By COLlive reporter
Congregants of the Sydenham-Highlands North Hebrew Congregation, the largest Orthodox Shul in Johannesburg, gathered for their daily Mincha and Maariv minyan on Wednesday night.
It was going to be their last minyan there for a while.
With the total number of coronavirus cases in South Africa increasing to 116, local rabbis instructed to close all shuls. South Africa’s Health Ministry said there was an increase of 31 new cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, Anadolu Agency reported.
“The number of cases is growing, unfortunately,” said Rabbi Yossy Goldman, a Chabad Shliach who is the Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul since 1986 and president of the South African Rabbinical Association.
Speaking to COLlive.com, Rabbi Goldman said: “Guided by top observant Jewish medical experts who are at the forefront of this crisis, the decision was made that it is pikuach nefesh and as broken-hearted as we are to close shuls, minyanim and shiurim, we have no alternative.”
He said the decision was made by the combined Leadership of Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Beis Din and the Rabbinical Association which he heads after consulting with Dr. Richard Friedland and Professor Barry Schoub.
“It is with a heavy heart that we recommend that people daven at home, on their own, without a minyan, and that shul services no longer take place at this stage,” they wrote in a public letter to fellow rabbis in the country.
“This is a very difficult time for us all. Let’s draw strength from our prayers and our connection to Hashem. Let’s redouble our efforts to learn more Torah, to daven at home with meaning and devotion, to do more mitzvos and acts of kindness. Let us make our homes places of holiness and faith, of love and compassion. May Hashem bless our community, our country and our world with health and healing,” they wrote.
Following the last Maariv davening at the Sydenham Shul, Rabbi Goldman donned a Tallis and walked over to the Aron Kodesh to recite a prayer. “It was completely spontaneous,” he later said.
In the prayer, he asked for forgiveness for having to close the doors of the celebrated shul and cease all of its activities. He then prayed for COVID-19 to be eradicated and for all who are infected to be healed. Those present emphatically answered “Amen!”