Halachot Related to Coronavirus
All rabbinim agree that one should be cautious with all the health guidelines set up by the government and other local insitutions in order to stay safe and help prevent getting others sick. Corona virus as it causes a serious health threat to some people, inhibits any social gatherings and semachot, and has severely damaged the economy and livelihood of certain people, poses a serious challenge to everyone. We all need to daven and take advantage of the circumstances in order to best serve Hashem. As a thoughtful Jew it is incumbent upon a person to take to heart some important lessons of life and restrengthen himself in his commitments.  Additionally, on a practical level corona has many implications for people and here is a small collection of relevant halachot.
- 1 Tefillah
- 2 Minyan via Technology
- 3 Kriyat Hatorah
- 4 Hagomel
- 5 Chametz
- 6 Machine Matza
- 7 Tanit Bechorot
- 8 Using Zoom for the Seder
- 9 Mikveh
- 10 Tevilat Kelim
- 11 Bar Mitzvah's
- 12 Weddings
- 13 Fast Days
- 14 Shalom Bayit
- 15 Laid off Workers Because of Corona
- 16 Bikur Cholim
- 17 Violating Shabbat for Pikuach Nefesh
- 18 Links
- 19 Sources
When davening at home one should be cognizant of the following ideas:
- The best time to pray is Netz. According to many poskim this is equivalent to praying with a minyan.
- A person should daven in a makom kavuah.
- A person should daven in front of a wall so that there's no distractions in front of him.
- A person can and should daven near a window that serves as a means of being inspired to look towards heaven.
- A person can daven Shemona Esrei aloud if it helps his kavana. It also serves as a role model for children.
- A person shouldn't daven in a room that is usually used for frivolity.
- A person shouldn't daven in front of an open bathroom.
- At a time of a plague such as our times it is advisable to say ketoret which has the power to end a plague.
- According to some, at this time a person should recite Avinu Malkenu in Shacharit and Mincha, while others emphasize how one must focus on Teshuvah and reciting all parts of the regular seder haTefillah first.
- Eating a meal before davening when the time comes to daven a certain tefillah should be avoided since generally we are lenient about this since we go to established minyanim but for when that isn't possible we should be more strict about this. See details here about eating and doing activities before davening.
Parts of Davening to Skip
- On Friday night an individual doesn't recite Magen Avot after Shemona Esrei of Maariv.
- One doesn't recite Baruch Shemey when praying by oneself since it is part of the activity of removing the Sefer Torah.
Minyan via Technology
- You can't create a minyan with a video (e.g. zoom or skype) or phone call but one can join a minyan of ten men in one room with a video or phone call in order to answer dvarim shebekedusha. Even if there is a time delay between the person reciting the bracha and the one answering it that wouldn't be considered an Amen Yetoma.
- It isn't considered a minyan for people to join together to daven on a video conference but it is still somewhat spiritually valuable.
- A person who is at home and can't be at shul should nonetheless read the parsha between Shacharit and Mussaf as a way of remembering the concept of kriyat hatorah. He can use that reading as part of his reading of Shenayim Mikra Vechad Targum.
- When the congregation misses a kriyat hatorah they can make it up by reading two parshiyot next week in Shul. However, if they miss multiple weeks there is a discussion if they should or could make up all of the parshiyot that they missed.
- A person should not move a sefer torah out of a Shul for a home minyan. See Respecting_a_Sefer_Torah#Transporting_a_Sefer_Torah for more details.
- A person needs to recite hagomel in front of a minyan of ten men. Some suggest that this can be recited before ten people listening on a video or phone call and can answer amen. Even though they aren't present, the minyan in this context is purely to publicize the idea so it is permissible. Others disagree and as long as the minyan isn't in the same room one can not recite hagomel.
- According to Ashkenazim, if a person is ill with a sickness to the point that he is a choleh sheyesh bo sakana, a concern of mortal danger, he should recite Hagomel, but if he less sick than that there is no need to recite Hagomel.
