Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90) (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)

Rabbi David Lau called on Jews across the globe to declare a fast day as a spiritual response to the mounting health crisis.

By United with Israel Staff

Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau, in a public letter, called on Jews to refrain from eating or speaking unnecessariily on Wednesday in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“At this time, we must engage in soul searching,” he wrote. “As believing Jews, we know that the Hand of Providence is behind this and that it comes to tell us something.”

Abstinence from food and speech is a Jewish spiritual practice designed to encourage self-reflection on the personal and communal level.

The chief rabbi continued, “Everyone feels the sword which has been unleashed and which is taking lives all over the world. At this time, as we strictly adhere to the directives of medical officials, each of us should examine his ways and improve his behavior, both regarding commandments relating to his fellow man and regarding commandments relating to God.”

Wednesday was chosen because it is the eve of the start of the Hebrew month of Nisan, one of the Jewish calendar’s four “new years,” considered by some sages to be the month in which the world was created. Jews observe the new year with prayers and supplication, making Wednesday an apropos time for fasting and introspection.

Rabbi Lau called on all to say special prayers asking for salvation from the dreaded illness for themselves and the world at large.

The rabbi urged those are healthy to fast, even for half a day, as part of their supplications for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. For those who cannot fast, Rabbi Lau recommended abstinence from speaking, a fast of speech, or at a minimum restricting speech to expressions of kindness, positivity and caring.

The letter ended with a heartfelt prayer, “May our benevolent God listen to our prayers and respond to them, delivering us from all harsh decrees, saving, with His abundant mercies, His people of Israel and people in need the world over.”

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