by Sandy Eller
As students of history, we are accustomed to reading about life-altering events that forever changed the course of the world. Living through them, as we are right now, is quite another story.
Standing at the intersection of the coronavirus pandemic and Pesach while listening closely for Moshiach’s footfalls, we find ourselves facing unprecedented halachic conundrums. Hoping to address some of the many complexities that have arisen over the past two weeks, Agudath Israel of America’s Torah Projects Commission arranged a pair of livestreamed events on Torah Anytime that had an astonishing 10,000 people tuning in to hear prominent poskim addressing a broad array of questions submitted by the public.
Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Rav of Agudas Yisroel of Baltimore, covered a variety of topics on Monday, March 23rd, discussing dozens of Pesach-related issues including tevilas keilim when mikvaos are closed, performing biur chometz during a time when people are asked to stay home as well as the halachically preferable way to go to the hospital on Shabbos. Reflecting on some of the most difficult situations that have arisen in recent days, Rabbi Heinemann spoke about triaging critically ill patients when medical resources are in short supply and quoted Rav Moshe Feinstein’s psak that it is never permissible to remove a patient from lifesaving equipment in order to treat someone else who appears to have a better chance of survival.
Addressing the audience on Wednesday night, Rabbi Zev Cohen, Rav of Congregation Adas Yeshurun of Chicago, delved into the world of Choshen Mishpat. Rabbi Cohen addressed the financial angle of the global pandemic, touching on price gouging and dealing with tuition payments during a time when mandatory closures are in effect, noting that when Moshiach comes, he will stop first at the marketplace to ensure that Klal Yisroel has conducted all of its business honestly. Rabbi Cohen observed that despite the difficulties of being barred from our holiest places because of coronavirus, following the law of the land provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to be mikadesh shem shomayim in front of the eyes of the entire world.
While this is likely the first time that we have encountered many of the issues that have arisen over the past several days, situations of this nature are brought down in halacha, observed Rabbi Eliyahu Simcha Bamberger, national director of the Daf Yomi Commission.
“It is fascinating to see that while the word has changed over the years, we see that halacha applies in every generation and situation and the answers are there, even all this time later,” said Rabbi Bamberger. “There have been other epidemics and these shaylos have been asked before, albeit in different ways. Once again, we see the gadlus of our centuries-old Shulchan Aruch that still has the answers for every possible situation.”
Click here to watch both shiurim.