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Ask the rabbi Halacha Coronavirus

Attending a wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

83
Question
I have two weddings, both of close friends of mine, coming up in the next few weeks. I spoke to the brides and they do not plan on limiting the number of guests and said masks will probably not be seen at their weddings. This really does not sit well with me and I do not understand how many in our communities are doing this. This is clearly in violation of the law thus a chillul Hashem, and also a risk to people. I understand the number of cases has decreased significantly in our areas but it is still the law, and advice of public health experts to not have such gatherings, especially without masks. What is the Halachic perspective on such weddings?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It really is two questions – one, what does the halacha say about following the advice and rules of the health department; and two, how are we to look at people who do not follow the rules. Firstly, I am not familiar with the rules and laws in your location (I am not even familiar with where you are writing to me from). However, I can say the following. From a halachic perspective, one is absolutely obligated to follow the law of the land. So, if the law forbids such weddings, then it is absolutely clear that one must follow the law. However, you used the term “advice”, which seems to suggest that perhaps the law is not so clear, but it is just the “advice” of the local authorities. In such a case, then there are two halachic ideas that come into play. Firstly, if there really is a health issue, then we are obligated by halacha to take a strict path, and follow the advice in order to try and promote safety and the saving of life. Secondly, if braking the advice may lead to a “chilul Hashem” (desecration of G-d’s name) it must also be avoided. But, it is possible that in your location neither of these apply – perhaps the law of the land allows such weddings, and perhaps the advice is already out of date, and there is no health risk, and generally people are not following the rules, so it will not make the Jewish community look bad if we also do not follow the rules. I pray daily that this should be the reality – but as I highly doubt that you live in such a post-virus world, my assumption is that the people having such weddings are not acting in line with Jewish law. I am unaware of any halachic authority who holds that one is not obligated to follow the virus restrictions – while there are many who believe that halacha obligates us to be stricter than rules. That being the case, the question arises as to how you should act and judge them. When it comes to action, I believe that it is forbidden to attend such a function. You will only be adding to the sins we outlined above. As to how to judge such people – here I believe you would do well to judge them favorably, and with compassion. It is highly unlikely that these people really want to a) make people sick and die, or b) desecrate G-d’s name, and that of the Jewish community. What is much more likely is that they have been waiting to have their dream wedding for a long time. That their desire to preform the mitzvah of rejoicing with the bride and groom is strong. And that a person’s ability to self-justify in the name of a good cause is bigger than we like to admit. They are not bad people. They are not ignorant as to the danger. They are like all of us – people who truly want to celebrate a mitzvah of a wedding in the best possible way. We can understand that – and if it was our wedding, we would probably (want to) do the same thing. So, whilst not condoning their behavior, we can at least have compassion and understand as to where it comes from. Filling ourselves with anger isn’t going to help. (Not attending, politely, might help). Send a gift, send your deepest blessings and mazel tov. Say a prayer for the couple that they merit to build a blessed house. And, now, filled with love and joy for them – turn on the zoom and enjoy. Blessings.
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