- If a person doesn't usually sell chametz and is afraid that if he doesn't sell chametz one year he isn't going to have food afterwards he can sell his chametz. He wouldn't require a hatarat nedarim.
- A person can sell his chametz on the phone and if possible a kinyan can be made virtually in order to appoint the rabbi to sell the chametz. The kinyan would take place as follows: the rabbi would ask if there's someone standing next to the one who wants to appoint the rabbi and if there is then that person can give a pen or a utensil to the one who wants to appoint the rabbi as his shaliach. This is considered a valid kinyan between the person standing there and the one who wants to appoint the rabbi on behalf of the rabbi to be appointed. If that isn't feasible it isn't necessary. Nonetheless, one could stipulate in the document that this appointment of the rabbi is done with the full knowledge of its legal ramifications and it is accepted completely.
- If you have raw chicken or raw meat you don't have to worry that it is chametz even if it was processed in a place where there was chametz. You can simply wash it off to solve any question.
- It is permitted under extenuating circumstances to use machine matza for the mitzvah of eating matzah on the seder night.
- Some say that there's no concern to have the hand baked matzot this year.
- A person should try to finish a short masecheta to make his own siyum but if he can't he can rely on a siyum over the phone.
Using Zoom for the Seder
- Although a minority of rabbis allow using Zoom for this emergency situation in a very extenuating circumstance where an elderly single person is alone for the seder away from family because of the quarantines to use technology to leave a video conference going for Yom Tov to join with a family seder, most rabbis consider this to be a breach of halacha.
- Each community rabbi needs to decide these sort of questions however in theory it is possible for the Mikva to remain open and allow women who aren't having symptoms or aren't quarantined to go to Mikva. They should be extra careful about hygiene and prepare completely at home, go to the Mikva where there is no contact with anyone besides a brief contact with the water which has chemicals for cleanliness. Then upon returning home there are poskim who allow the woman to take a shower when she gets home to clean herself off.
- The RCBC also stated that Mikva's are remaining open for the time.
- The men's mikveh's should be closed at this time. Even if a person is careful to go to mikveh each day he can fulfill this custom by taking a 5 minute shower. See Preparations_for_Davening#Going_to_Mikveh for details.
- Each community should decide whether or not close the kli mikveh out of a safety concern. You can do the tevilat kelim in the ocean. Alternatively, one can use tevilat kelim in the mikvah while wearing gloves, then throw out the gloves, wash off the kelim with soap and water. As a last resort one can avoid tevilat kelim by giving the pots to a non-Jew and borrowing them back. One can rely on this until the virus passes.
- Another option is for a person to declare the pots that need tevilat kelim to be ownerless (hefker) in front of 3 Jews. One has to have full intent that the pots are ownerless and if someone took them one would have no claim upon them. If these Jews can't be there in person it is sufficient if they are present through social media technology but they should be people who live in the neighborhood. They should then leave the pots outside their house for a few minutes so that if someone wanted to take them they could. 
- A message for Bar Mitzvah Boys in the Lockdown by Rabbi Pesach Krohn
- A bar mitzvah boy who missed the opportunity to read his parsha in shul when he became bar mitzvah'ed when it is next possible to go to shul he can add his parsha as a hosafa and read it then. Additionally, the haftorah can follow that hosafa.
- A rabbi should not officiate at a wedding that isn't abiding by the CDC guidelines of health because he is furthering unsafe practices.
- If the rabbis declare a half fast day until Chatzot according to Ashkenazim an individual can recite Anenu in Mincha Shemona Esrei assuming he is still fasting. According to Sephardim one can only recite anenu if one fasts the entire day.
- A person should accept the fast from the day before, as is traditionally done at mincha time. If one didn't do so, according to Sephardim one shouldn't recite anenu, but according to Ashkenazim one can recite anenu.
- It is critical to be mindful of other people when everyone is under stress and no one is completely comfortable. Dr. Pelcovitz discusses the implications quarantine can have Shalom Bayit.
- It is forbidden for a couple to have tashmish at a night of famine since everyone is in distress it is incumbent on everyone to take upon himself an aspect of distress. The same is true for any time of societal distresses. Others disagree.
