Coronavirus patients should not fast on Tisha B’Av, Israel’s chief rabbi says


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Those with the coronavirus should not fast on Tisha B’Av, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel has ruled.

The ruling applies even if the patient is feeling fine or is in the recovery period of the illness, Rabbi David Lau said in a statement. Those who have recovered from coronavirus and still feel weak also should not fast, he added.

Lau’s ruling also insisted that people should wash their hands well and use hand sanitizer, which is usually prohibited on Tisha B’Av. He also suggested that since most prayer services will be held outside due to the limit on numbers that can gather in a synagogue, most of the kinot — the sad poems read on the fast day — should be recited at home. Israel is in the midst of a harsh heatwave.

“To our sorrow, the plague is intensifying and we need heavenly mercy,” Lau said.

The fast of Tisha B’Av begins on Wednesday night and lasts for 25 hours.

Meanwhile, the number of worshippers who can pray at the Western Wall on the fast day that mourns the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem will be limited and prayers will take place in groups of 20 socially distanced people.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation will livestream Tisha B’Av prayers from the Western Wall on Wednesday night, it announced on Facebook.

On Monday, the haredi Orthodox parties in Israel pressed Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to increase the number of worshippers allowed in synagogues for the fast.

It appears unlikely Edelstein will accede, the Kan public broadcaster reported, in part because the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha begins on Thursday and the ministry would have to approve an increase in worshippers in mosques as well.

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