Sunday, March 15, 2020

"Prominent Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Ordered His Hundreds of Thousands of Followers … to Defy the Health Ministry's Coronavirus Restrictions"

By Eugene Volokh - March 15, 2020 at 08:19PM

The Times of Israel (Jacob Magid) reports:

After a prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi ordered his hundreds of thousands of followers in the Lithuanian sect to defy the Health Ministry's coronavirus restrictions by keeping schools open, senior police officials were seen heading into his home on Sunday in a reported attempt to convince him to walk back the directive.

The group of officers entering the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in the Haredi Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak was accompanied by senior members of Hatzalah, an ultra-Orthodox emergency volunteer service, according to the B'hadrei Haredim news site….

Kanievsky had also issued an edict on Sunday telling followers that the best ways to defeat the virus are to avoid lashon hara (gossiping about one's peers), to strengthen their humility and to place the needs of others before their own.

Yeshiva World reports that the rabbi "said that bittul Torah [neglect of Torah study] is more dangerous than the coronavirus"; no word on whether he has changed his mind after the police visit.

Reminds me of the old Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre song, "Jesus Drives My Semi When I'm Sleeping"—I couldn't find either audio or lyrics, but the title pretty much says it all. Thanks to Larry Seltzer for the pointer.

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