Welcome to the weekly newsletter of Igud HaRabbonim, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, in which we share news for and about members, including communal news, announcements, publications, Divrei Torah, press releases and media mentions.
In this newsletter:
• R. Dr. Glatt: Going Outside Over Pesach
• Rabbinical Alliance of America Joins Klal Yisroel in Mourning the Passing of HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Perlow, ZT’L, the Novominsker Rebbe
• Chaplaincy Commission Update
• Important Message from R. Dr. Glatt to Share With Your Kehillah
• NASCK COVID-19 Protocols for Levayahs and Cemeteries
• Corona Seforim
• Rav Shlomo Amar: Pre-Pesach Shiur for Igud
• Upcoming Yahrtzeits 17 Nisan-24 Nisan
• Follow-Up Joint Statement: On Pesach, Stay Home; Save Lives
• A Step by Step Guide to Leading the Pesach Seder
• Rav Chaim Kanievsky: Divrei Siach for Pesach 5779
• Rav David Lau: Message to Diaspora Jews
Please let us know about your family simchos and l"a aveilus, book publications and career changes or milestones, so we can share as chaveirim our life events. Send updates to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many people have asked about proper “protocols” for going outside during Shabbos, Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed, so I have put together this basic guideline for such activities.
We strongly encourage people to go outside and get “fresh air” over Yom Tov (and in general). Isolation and quarantine do not mean that you should stay inside 24/7. Indeed, overall well-being and emotional health will be improved if people get out of their confined spaces and take walks. This is especially true for the three day Yom Tov when technology is generally not available for use.
It is critically important that while we go outside, we MUST maintain the strict social distancing that we all have been employing. It would be a great shame if walking outside turned into inappropriate close contact between non-family units.
Walking outside and getting fresh air unfortunately does not include using public playgrounds, or gathering together at any nice public or private spot. It means no ball playing together with different family units (weekdays or Yom Tov), visiting zoos, boardwalks or any public place with crowds. It is pikuach nefashos and potentially a chilul Hashem if we are seen flaunting the best medical, legal and halachic advice. This unfortunately still includes outdoor minyanim of any type.
When walking or sitting outside with the people you are living with, there is actually no need to socially distance from your family group and no reason to even wear a mask in that setting. However, no family unit should closely approach anyone else – stay as far apart as possible – don’t be satisfied with being 6 feet away, but strive to be much further apart. I have seen already several times that the distances people keep apart gets smaller and smaller as the conversation gets going. Please stay across the street when walking, even just wave hello and move on, or have only a brief conversation, checking to make sure everyone is okay, and then keep on walking.
I do not recommend that different family groups walk together even far apart simply because they usually end of getting too close, especially if younger children are present. However, within reason, it is ok for one family to stay in front of their house and have one other person or family come to visit, staying far apart, for a short period of time. Again, each situation is different. We must not only be very careful regarding having too many people together from a medical / social distancing perspective, but also from a chilul Hashem point of view, if we are seen or even worse, filmed, appearing to violate and flaunt public gathering rules.
We should wear a mask in public whenever we are in a situation where we must be in close proximity to other people and it is otherwise unavoidable. This includes but is not limited to grocery shopping (when no other less risky option such as delivery or pickup is available), working (for those in essential businesses that are required to be open) or other situations that necessitate being around/ near other people. Again, I must stress these type of situations should be avoided whenever possible.
Finally, it is critical to keep in mind that there are members of our community that are totally alone for Yom Tov because they are following the most appropriate halachic and medical advice. This will be a very hard Yom Tov for them. We suggest that everyone try and check up on such neighbors and friends to make sure they are “ok”. Doing this in an acceptable medically and socially distancing way is easy, and is a great mitzvah. Arrange a time with them to go outside and be seen. You can knock on their window and make sure they respond and have no issues; or offer to bring them items they may run out of or need; or any other similar chesed, to keep them from being emotionally connected even as they are physically isolated.