- It is permitted to have tashmish on mikvah night.
- It is permitted to have tashmish for a couple who didn't yet fulfill pru urevu. Once his wife is pregnant this leniency doesn't apply.
- If he has a strong yetzer hara and there is a concern of hashchatat zera it is permitted.
- There is what to rely upon to have tashmish at a time of war and there is no midat chasidut to be strict, especially for young couples even for someone who fulfilled pru urevu.
- During the time then the plague of corona virus is rampant in the world there is a lot to rely upon to have tashmish. Someone who wants to be strict can do so.
Laid off Workers Because of Corona
- If there's a employee that is unable to work because of a societal or national crisis the employees should continue to be paid by the employers according to many opinions or at least they should make a compromise.
- This applies to contractors for cancelled events as well.
- If someone rented out an apartment to someone and then he wants to retract because of a concern that the potential tenants have the virus, some say that it is forbidden to back out of the contract.
- A person doesn't have to and shouldn't visit someone who has a virus that contagious such as corona.
Violating Shabbat for Pikuach Nefesh
- It is a well established halacha that it is not only permitted but even a mitzvah to violate Shabbat in order to safe a life or to remove a situation that presents even a slight chance of danger. The question is how to define the threshold of danger.
- In certain cases of emergency regarding corona virus it would be allowed to violate Shabbat. Obviously every single case is different and one should learn the laws of Pikuach Nefesh from a rabbi in advance.
- Transcription of Q&A with Rav Schachter by Rabbi Dunner
- RCBC letter calling for the closing of Shuls and Schools
- Rav Yitzchak Yosef, Rav Asher Weiss (Teleconference March 22 2020), Rav Schachter, OU (March 20 2020), RCBC letters. Rav Chaim Kanievsky March 15 2020 held that the yeshivot should remain open against the government's health guidelines. It is to be seen if that policy will change.
- Endangering Oneself to Learn Torah: Ketubot 77b records and praises the practice of Reish Lakish to teach Torah to those ill with tzarat, some translate as leprosy, even though it is contagious. The gemara explained that he did so out of his love for Torah. Daf Al Hadaf cites Mishnat Pikuach Nefesh 69:7 who asks how Reish Lakish could endanger himself and rely on a miracle. He answers that the disease he was concerned with was only dangerous to health but not life threatening.
- Rambam Taniyot 1:1-3, Rav Reuven Epstein emphasizes that we need to take a lesson from corona since it overtly a hardship for Jews and humanity and a sign from Hashem. Rabbi Penner discussed how we can revitalize our strength in mitzvot at this time based on better appreciating the lessons of Shema. Rav Asher Weiss (Teleconference March 22, 2020) introduced his shiur by discussing how we can strengthen our commitment to Ben Adam Lchavero.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz, Laws of Praying Beyachid (Adar 5780) by Rabbi Yonatan Nacson p. 1 citing Yalkut Yosef 89:1
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz and Rabbi Moshe Heinemann around minutes 5-7
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz
- Shulchan Aruch 90:4 writes that there should be windows in a place where one davens. Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz suggested that the same should be done for when we daven at home to daven in a place where there is a window.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz
- Laws of Praying Beyachid by Rabbi Nacson p. 2, Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz citing Rabbi Akiva Eiger teshuva 71
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz quoting Rav Schachter
- Rav Bention Mutzafi (55:10)
- Mishna Shabbat 9b, Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz. Rabbi Moshe Heinemann around minutes 5-7 says that if one sets an alarm, that should be sufficient
- Laws of Praying Beyachid p. 10 citing Shulchan Aruch O.C. 268:8
- Mishna Brurah 134:13
