Vos Is Neias
Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau met with senior health ministry officials Wednesday regarding the coronavirus epidemic and its halachic ramifications. The meeting was attended by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the director-general of the ministry, Moshe Simantov and other senior officials. The officials discussed immersing in a Mikveh while under quarantine and the issue of reading the Megillah for those who have been quarantined.
After attending the meeting Rabbi Lau issued a surprising ruling, stating that it is prohibited to kiss mezuzot during the course of the coronavirus epidemic. “In these days, when we are witnessing the spread of a virulent disease, there is no doubt that one should not kiss the mezuzos or touch them at all. It is enough for a person to think when entering and exiting about what is written in the mezuzah and this will accompany him on his way,” Rabbi Lau wrote.
Rabbi Shlomo Hecht, the spokesman for the Beit Hillel rabbinical organization, ruled that if a woman needs to immerse in the Mikvah, she should postpone her immersion until after the quarantine is over. Additionally, those quarantined should not attend any Minyan even on the yahrzeits of their relatives. “And those who do attend are performing a Mitzvah by doing a serious transgression,” Rabbi Hecht concluded.
Regarding reading Parshat Zachor on the coming Shabbat in a synagogue which is a biblical requirement, Rabbi Hecht maintains that the quarantined individuals are exempt because of their situation and should read alone from a regular bible.
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, the head of the Beit Midrash in the Lev academic center, explained that despite the obligation to hear Parshat Zachor in a synagogue, one is forbidden to leave quarantine for this and one is also not obligated to bring a person to read for him in his home. Regarding reading the Megillah, Rabbi Rimon suggested that a quarantined person who has a Megillah should read by himself and say each word even without the cantillation or he can Skype into a synagogue or use a camera to hear the reading inside the synagogue.
The other Mitzvot on Purim are easier to fulfill and may be performed while in quarantine. Mishloach Manot can be done via an agent and the Seudah can be eaten alone, while Matanot L’Evyonim can be transferred even online.