As we prepare for this upcoming Purim, we can remind ourselves how this past year might have been different had we only known last Purim what we know now. We now do know, however, that Purim has the potential to be a “super-spreader” of the terrible pandemic, and are required to think of our neighbors’ and family members’ health and safety with great gravity and concern, especially as more highly infectious strains of the COVID-19 virus are proliferating.
We are, by now, all well-schooled in proper safety guidelines, per the CDC; what follows is specifically in regards to Purim.
Based on consultation with our rabbinic leadership and medical specialists, the Agudah is providing the following recommended guidelines for the upcoming Purim. Specific areas that require mindfulness and care this year include:
• Heightened Public Scrutiny: It is critical to remind ourselves that the eyes of the world are upon us, and will likely be watching us closely this Purim. Acting appropriately in public is always important; how much more so this Purim.
• Mesibos and Seudos: Community Purim seudos, mesibos, or other gatherings, even with appropriate precautions, should be avoided.
• Megillah Reading: Depending upon circumstances, and under the guidance of local rabbonim, shuls should consider adding extra sessions of Megillah reading to ensure that everyone can hear the Megillah without dangerous overcrowding.
• Collecting and Distributing Tzedakah: Both givers and collectors of tzedakah funds in each community should minimize contact and social interaction this Purim. Of course, matanos l’evyonim and tzedakah should remain at least at the same level as previous years. Bochurim should not go out in groups to collect money. Mosdos whose talmidim usually circulate through communities might consider, this year, setting up a phone bank where the bochurim can call the yeshiva’s supporters for donations.
• Drinking: In light of the extra need to be careful with COVID-19 transmission, and with the imperative of avoiding chillul Hashem, it is even more important that bochurim, and those hosting them, follow the established guidelines of the gedolim about not getting drunk on Purim, published separately.
• Mishloach Manos: In fulfilling the mitzvah of mishloach manos, it would be prudent to limit our mishloach manos giving and to minimize social interaction with the people to whom we give.
• Suspected Illness: Anyone suspected positive for COVID-19 or who has been exposed to COVID-19 must not go to shul, regardless of past COVID-19 history or vaccination status. Consult with your rav on how to fulfill the mitzvos of Purim while keeping the appropriate doctor-approved precautions.
May we be zoche to observe Purim this year properly and safely with a full measure of simchah shel mitzvah!