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Torah Reading When Shuls בע”ה are Reopened and Social Distancing is Still Required

April 30, 2020 – Rav Asher Bush

קריאת התורה כשכל אחד ואחד צריך להרחיק ד’ אמות מחבירו

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The normal procedure is that at least three men stand in close proximity at the Bima, the Oleh, the Gabbai and the Reader; often there are one or two more, the Gabbai Sheini and the previous Oleh. Clearly this is unsafe and unacceptable at this time.Basedon the Tosefta, quoted by the Tur and codified by the Shulchan Aruch, it is acceptable to have the Reader receive all seven Aliyos, reciting the bracha before and after each of the seven readings. The case spoken of is when the reader is the only person who knows how to read from the Torah. Given our practice of calling up even those who cannot read, or even see, the Mishna Brurah and other poskim say that this halacha does not have application in our day.However, given the circumstances that it is unsafe to come close to each other, this ruling of the Tur and ShulchanAruch now applies. While other suggestions have been made, none of them are based on rulings and practices accepted by the Rishonim and Shulchan Aruch; some might also potentially compromise safety.Similarly, for all other activities in the shul that require more than one person appropriate modifications should be made. When taking out or returning a Torah to the ark, the Shaliach Tzibbur should do it himself. If he cannot both hold the Torah and open/close the ark, the other person should do so before or after the Shaliach Tzibbur is with 4 amos (6+ feet).Hagbah and glilah may not be performed by two people. Instead the Torah should be held aloft and returned to the Bima, and then wrapped up, similar to the practice followed in Sefardi and Chabad communities.The only exception to this and the taking the Torah out of the ark would be with two family members (father and so , or brothers) live in one house and need not practice social distancing from each other.

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