrides almost all other religious requirements.

The ruling comes after a mass funeral procession and burial in Kanievsky’s hometown of Bnei Brak, which was held in clear violation of the government’s restrictions against gatherings.

Kanievsky, a well-regarded rabbi who makes rulings on Jewish legal issues, says all public prayer should cease, including that held in open spaces as is technically permitted under the government’s regulations, as it can risk people’s lives.

Kanievsky had originally opposed the government’s efforts to curb the deadly coronavirus, calling for his community’s schools and Jewish learning institutions to remain open despite the bans.

His reversal follows a large public outcry against the ultra-Orthodox community apparent flouting these rules and amid a large-scale outbreak in Bnei Brak and other Haredi towns.

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