- Rav Schachter (towards middle), Rabbi Nacson in Laws of Praying Beyachid p. 4 based on Yalkut Yosef 5775 ed Yamim Noraim p. 17, Yabia Omer 1:19:18, Chazon Ovadia Purim p. 56
- Rav Schachter (towards middle)
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz quoting Rabbi Willig. Rabbi Moshe Heinemann around minutes 7-10 agrees that you should do so on Shabbat, but that it is not necessary on Monday and Thursday
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz based on Rama and Magen Avraham
- Rabbi Yonatan Nacson in Laws of Praying Byachid (p. 10) citing Rav Asher Weiss
- Rav Schachter (towards middle)
- Divrei Dovid 4:3
- Rama 219:8, Rav Asher Weiss (March 15 2015, min 11)
- Rav Schachter (min 20), Rav Aryeh Lebowitz (min 9-11)
- Rav Hershel Schachter (Teshuva dated 28 Adar 5780 p. 2), Nefesh Harav p. 179, Rav Schachter (min 1-5) explained that the minhag is to make a kinyan to appoint a someone to sell something for you. This is classically done with a handing of a handkerchief from the rabbi to the one selling chametz. However, when they call on the phone that isn't possible. The Steipler held in such a case it isn't necessary to be careful about that minhag and simply have the person orally declare that he appoints the rabbi. However, Rav Soloveitchik felt that we should try to fulfill the minhag in any event. How can it be fulfilled? One can have someone standing in the room next to the person on the phone give something to the person on the phone on behalf of the rabbi. That is an effective halachic kinyan on behalf of the rabbi (see Kiddushin 7a).
- Rav Aryeh Lebowitz (min 11-15)
- Rav Schachter (towards beginning). This is acceptable for Sephardim as well even with a bracha as described by Rav Ovadia Yosef in Yachava Daat 1:14 and Chazon Ovadia (Pesach Hilchot Leil Haseder 5763 Edition p. 76)
- Rav Asher Weiss (Teleconference March 22 2020, min 19) said that there's no concern to use the hand-baked matzot since they were baked earlier in the year. His personal minhag is to have only hand baked matzot. In terms of using machine matzah he felt that it is only a chumra not to use them even for the mitzvah of motzei matzah and one could use them if there's no other option.
- Rav Hershel Schachter (Teshuva dated 28 Adar 5780 p. 2). Rav Schachter (towards beginning). Rav Aryeh Lebowitz (min 1-4) explained that Rav Schachter and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach hold that it is enough to listen and join with the siyum over the phone or video call. However, other poskim don't like this leniency. Rav Asher Weiss (Teleconference March 22 2020, min 7) agreed that one can be yotzei with a siyum over the phone or video for the tanit bechorot.
- Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel and other rabbis
- Rav Asher Weiss (Teleconference March 22 2020 11am, min 39)
- Rabbi Shay Tahan
- RCBC letter on yeshivaworld.com
- Rav Asher Weiss (Teleconference March 22 2020, min 12)
- Rav Aryeh Lebowitz (min 5-9)
- Rav Hershel Schachter (Teshuva dated 28 Adar 5780 p. 1)
- Rav Schachter (towards end)
- Rav Schachter (towards beginning)
- Rama 562:1 writes that Ashkenazim hold that even for an incomplete fast one can recite anenu. Mishna Brurhah 562:48 references this Rama in discussing a fast that was accepted to fast until chatzot.
- M.B 562:6
- Shulchan Aruch 562:10-11 holds that a incomplete fast is not considered a fast with respect to saying anenu. Therefore if one only fasts until chatzot one should not recite anenu.
- Shulchan Aruch and Rama 562:5
- Gemara Tanit 11a, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 240:12
- Mishna Brurah 574:9
- Rama 240:12 based on Yerushalmi Tanit. Olot Tamid 240:6 (cited by Kaf Hachaim 240:85) understands the Rama to apply to any type of tragedy that we would declare a fast over.
- Shaarei Knesset Hagedola (Hagahot Tur 240:5) writes that tashmish is only forbidden during a famine, plague of the crops, locusts and the like which cause a famine but not for other tragedies or troubles. Kaf Hachaim 240:85 rules like the Shaarei Knesset Hagedola either because that is the explanation of the Yerushalmi or we don't follow the Yerushalmi.
