The leader of the Lithuanian Haredim in Israel Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who is 92, tested positive for the coronavirus overnight Friday. He was examined after his body temperature had been rising.
Rabbi Kanievsky’s circle reported that he is feeling well and continuing with his normal Torah study under close medical supervision.
On Thursday night, Rabbi Kanievsky, together with Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, released videos in which they instructed the public on how to conduct themselves during the coming holiday concerning the pandemic. Rabbi Edelstein announced that it is forbidden to visit other people’s sukkah, and Rabbi Kanievsky said that corona tests should also continue on the intermediary days of the holiday, since it is a matter of danger to life (pikuach nefesh).
Rabbi Kanievsky’s circle asked the public to pray for the complete healing of Rabbi Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim ben Pesha Miriam among all the afflicted in the people of Israel. In addition, family members said the rabbi suggested Friday morning that people study the tractate of Berachot, and recite ten chapters of Psalms, and that this would bring about his complete healing.
Several members of Rabbi Kanievsky’s household tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days and on the eve of Yom Kippur, and apparently infected the elderly rabbi.
At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on misinformation provided to him from his relatives, Rabbi Kanievsky ordered his hundreds of thousands of followers to defy the Israeli Health Ministry’s order to close all schools, suggesting that the best way to defeat the virus is to avoid lashon hara (malicious gossip), increase one’s strengthen humility, and place the needs of others one’s own.
On March 15, senior police officials met with the rabbi to convince him to instruct his followers to obey the medical professionals, but to no avail. On March 29, with the Haredi community in Israel being hit the hardest by the pandemic, and with his home town of Bnei Brak leading the whole country in the rate of infections, Rabbi Kanievsky reversed his opinion in the most radical way imaginable, declaring those who ignore the Health Ministry’s guidelines to have the status of “rodef,” meaning a person about to commit murder who should be stopped using any means necessary. He also ruled that individuals anticipating the results of a coronavirus test are permitted to answer their phoneon Shabbat. He also issued a ruling banning public prayers during the pandemic, a measure that was harsher than the Health Ministry’s rule.
The Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon issued a statement saying: “Together with all the people of Israel, pray for the speedy recovery of the Prince of Torah, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky Shlita. And we will pray for the healing of Rabbi Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim ben Pesha Miriam throughout the holidays. Please, God, heal him!”