(April 1, 2020 / JNS) The Jewish community of Bucharest, Romania, received a rabbinical exception to bury those who have died as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Shabbat to help bypass Romanian government orders on Friday that such victims must be buried on the day of their death or cremated to stop further spread of the disease.
Both cremation and burials on Shabbat are not allowed under religious Jewish law.
Rabbi Yaakov Rojah from the ZAKA Israeli emergency-response group found a source for an exception, supported by an incident that happened many years ago in Jerusalem that would allow a non-Jew to bury a Jewish person’s body on Shabbat, reported The Yeshiva World.
He then turned to Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, the former chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem and president of the Rabbinical Council of ZAKA, who ruled on Friday that the Bucharest Jewish community is permitted to have a Christian bury a Jewish coronavirus victim who dies on Shabbat in order to prevent the body from being cremated.
“We’re receiving dozens of appeals from Jewish communities around the world to prevent the cremation of bodies in the wake of government directives,” said ZAKA head Yehudah Meshi-Zahav. “We will make every effort to preserve Kavod HaMeis [‘the honor of the dead’] like we constantly battle to do. We daven every day and hope that the pandemic ends, and we can assist in happy events only.”
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