Iy”H we should all have a HEALTHY and happy Chag Kasher vesameach.
Nafla ateres rosheinu, the crown has fallen from our head (Eicha 5:16). The Jewish people has lost a brilliant scholar, faithful leader and devoted servant. The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American Orthodox Rabbis — joins Klal Yisroel in mourning the passing of HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Perlow, ZT’L, the Novominsker Rebbe and President of Agudath Yisroel of America.
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, stated, “We at the Igud HaRabbonim respected and revered the Novominsker Rebbe as a world class Talmid Chacham and a Gadol HaDor, who personified the humility and refined character traits he spent his life teaching. With the passing of the Novominsker Rebbe, the Jewish people face a void that seems insurmountable, magnified by the pain we are experiencing as we grapple with the reality of the Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic. Today, the worldwide Torah community stands as orphans, painfully bereft of the profound wisdom and courageous leadership of the Novominsker Rebbe. But we continue with unbending faith that our Father in Heaven will send us proper guidance and salvation, because the children of Israel will never be abandoned. We pray that the Novominsker Rebbe serve as a Melitz Yosher for his family and the entire Klal Yisroel in this time of fear and sorrow.”
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium chairman of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, stated that, “Klal Yisroel suffered a double tragedy that besides the passing of the great Gadol B’Yisroel the Novominsker Rebbe, we were unable to properly eulogize him and show appropriate final respects befitting someone of the Novominsker’s stature because of the global health crisis. Our community is mourning many great people who have been swept away by this pandemic. We pray for the memory of all those we have lost and the consolation of all the mourners among us. May Hashem Yisborach shine His mercy on the world and end this pandemic.”
Rabbi Duvid Katz, Menahel of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, stated, “The Igud HaRabbonim reminds the Jewish community to continue carefully following all governmental directives of social distancing and health precautions. Also, while we are home, we should make every effort to focus on praying, learning and saying Tehillim, while also experiencing Simchas Yom Tov. In this merit, may Hashem Yisborach end the pandemic and grant speedy recovery to all those who need and allow those who are healthy to remain safe.”
From the desk of Rabbi Leonard ( Yehuda) Blank MS, BCC Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
April 7, 2020
THE FOLLOWING WERE INCLUDED AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE
On the one hand we are now reading and hearing about patients finally having a refuah from the COVID-19 and the other hand we are still hearing about and reading of those in r’l in critical condition and others being niftar. There are serious challenges ethical and al pi halacha. Of course it is important for Klal Yisrael to seek Daas Torah and with the help of the Aibershta, we will have the yeshua. HaGoan HaRav Dovid Feinstein shlita so zein gzundt would say to me “ Yehuda, are you asking me or are you telling me”. When one seeks the advice of a Rav, a Posek, is the person interested in really wanting to know what to do or more interested in telling what he/she thinks is best. The same with many issues when dealing with a doctor. We have today many erlicha doctors such as our very own Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt who have in collaboration with our Gedolim have been giving vital advice and most of all, our Gedolim and Rabbonim have been giving very firm directions if -when- how to do certain things that are considered pikuach nefesh on Shabbos and Yom Tov ,all the various laws for pre, during and after Pesach and other challenging situations many have not encountered beforehand. Yet, with all the multitudes of shailos being answered there is tremendous chizuk – there is much hope. In many or our tefilos we are mispallel and acknowledge the hope from the Ribono Shel Olam. As Rabbonim, seeing the tears, sharing the tears, giving the strength to all those who need that extra encouragement to go on with life is so important. It is not easy, knowing what to say, how to say, when to say or should it be said. The Rabbinical Alliance is truly fortunate to have such wonderful relationships with Gedolim and also professionals in the many fields we seek advice from. The Igud has grown to become a worthy rabbinical organization gaining recognition for it’s outstanding members, collaborations with other organizations, professionals and new horizons with shiurim, programs and events. Let us be mispallel all those who need a refuah should have a complete one, all those who need to be comforted , may their days, months and years ahead be filled with comfort and happiness. May we all be zocher the geulah shelaima. May the Aibershta infuse us with the direction and strength so that our kesher will continue to grow and be closer than ever. We do believe, we do know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Respectfully and sincerely, Yehuda Blank
Our chaver, Rav Dr. Aaron Glatt, asked that we share this important note sent to the Young Israel of Woodmere. Please share it with your kehillah:
With the upcoming Yom Tov rapidly approaching, Rabbi Billet asked me to put together some general guidelines for what to do if, rachmana leztlon, people get sick or are diagnosed with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 over Yom Tov.
