The head rabbi of the largest Orthodox synagogue in Johannesburg, South Africa, prayed on Wednesday night for forgiveness for having to close the synagogue under the instruction of local rabbis due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), reported COLlive.

Following the last Maariv prayer at the Sydenham-Highlands North Hebrew Congregation before it closed, Chabad Rabbi Yossy Goldman, the synagogue’s senior rabbi, approached the ark where the Torah is kept and begged for forgiveness “that unfortunately we will not be able to come to shul for the foreseeable future to daven [‘pray’] with the congregation” because of COVID-19. “We beg and pray for your understanding, compassion [and] Divine mercy … on your people Israel, on all of your children [and] on all of humanity.”

He also prayed for coronavirus to be eradicated and for everyone infected to have a speedy recovery. Those present answered “Amen!”

Goldman, also director of the Torah Academy in Orchards, Johannesburg, later said the prayer “was completely spontaneous.”

Local rabbis instructed all synagogues to close after the total number of coronavirus cases in South Africa increased to 116.

Anadolu Agency reported on Wednesday that South Africa’s Health Ministry said there was an increase of 31 new coronavirus cases over a 24-hour period that day.

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