Menachem Bluming Muses: High Holiday Services During COVID-19

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This is what Rabbi Akiva Eiger, one of the greatest Jewish leaders of all time, suggested for High Holiday services in the late 1700s during a cholera epidemic:

In every synagogue, in both the men’s and the women’s sections, it is only permitted to fill half of the seats on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, such that next to every person there will be an empty seat. Therefore, a police officer will be assigned to oversee the organization of the synagogue. Those who couldn’t go to synagogue will pray in private house minyanim, but they will have to keep the same spacing precautions there.  Regarding prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur they should be shortened, some of the piyyutim should not be said at all, and the chazzanim should not extend the prayers with their melodies. There should be two doctors in the synagogue, and they must be consulted immediately if any participant shows possible symptoms of the illness. They should listen to whatever the doctors say about eating and drinking on Yom Kippur and about their continued attendance if they do not feel well.

(Pesakim Ve’Takanot R. Akiva Eiger / late 1700’s during the cholera epidemic/ Hanhagot Ve’Takanot, #20)

Wishing you good health and protection from this pandemic! Mendel (Menachem) Bluming

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