Wet Talkers and Re-entering Shuls


    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com

    While it is clear that opening up the shuls, at least on a limited basis, has become legal – it is not so clear whether one should actually choose this option – rather than opting for an outdoor minyan.  People are heartened by the fact that now, the daily death rate has hit a low of 84, rather than the 800ish figures of the past.  But not everyone is being so quick to embrace indoor minyanim.

    Rabbi Naftali Jaeger, the Rosh Yeshiva of Shor Yoshiv, recently penned a letter to his mispallelim that no one should be davening indoors in a minyan.  Others, however, are permitting some minyanim within their shuls and are limiting them and having mispallelim pre-register so as not to overbook the minyan.

    The science behind the spread of this pandemic is still in its infancy, but there are “spreading” factors that the scientists are watching.  It seems that no one is really studying how COVID-19 spread in the Torah-observant community, but it seems that we did experience clusters of cases, rather than it being evenly spread out.  There is one community where a doctor reported that 70% of the COVID-19 patients are frum men.

    In order to make an informed decision as to whether to go back into the shuls or to keep the minyanim in the backyards, it is important to understand, at least, what the scientists are looking at.  The scientists are looking at two numbers are called “R” and “k.”

    R stands for the reproduction number and means how many new infections, on average, there are for every person that has the disease.  The R for COVID-19 is 3, but that was before there was any social distancing.  The second number “k” is called the dispersion factor or how much a disease clusters.

    If the number “k” is low – that means that much most of the cases came from a smaller amount of people.  One study (https://wellcomeopenresearch.org/articles/5-67) shows that the “k” number in COVID-19 is .10 which means that 80% of the cases came from only 10% of the people who had the virus.


    It is quite possible that some people spread the illness more than others.  It is also feasible that the spreaders could be wetter talkers than dryer talkers.  There is  a fascinating study about wet talkers that can be found at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-38808-z).   The study also suggests that singing loudly causes disease to spread more than regular talking.


    A study done in China of 318 clustered cases of COVID-19 of three or more infections showed that only one of them occurred outdoors – the other 317 occurred indoors.  That study can be read at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058v1.full.pdf

    The Chinese study, however, could have been a fluke.  There is another study, however that was done in Japan that had more balanced numbers.  That study shows that the risk of getting infected indoors is only nineteen times higher than getting it from outdoors.  The Japanese study can be read at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.28.20029272v2.full.pdf


    Another question that we should be asking our gedolim is whether or not we should be looking at, lehavdil, statistics culled from elsewhere.  According to the New York Times, Germany has plunged ahead after bringing its outbreak under control, reopening houses of worship and allowing worshippers to gather indoors. This resulted in a new clusters of cases emerging as 40 churchgoers tested positive after a May 10 service at a Baptist church, the German health authorities said on Friday.

    Six parishioners were hospitalized, according to Wladimir Pritzkau, a parish leader. “We followed all the rules,” Mr. Pritzkau told the DPA news agency, adding that the church did not know how many people attended the service two weeks ago.

    The state of Hesse, where the infections occurred, has been allowing church services under special guidelines, including asking worshipers to keep five feet apart and requiring churches to have disinfectant readily available. Now, the church has since moved its weekend services back online.

    Germany reported 431 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the country’s toll to 178,281, with 8,247 deaths.


    Each person should consult with his Rav or Posaik as to how to proceed.  It is this author’s opinion that we should hold our minyanim only outdoors, and observe social distancing while doing so.   For Krias HaTorah, either the baal koreh should receive all of the aliyos, or each baal Aliyah should lein himself – with no one else around.  There should also be a two-minute waiting period between each Aliyah if the latter option is exercised. May Hashem have mercy on us all and help us open the shuls safely.

    The author can be reached at [email protected]

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    1. Rabbi Hoffman dear,

      When the government says to close Shulls we must listen because Dina D’malchusa Dina and Venishmartem meod lenafshtechem. But if they say we can open up Shulls you are advocating to stay closed.Very interseting.

      Its a very good Pesak for the MO community.

      We the ultra Orthodox community have B’h our Rabbonim and we opened all Shulls fully.
      And we are I’yh going to open Yeshivos if its allowed or not. Because this is to us essential.

      • You don’t get it. Our standard and the Government’s standards are completely different. The government is admittedly not looking to prevent all deaths but most interested in “flattening the curve”, which in essence means spreading out the time period so that the hospitals don’t run out of room, equipment, ventilators, etc (which almost happened) By definition, this standard is willing to anticipate and accept a certain amount of deaths. We, on the other hand are interested, as you said, in venishmartem meod es nafshsosaychem. Even one death is unacceptable. So two different standards apply and just because the government says its ok, doesn’t equate to our being ok with it. It’s apples and oranges. Nothing to do with “modern”!!!! Stop being immature and holier than thou.

        • I don’t believe your standards are correction either side.