- Shulchan Aruch O.C. 574:11 writes that it is permitted for a couple to have tashish on mikva night. Mishna Brurah 574:11 cites the Magen Avraham who argues with Shulchan Aruch but then he cites the Bigdei Yesha and Nahar Shalom who are lenient and there's what to rely on to follow Shulchan Aruch. Mishna Brurah concludes that certainly one can be lenient at a time when it isn't a famine and it is just another time of distress in the world.
- Shulchan Aruch O.C. 240:12, 574:4, Mishna Brurah 240:47
- Mishna Brurah 574:12
- Mishna Brurah 240:46
- Tzitz Eliezer 13:21
- Rabbi Ehrman on yutorah. Rav Asher Weiss (Zoom Conference, March 22 2020, 11am, min 15) was lenient he said that the situation presently isn't one that rises to the level where we need to declare a fast. Also, since domestic violence recently has been on the rise because of the quarantines one shouldn't be strict in this area.
- Rabbi Zylberman on yutorah. Mordechai b"m 343 writes that if there's a decree in the town that the teachers can't teach the teachers should still be paid. Rama C.M. 321:1 cites this Mordechai and applies it to any worker in 334:1. The Sama 334:2 argues with the Mordechai and holds that since the employee can't work and both aren't at fault and both couldn't foresee this the employer is exempt. Netivot 334:1 limits the idea of the Mordechai to a teacher and not other employers since a teacher is paid for sachar betela (see Laws_of_Learning_Torah#Taking_Money_for_Learning_and_Teaching_Torah). Shach 334 holds that this opinion of the Mordechai only applies if majority of the town ran away because of a crisis but if only a minority runs away then the employee isn't entitled to payment. Aruch Hashulchan 334:10 has another approach. If the situation prevents the worker from working then he is entitled to pay but if he runs away then he isn't. Rabbi Zylberman explained from Mishpat Poalim we think that this is a case of Hamotzei Mchavero Alav Harayah, whoever is holding onto the money can claim that he is exempt from paying or returning the money. Rav Asher Weiss in Minchat Asher 2:106 says that they should make a compromise, and Rav Bleich (Contemporary Halachic Problems v. 4) thinks that we follow the Rama. Once the Chatom Sofer had a case in his town and he felt that they should pay but he couldn't force everyone to pay it so he told them to pay half. Rav Yona Reiss had a case where they made a compromise.
- Rav Asher Weiss (Zoom Conference, March 22 2020, 11am, min 21-25) thought that one should compromise and give the workers who aren't working 30% of their pay. This applies Jewish and non-Jewish workers. This is based on the Rama and Sama CM 221. As for the day schools and daycares that are closed and not providing services one theoretically should be exempt. Since it might be devastating to the schools one needs to wait until the government makes a decision. Either way, we should wait until there is a major decision from the government or authorities and follow that. Until then for the schools we should pay so that the teachers can have a salary for their parnasa.
- Rabbi Zylberman on yutorah
- Rav Yakov Sinai based on Rama in teshuva, Shach CM 312 and other sources
- Rav Yakov Sinai (min 3) explains that although the Rama in a teshuva and Knesset Hagedola hold that one should visit the sick even if they have a contagious disease, the Shulchan Gavoha and others disagree and that is the halacha.
- Shulchan Aruch O.C. 328:13
- Rav Asher Weiss (March 15 2020, min 18-22) to Beit Midrash Gavoha explained that the definition of danger in order to violate Shabbat isn't defined by statistics. For vaccinations we assume that it is a sakana not to vaccinate even though the odds of dying because of the measles is low. Since it is preventable it is incumbent upon us to vaccinate. He concludes that as long as it is a natural phenomenon and there is an action that we can do to prevent deaths we must do so.
- Rav Zilberstein allowed a patient to answer the phone on Shabbat with a shinuy only to hear the results of a test and answer questions for epidemiological investigation. If the test results that show that a patient has the virus are produced on Shabbat it is incumbent for the health department to deal with the quarantine then and it is permitted to answer the phone for that.