Torah For Today! This week: Life in lockdown
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Torah For Today! This week: Life in lockdown

Rabbi Ariel Abel takes a topical issue and delves into Jewish texts for a

Rabbi Ariel Abel

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Some of the parts of the country are under lockdown rules, while across the nation, gatherings of more than six people have been prohibited. What does the Torah say about the concept of a lockdown? 

The very first moments of history of the Jewish people began with a lockdown. The Israelites in Egypt were warned not to leave their homes at all on the night of the death of the firstborn. 

Blood from the Paschal lamb or goat was daubed on the doorposts and lintel of each Hebrew dwelling. This indicted the severity and fatal nature of the lockdown. 

Rashi comments that when “permission is given to the destroyer to kill”, then the righteous risk losing their lives along with the less deserving. 

It is for this reason that, according to our teachings, no matter how much we yearn to return to normal living and ordinary observances of the Hebrew calendar, we are duty-bound to take every care and precaution as regulated and recommended by government, by halacha and by one’s own common sense in each situation and in all of the circumstances presented. 

It is interesting to note that the first mitzvah given to the people of Israel even before they left Egypt was the Sabbath, about which it is said: “No one shall leave their place on the Sabbath.” 

This early form of restriction of mobility, which we observe on a weekly basis, should surely make us very sensitive as Jews to the importance of reducing movement to essential journeys only. 

Where there is concern for life-and-death issues, corners should not be cut. 

Another example in the Torah of reducing the number of people meeting up is the case of isolation of the leper, and both men and women who suffer unusual body fluid. 

Social distancing and quarantine are aimed at containing the spread of any infectious disease – but also to make it easier for the sufferer to recuperate. 

  •   Rabbi Ariel Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force

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