In a highly controversial move, the Jewish world’s most respected rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, has instructed that post-high school yeshivas (religious seminaries) for men avoid testing for coronavirus. That’s because the test’s results could send thousands of Bible scholars into quarantine, which he considers to be a waste of time when they should be learning Torah with their peers, Kikar Hashabbat reported.
Learning Torah is a central commandment in Judaism as written in Deuteronomy:
Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
In the above verse, the Torah uses an unusual word, veshinantam, , which means that a Jew is obligated to repeat his learning so that it the information is clear and accurate in his mind.
According to the iconic Jewish commentator Maimonides, both rich and poor, young and old, sick or healthy are all obligated to have a set time for learning; day and night (Rambam, Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:8).
Maimonides also adds that Bible study exceeds all other commandments and that studying it should be a top priority in our day-to-day life. In fact, if there is a choice between studying Torah and embarking on any other commandment that can be performed by someone else, the Jew should always opt for studying the Bible (Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:3) .
Recently, hundreds of covid cases were diagnosed in yeshivas, in spite of the “cubicle” learning inserted in most of them.
Rabbi Kanievsky ordered yeshiva deans that post high-school yeshivas shall not undergo coronavirus tests, and that the yeshivas’ staff who are at risk of infection should maintain a safe distance from their students, so that the outbreak will not disrupt the yeshivas’ daily schedule.
Rabbi Kanievsky also emphasized that the ruling not to test yeshiva students doesn’t apply to high school yeshivas, where the students aren’t separated into cubicles and return home everyday. That’s because those students come into contact with others and are liable to pose a health-risk to them.
Binyamin Cohen, who runs the control center for the Yeshivas Committee, said, “Of 25,000 students in cubicles in 150 yeshivas, about 500 students were confirmed as coronavirus carriers. Each one of them are in the yeshivas’ quarantine areas, and continue learning as usual.”
This decision comes at a time when Israel experienced a record-breaking 3,074 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours. And although there were no deaths, Corona-Czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu threatened a renewed lockdown during Rosh Hashannah.
Israel reported 32.6 new coronavirus cases per 100k residents yesterday, which I think is the highest in the world.
— Arieh Kovler (@ariehkovler) September 3, 2020
Gamzu is expected to submit to the cabinet on Thursday a list of new, more detailed regulations for municipalities where infection rates are highest