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We follow by Rabbi Schmekelbaum on many pandemic halacha rulings

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Photo: Tai S (Unsplash)

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As various cities across the land are entering what is being called “phase 2” of reintegrating our communal spaces, that also means synagogues are trying to adapt to the new regulations – be it with social distancing rules, maximum capacities and shortened services. As though the pandemic wasn’t enough of tsuris, everyone’s trying to figure out how to dance around the particulars of the minutiae of the intricacies of the laws, without contaminating half the congregants.

In Ontario, for example, the government lately has determined that thirty per cent capacity is the magic number of attendance for houses of worship. So, if yours is a congregation of three hundred, that means one hundred of you are allowed in (enterprising shuls will start charging “premium memberships” for the privileged few!)

If you daven in a shteibel the size of a walk-in closet, and your usual capacity is 35 men, you’re allowed 11.6 men.

You juuust eke out a minyan, and the entire fun is hearing the Talmudic scholars in the room quibbling with each other, whether it’s “close enough” to twelve, that a twelfth should be mutar (permissible), or whether we should be machmer (stringent) and keep it to eleven.

And with all of the circumscribing thumbs in the air, and choruses of quotes from Rashbam, Rambam, and the Rav of Kotzker (may his memory be for a blessing), Rabbi Schmekelbaum finally puts his foot down, and posits that, ultimately, “no one should be considered sixty per cent of a man,” as “it would be a disrespect to the ribbono shel oylam (the Creator), and therefore, we allow him in.”

Next up, we decide the precise percentage of how much one’s face needs to be covered, to be considered “fulfilling the obligation” of a face mask. But that’s another discussion.

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Next question: with the social distance requirements, plus wearing of masks, how does one talk in shul so that the next-closest person can hear?

Congregants will certainly get creative (as actor Jeff Goldblum famously said, “schmooze, uh, finds a way.”) We may soon see a surge in shul charades (“sounds like, four syllables, five words, film – no, no, not One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest!”).

Perhaps sign language classes will see an up tick, for all those who need to kibbitz about the latest gossip. Caution: don’t sign when it’s time for aliyah auctions – the hands in the air could easily be mistaken for a $1,000 kavod (honour), and now you’re on the hook for a thousand bucks, when all you wanted to do is tell your buddy the score of the Raptor’s game.

Onto the kiddish, the gorge-fest where people scoop up portions like it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet going out of business in ten minutes.

With Coronavirus, this unmitigated savagery may become a thing of the past – especially when little Joey Horschenfeldenstein keeps grabbing the potato chips with his fingers, while dropping some back in en route to his face. (We’re not even going to discuss double-dipping; don’t get me started).

Photo: Inigo De La Maza (Unsplash)

Soon to be a thing of history, kiddish might be taught in day schools as part of the “olden days” of observance: “Who can tell me what is Crown Royal? No, Yaakov, it has nothing to do with King David. What is cholent? No, I said ‘crock pot’, not ‘crack pot.’”

Finally, let’s talk about hand sanitizers for a moment.

I parsed the word “Purell” in Hebrew. Remember “Purim” is the word for “lots” (as in lottery) and Purell shares the same root. “El” is the word for God. So it’s fitting for Coronavirus – “the lottery of God” – to use this liquid on your hands so you should not, Heaven forbid, play a kind of crapshoot with your life. Or maybe, more fittingly, it’s as though we all drew “lots” as to who’d get the last dispenser from the supermarket shelves!

And if the hand sanitizer supply runs out – as most things have, in this pandemic – why, you can always return to Crown Royal: sip a little, and then do a hand rinse! Works just as well, and by gosh, it smells nicer!

Chaim Goldberg is a writer in Edmonton

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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