Fearing Coronavirus Spread, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Bans Tashlich Ritual

Orthodox Jews pray while performing the Tashlich ceremony, on a hill over the beach in Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, September 30, 2019. Tashlich ("casting off"), is a Jewish custom performed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at a water source. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

JERUSALEM (JNS) – A key ritual ahead of Rosh Hashanah has been effectively banned by Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tashlich, a prayer during which Jews symbolically throw their sins into the water to purify themselves ahead of the Jewish New Year, sometimes draws crowds and often involve large gatherings, potentially creating superspreader events that could exacerbate the coronavirus crisis.

Lau issued a special directive to observant Jews that “reciting the Tashlich does not have to be near a source of water, and therefore no such gatherings shall take place this year.”

He added that “the prayer can be carried out from afar.”

Lau further urged synagogue organizers to take the necessary preparations for the High Holidays, including by writing down the congregants’ names to ensure proper separation into “mini services.”

Likewise, the traditional blowing of the shofar must be performed far away from worshippers, to ensure virus-carrying droplets are not distributed across a large area.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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