Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau called yesterday on Jews in Israel and across the globe to fast tomorrow, Jan. 21. The day of fasting will be dedicated to prayers over the many people who have died from the pandemic and for the recovery of those infected. Lau will hold a special prayer service at Rachel’s Tomb, north of Bethlehem, broadcast live on TV. The global Jewish community is expected to hold similar services at the same time.
Lau wrote in a letter, “In recent days, the plague has intensified and we feel that ‘outside the sword will bereave, and inside terror’ [Deuteronomy 32:25]. Every day we are faced with terrible disasters. The virus does not distinguish between people, harming the elderly, young people, fathers and mothers of young children, and unfortunately many of them die, and many thousands are in a state of trouble and need prayer and a cry for help from the heavens.”
On March 25, during the pandemic’s first wave, Lau called on the public to fast at least half a day. “Difficult days are affecting all of Israel and the entire world. At this time, it is on us to do some soul-searching,” he wrote.
On April 22, chief rabbis, patriarchs, archbishops, imams and sheikhs assembled in Jerusalem to recite a prayer for the alleviation of suffering around the world from the coronavirus pandemic.
Lau’s office noted that decision to declare the fasting day was made after consultation with the Grand Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian community, a move clearly designed to engage the ultra-Orthodox.