We obviously are not intending to provide specific advice which only your physician should do. Indeed, if someone does get sick before Yom Tov starts,
they should link up with their physician, urgent care center or a tele-health physician and decide several things:
1) Do you require prescription medications, and if so when should you start them? Not all COVID-19 patients require treatment, and treatments do have side effects. However, if treatment with oral agents is necessary, it might be better to start therapy earlier rather than later. Obtain the prescription and fill it before Yom Tov if appropriate, but it is absolutely allowed (even required) to fill it on Yom Tov or Shabbos, if indicated.
2) Find out what is the optimal way for you to get follow-up care should you need to do so on Yom Tov or Shabbos. Find out who and when to call before Yom Tov. If your condition deteriorates even mildly, one should not hesitate to call your provider sooner rather than later to be re-evaluated on Shabbos or Yom Tov.
3) If your condition worsens to the point where you are short of breath or have significant changes in breathing, mental status (e.g. lethargy, delirium or unresponsiveness), or chest pain, call hatzalah or 911 without hesitation.
BH, most patients with COVID-19 do not actually require hospitalization. The trick is to identify as soon as possible those patients who unfortunately are
progressing (worsening) and require more intensive care (medications, oxygen and / or going to the hospital).
One of the best guides to COVID-19 illness worsening is a change in breathing. More rapid breathing at rest, shortness of breath on even mild exertion and / or not being able to fully “catch your breath” after movement are strong indicators that you need to be evaluated again by your provider asap.
For those that have the capability, checking oxygen saturation with a pulse oximeter (the little piece of equipment that is wrapped around a finger and gives a number) is an excellent way to follow and assess breathing status.”Normal” values will differ for everyone, but healthy people will “saturate” between 96% and 99%, whereas people with respiratory problems will have lower numbers (in the 92-96% range). As long as the number are stable for you, and not dropping, that is a good sign. If, however, the numbers are dropping, and certainly if they fall below 90-92%, one must get re-evaluated. I stress, if your condition worsens to the point where you are short of breath or have any other significant changes in breathing, mental state, or chest pain, call Hatzalah or 911 without hesitation.
All of this is REQUIRED on Shabbos or Yom Tov because of “safeik sakanas nefashos” (possibility of risk to life). Even the possibility of loss of life overrides all Shabbos prohibitions. No one should have any halachic indecision in calling a provider for help if they are worried. Indeed, one is required to err on the side of being overly cautious. A person is called a “chosid shoteh” – a “righteous fool” – if one does not take risk to life seriously. Our Rabbis tell us it is better to desecrate one Shabbos and live to observe many more than to not desecrate the Shabbos and possibly die.
Our practicing extreme social distancing has already begun to have a significant impact on COVID-19 cases. We MUST not lose our resolve or let down our guard even as the numbers hopefully improve over Pesach. If we are to prevent further loss of life, we must do everything we can to prevent any new cases of illness.
May we all have a safe, healthy chag kasher ve’sameach.
Among the many trying challenges we face in these dire times is the sorrow of isolation from one another, added to the deeper one of personal loss, as we accompany those beloved to us to their resting places.
Just as the current times demand that we now pray and study at home, the way to give honor to the dead during this pandemic is by staying at home. That is what the niftar (departed) would have wanted and what Jewish law, which warns us to be extremely careful to guard our health, demands of us. We therefore must not congregate at funeral homes, shuls, residences, or on city streets to pay our respects to the niftar and their families.
