[Avodah] Rabbinical Council of Bergen County Purim Guidelines

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Fri Feb 26 08:24:12 PST 2021

[[[ I received this a few minutes ago, in an email from a friend. I cannot
verify whether it is actually from the RCBC or not, but I'd like to think
it is. Just to remind everyone, I am proud to have been originally a
resident of Bergen County, whose rabbis almost a year ago had the courage
to shut down all the shuls even before the government required them to do
so. - Akiva ]]]

Rabbinical Council of Bergen County Purim Guidelines
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Dear Friends,

In response to our recent letter about Purim and Pesach during the
pandemic, many of you have asked for more detailed guidelines about how to
safely fulfill the various mitzvos of Purim this year. Please see below for
additional parameters, and please direct any questions to your local
Orthodox rabbi in a masked, socially distanced fashion. We empathize with
the general feelings of “Covid-19 fatigue.” However, we have been informed
that a new, more virulent *Galitzianer strain* has been spreading in our
community. As such, this is not the time to let our guard down.

*Kriyas Hamegillah*

Every Jew is obligated to hear the megillah twice on Purim, but safety
concerns must take precedence. We recommend that all megillah readings be
done in less than 15 minutes, to stay below the CDC time frame for Covid-19
exposure. As breathing is dangerous for everyone, instead of just reading
ten sons of Haman in one breath, the baal korei should attempt to read the
entire megillah in one breath. If he must take a breath during the reading,
a plastic supermarket bag should be placed over his head. Care should be
taken to use one of the thick kosher supermarket bags, not those thin ones
from CVS.

In addition, while normally a “hei degusha” is aspirated in words like
“lah” and “bah,” aspirating is considered a sakanas nefashos and therefore
should be avoided, as bedieved the reading is kosher without such aspirated
letters. Similarly, the letter “pei” should be replaced with the softer
“fei” if the
meaning of the word is not changed. Perhaps this is why Hashem in His
infinite wisdom named the holiday Furim instead of Purim (see Esther 9:26).

Finally, we are all familiar with the minhag to read pesukim relating to a
threat of death for the Jewish people in Eicha trop. This year many more
pesukim refer to deadly threats, such as “leich kenos es kol hayehudim”
(Esther 4:16) and “vayikahalu hayehudim” (Esther 9:15). To ensure that
people do not follow these examples and gather in groups, these pesukim
should also be read in Eicha trop. If it does not impede one’s ability to
finish reading in less than 15 minutes, one may choose to read the entire
megillah in Eicha trop, so as to diminish any feelings of mirth that may
lead to a momentary lapse in Covid-19 precautions, chas v’shalom

*Matanos L’Evyonim*

While giving money to the poor is an important part of the holiday, extreme
care must be taken to not infect those who we are trying to help. While
paper money is normally handed to the poor on Purim, this will necessitate
the giver coming too close to the receiver, thus putting him or her in
grave danger. It is also difficult to properly sanitize paper bills with
Purell. Therefore, it is recommended to pre-sanitize coins and then throw
them at the poor from a distance of at least six feet.

*Mishloach Manos*

Our usual practice of bringing food to others’ homes should be avoided this
year, as standing outside someone’s door may inadvertently lead to entering
their house. Many of you have asked whether one who pays taxes which are
then used to provide free boxes of food to the members of our community can
consider this their mishloach manos. Since the distribution of these food
boxes is done in a contactless manner, this is an ideal way to fulfill the
mitzvah. Those who have not reported sufficient income to require paying
taxes should give some money to a wealthier neighbor and thus be considered
a meshutaf (partner) in his tax payments.


The Purim seuda is usually a festive gathering and is thus the most
challenging mitzvah to fulfill this year. In addition, while drinking
alcohol is always discouraged, especially on Purim, it is even more
inadvisable this year as it would require removing one’s mask. There is a
common misconception that the mitzvah of simcha on Purim requires one to be
happy the entire day. However, according to most rishonim, the shiur of
simcha only requires being happy for a toch kedei dibur - about 3.4
seconds, or 4.2 seconds according to the Chazon Ish.

While it is so hard for us to find any joy these days, one can read a posuk
of the Torah for a few seconds (quietly, alone, and masked) and thus
fulfill the mitzvah of simcha as required on Purim. Please make sure to
finish being happy by chatzos so as to have time to prepare for another
lonely shabbos.

*Lifnim Mishuras Hadin*

While none of these restrictions are necessary based on CDC or state
guidelines, it is critical that we continue to signal to the world how much
more virtuous we are than our “frummer” brothers and sisters in Passaic,
Lakewood, and the Five Towns. We therefore urge everyone to get at least
three shots of the vaccine, stay at least eight feet apart, and wear at
least two masks (unless that becomes commonplace, in which case we should
wear a minimum of three masks).

Wishing everyone a safe, meaningful, and safe Purim.

The Rabbinical Council of Bergen County
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