Let’s talk about the sudden new pandemic flexibility of Orthodox rabbis.
Some leading Orthodox rabbis reacted swiftly, this time. Amazing.
Do click on the links to see the details of the rulings.
Most rabbis, as soon as they understood the dangers, said: as always, listen to the doctors. And suddenly, the totally inferior option became possible! The second option (to pray at home) became the preferred one!
And men should skip the ritual bath. That’s the new piousness.
As it seems that you not only need two to tango but also to get married (and two witnesses), this could be done mostly online too.
Prayer over the Internet can be answered with Amen. Kaddish can be said with a virtual prayer quorum. There are even suggestions of saying Kaddish on one’s own or to recite a substitute Kaddish for the single worshipper. I would say that there is no difference between 10 men praying in the field or 10 men praying from balconies where they all can see each other. So I don’t understand the opinion that the latter is not a prayer quorum.
Much less jolly is that outside of Israel, in Europe and the US, the situation of Jewish communities is dire or getting there, may Heaven help. And since it’s more important to protect the living (of the burial society) than give the deceased a perfect Jewish farewell, superficial preparation of the body for burial and even state-ordered cremation are not outside of the pale. This, because the coronavirus stays alive after the patient dies. Just as with its sister virus of SARS can you contract the illness from touching a corpse. Also in Israel, burial procedures have changed. The body is put in plastic.
The Jewish community of Bucharest, Romania, even received rabbinical permission to bury its coronavirus victims on Shabbat to avoid cremation.
A Jew needs to bring new cooking and eating utensils that are not made by Jews to the ritual bath before using them. Instead of risking one’s health doing that, the rabbis agree to have you sell your new utensils to a non-Jew temporarily. It’s only forbidden not to dunk your own stuff. And one is allowed to use utensils of non-Jews if they were never used by them.
Assorted utensils can this year be made kosher for Passover in the oven!
Kosher for Passover has the highest stringency of kashrut. The so strict London Rabbinic Court permits certain uncertified stuff for Passover this year! Every year, our leading rabbis ask the saintly public to not go too crazy on Pesach cleaning. New to me: “Just check on the evening before the Seder”! Once, it was a Mitzvah to invite others to the Pesach Seder and Shabbat and Festival meals. Now it’s a sin. Just like for those who must eat for health on Yom Kippur, that becomes the Mitzvah while fasting the sin.
At the beginning of the Seder, we say: “All who are hungry, let them come and eat; all who are in need, let them come and join in celebrating.” I always had some difficulty saying this with the front door closed and everyone present already being invited. How do we say this this year, with no guests and many of us on our own? Well, we can invite ourselves! In fact, much can be added to the Seder this year to say and contemplate.
Surprisingly, unsurmountable difficulties under normal circumstances, (kinyan, siyum, tevilah bayom, morid hatal) under these circumstances, can all be solved. In other cases, general leniencies (batel beshishim, tashlumim keriat hatorah) are only now discovered by some.
For the Passover Eve, many people at different locations can join through Zoom. (Some strongly-worded opposition to it arose but that’s nothing new. Neither is this Zoom permission. During war, it’s permitted listen to the news. Just, if you can, switch it all on before the Holy Day.)
The greatest rabbis have always been the ones who permit, who try to help Jews live the best lives; not the ones who want to pose as serious.
(One of the unspoken problems here is that non-Ashkenazic Jewry has managed to stay united while the Ashkenazic approach of piling stringency upon stringency has led to splitting up into Reform, Conservative, Modern-Orthodox, National-Religious, Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, and more.)
And many advanced small-scale Orthodox-Jewish meetings from the Holy Land suddenly became virtually accessible to the whole world!
A Jew shouldn’t remove himself from the community. May I suggest that to mean: not deviate from it. Most of us are now secluded in our homes. So we should not stray from that. When we all are gathered each in our own dwelling places, we are one for G^d. That is more important than not feeling lonely, I would say. (I’m not a rabbi, so my opinion has no weight.)
Isolated inside our homes, we’ve never been so close to so many people. Thank G^d for the quietness of the (upcoming) Shabbat. Gut Shabbos.