While we honor the departed through proper Jewish burial despite the challenges entailed, we must maintain a balance. We must remain sensitive and committed to serving our bereaved families as fully as possible, while working to ensure their health and safety, along with the health and safety of the funeral home and cemetery staff.
We recognize that the burial may provide the only opportunity for family to say Kaddish and be offered proper nichum aveilim (comforting of the mourners). As such, the following suggested policies and procedures should be followed at the cemetery to minimize the risk of exposure and to ensure the safety of all.
B’virchas kol tuv v’chag kasher v’sameiach,
Rabbi Elchonon Zohn
a. Crowd size should be limited to the greatest extent possible. A minyan for Kaddish is not required at every levayah. Nevertheless, when requested, a proper minyan for Kaddish at the burial should be accommodated.
b. Participating relatives should be limited to the surviving spouse, children of the deceased and their spouses, as well as siblings and parents, G-d forbid.
c. If an experienced chevra kadisha, known to the cemetery, is directly overseeing the kevurah (burial), they should be permitted to do so with adherence to proper safety procedures regarding PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). See #2b, below, for details of safety procedures.
d. In any case, no more than 20 people should be present; this includes all family, chevra kadisha, funeral directors, and clergy. Of course, we must comply with state and federal regulations, taking into account any exemptions they allow for such gatherings.
2. INFECTION CONTROL PROTOCOL
a. All visitors who intend to exit their cars (to carry the aron, shovel, or to recite Kaddish) shall wear masks, and preferably gloves (to be provided by the family or funeral home).
b. Active participation in the carrying of the aron (coffin) or kevurah requires wearing the following PPE, and adherence to the following procedures:
· Face mask
· Disposable gloves
· Protective gown (if available)
· One shovel per individual — no sharing of shovels
· All shovels to be sanitized by those using them before and after use
c. It is recommended that the funeral home direct the family in these procedures and ensure PPE and shovels will be present and procedures adhered to.
3. CROWD CONTROL
a. Any person who is Covid-19 positive or is experiencing symptoms associated with Covid-19, should not be in attendance under any circumstances.
b. All present must remain in their vehicles. In cases where Kaddish is being accommodated, the minyan must remain inside their cars during the recitation of Kaddish, and respond without getting out of their vehicles. Only those saying Kaddish are permitted to leave their vehicles. It is imperative that all present maintain proper social distancing of at least 6 ft. from others. Masks must be utilized, and gloves are strongly recommended.
c. When a chevra kadisha is present, graves should be allowed to be filled by hand shoveling. (See 2b for shoveling procedures.) Cemeteries may request they fill only until the aron is fully covered. At that point there is usually a covering of 3 tefachim (approximately 1ft) over the entire aron. The remaining filling of the kever (grave) may be done by cemetery workers — ideally with shovels rather than by machine, if at all possible.
d. At no time may anyone approach the grave when cemetery workers are present, nor may anyone approach any cemetery worker. Anyone involved in the burial must leave the area of the grave, and must be more than 6 feet away from the grave, before the cemetery workers may be asked to return.
e. All hespedim (eulogies) at the cemetery should be postponed until the current crisis has passed, when proper memorialization of departed loved ones will, be”H, be possible in the presence of all who wish to honor them. Modern technology offers many options for eulogies to be heard or viewed by many.
Thank you for adhering to these protocols and for your understanding and patience during these unprecedented times. We pray for those infected with Covid-19, those caring for the sick, and those ensuring the proper burial of the deceased.
In the merit of protecting ourselves and others, and for the chesed (kindness) and kavod (honor) shown to those who have passed on, all of whom were created in the image of G-d, may we soon see the day when Hashem will permanently wipe the tears from every face.
These guidelines were issued on April 7, 2020, and will be updated as necessary.