Israel’s chief rabbi calls for day of fasting, prayer for pandemic victims

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau has called on Jews in Israel and across the globe to fast tomorrow and to pray for the dead and infected.

al-monitor Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Yisrael Meir Lau gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at Sourasky Medical Center in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on Dec. 20, 2020. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images.

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israeli jews, pandemic, jewish, prayer, fasting, rabbi, coronavirus

Jan 20, 2021

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau called yesterday on Jews in Israel and across the globe to fast tomorrow, Jan. 21. The day of fasting will be dedicated to prayers over the many people who have died from the pandemic and for the recovery of those infected. Lau will hold a special prayer service at Rachel's Tomb, north of Bethlehem, broadcast live on TV. The global Jewish community is expected to hold similar services at the same time.

Lau wrote in a letter, "In recent days, the plague has intensified and we feel that 'outside the sword will bereave, and inside terror' [Deuteronomy 32:25]. Every day we are faced with terrible disasters. The virus does not distinguish between people, harming the elderly, young people, fathers and mothers of young children, and unfortunately many of them die, and many thousands are in a state of trouble and need prayer and a cry for help from the heavens."

On March 25, during the pandemic's first wave, Lau called on the public to fast at least half a day. "Difficult days are affecting all of Israel and the entire world. At this time, it is on us to do some soul-searching," he wrote.

On April 22, chief rabbis, patriarchs, archbishops, imams and sheikhs assembled in Jerusalem to recite a prayer for the alleviation of suffering around the world from the coronavirus pandemic.

Lau's office noted that decision to declare the fasting day was made after consultation with the Grand Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian community, a move clearly designed to engage the ultra-Orthodox.

In recent days, criticism has been growing in the mainstream Israeli media against ultra-Orthodox leadership, observing that many in these communities do not obey social distancing and other health instructions put in place by the government to curb the spread of the pandemic. Faced with these allegations, senior ultra-Orthodox Knesset member Moshe Gafni published a short video yesterday. In it, he clarifies that the rabbis had ordered Torah schools for children be shut down. "The public needs to understand that we are in a state of life-and-death danger. Many pregnant women, elderly and others are doing very badly. This reality forces all of us, without any exceptions, to obey instructions, get vaccinated and be very careful,’’ he noted.

On Jan. 10, the ultra-Orthodox party Yahadut HaTorah tweeted a photo of its Knesset faction chair Yitzhak Pindrus being vaccinated with his second dose.

 

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