Shalom Life | March 24, 2015

Jerusalem Rabbis Tell Congregants No Synagogue in the Snow

Worshipers have been advised not to leave their homes as Jerusalem faces a bout of stormy weather

By: Daniel Koren

Published: January 9th, 2015 in News » Israel

Photo: Winter at the Kotel

Credit: EPA


There's a running joke among Israelis that their government is better equipped at handling terrorists than it is at handling snowstorms. After all, every winter when snow falls in Jerusalem, the city shuts down, with residents seemingly unaware of how to deal with what we in the West fondly call a white wonderland.

It's called a shovel, guys. Use it.

The latest demonstration of Israelis' complete lack of navigating in the snow comes in the form of the capital city's head rabbis, who today decreed to their various congregants that this Shabbat, going to shul will not be a prerequisite.

In fact, they advised against going to synagogue in the snow at all.

Rabbis Aryeh Stern and Shlomo Amar issued a warning to its congregants Friday, leading up to Shabbat, claiming that if there was any chance they could slip in the snow, better to play it safe and stay at home, even on the holiest day of the week.

Other rabbis repeated Stern and Amar's sentiments, saying that even women who completed their menstruation cycle and were to take the mikveh should delay the ritual of immersing herself in water if it means she'd avoid the nasty weather outside.

Oh, when snow affects religion. Have to wonder how they did it in the olden days before electricity and such.

Jerusalem is expecting the snowstorm to continue through the weekend. The city's Religious Council cited concerns that eruv wires (ritual enclosure which allows religious Jews to carry objects outside their homes on Shabbat) could be torn apart due to the wind, and that it should not be utilized on this particular Sabbath.

Jerusalem rabbis also mentioned that some kashrut supervisors may not be able to reach certain restaurants, urging the public to check the kashrut of food they're eating at restaurants. "The kashrut department will do everything in its power to reach the businesses which are open during the storm, but could be restricted by the weather," rabbis Stern and Amar said. "The public must be aware of the issue."

Officials at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation stated that the Kotel was going to stay open today, however, despite the terrible weather.

Some 26 Chabad Houses have created "snow command posts" to provide necessities for the city's vulnerable during the storm, including Shabbat meals, blankets, etc. Volunteers in Jerusalem have also made it known that they will host families who have lost power due to the storm.

There's even an "emergency midwife" out there, thanks to Chabad, who has volunteered to help women giving birth who can't make it to the hospital due to the weather.

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