          1) The govt is defintley looking for more than just “flattening the curve”. If they weren’t we’d open a long time ago. Its true that intially, that is what they said. But that’s not the reality and they want more. They are looking for a downward slope of the curve. They want the infectious rate to be lower than 1.0. The realize getting it to zero is nearly impossible and so at a certain time you need to say this measure is enough. Furthermore, they now realize that a “flat curve” makes no sense. This virus is like a wild fire, you can’t control it on a “flat basis” and expect it won’t uptick ina day. However, if its down for 14 days then you can assume that its just the linger effects but the fire is gone. Even the govt wants that now.

          Now re yiddishkiet, the din of pikuch nefesh is not how you describe it either. The classic case is chillul shaboos for a sick person even if its a remote safek. Yes thats true we do more for sick people than others. But one is not allowed to be mechlal shabbos so that one doesn’t become sick. In other words before one becomes sick there is no extra stringency that we place on life and one cannot be mechlal shabbos. The rational is simple because if one would be allowed to than ein ldavar sof.

          Now lets add on one more point, the frum community is BH ahead of the curve outside our communication. Our curve is even lower and in fact at near zero new cases for a month.

          Once the risk is so low (lower than the risk of catching the flu) we are obligated to move on and live. At this point we need to go to shul with preacutaions. And if the govt says it’s Ok then its OK.

          I’ll add one more point, once the govt decides that Phase one is OK, that means its OK to reopen esstentials. If the govt does not get whats essential to us, its not ur problem. We need tp do whats essential for us like reopen yeshivas

            • I am not trying to use the same measures however it is a good mashal to use when applying to the tzibur.

              The point is at a certain point the risk is no longer there

            • Let me also rephrase your question.

              How can you possibly attempt to use the measures of chilul shabbos when talking about whether to be part of the mikkadsh mat, answer amen yiah shima raba, hear duchaning retrun to the essence of our life (since the BM was destroyed its been the shul), the achdus and koach hatzibur?

              Now that we took away the callousness and explained how shul is more than “a minyan” we can further explore your question

    2. Better safe than sorry. Better alive than dead. Better outdoors than indoors. Better to be honest with ourselves that no one (my self included) really knows.

      • So at what point do you draw the line and go indoors? Since noone knows should we stay outdoors forever? You need to draw a line somewhere

    3. We will find out in two weeks. This shabbos all shuls we’re packed. It takes two weeks to see results. Let’s hope everything is ok.

      • Not necessarily the case… Imagine you have a bunch of small fires that you can’t see spread out over the ground. If you spread a thin layer of hay over the ground you will quickly see where the fires are as they catch on and you will be able to put out all the fires… Now imagine instead, you first put down a bunch of big bundles in a few places and nothing happens, so you might assume it must mean there is no fire… But, now you spread out the hay over the rest of the ground in a thin layer and it catches on fire and sets on fire the big bundles… Instead of being able to snuff out those little fires, you created a big fire that is not easy to put out.

        I would be concerned that we go a week or two without any issues and shuls are really packed again in short order, only to allow the disease to spread when someone brings it in from the general population who due to only being in the early phases of reopening did not yet bring out where the cases where.

    4. The satmer rebbi has studied the entire ”sugya” just as Rabbi Hoffman and came to a diff.conclusion.It seems to be that politics is mixed in….The Rebbi has asked all his chasidim to join for yom tov inside the main bais medrash.Only those who don’t feel well are asked to stay home.Lets hope we are all safe and follow your DAAS TORAH.( make sure you have a Rebbi or Ruv you are close to ,who you ask what to do)

      • It makes sense to listen to your Rebbi or Rav if you think he is being guided by proper medical advice and understands the situation. In my case, I don’t think my Rabbi understands the science here, so frankly he can say he is opening the shul, but until I am confident that this makes sense, I am not going. My Rav was dead wrong about this virus when this started, despite my warning, and I have little reason to be confident that he understands the science now. Rather they are making decisions based on assumptions that seem to run contrary to the science.

        Also, Daas Torah is an irrelevant term that applies to no Rabbi alive. If there was a Rabbi who was a Daas Torah, he would have understood from his learning the danger of this virus and would have stopped purim mesibahs and took action sooner. If learning Torah did not give insight into how viruses work, then the concept of Daas Torah here simply makes no sense. Rather emunas chachamim, that once a Rabbi is presented with proper data he can tell you what the Torah says you should do accordingly, seems a healthier basis for living life. It is not okay to ignore facts (well nothing is fact, rather medical consensus might be a better term) because a Rav paskened using assumptions.

    5. While I respect the authors opnion here are some things that concern me.

      Shuls: The bies hakneses has always been our mikdash mat. for tousands of years its been our focal point and makom kedushash where torah and avoda and chesed comes from. Lets say its wrong to return or not safe. Shouldn’t it at least pain us? Shouldn’t we feel we are missing something The shechina is in double golus now since it can’t rest at our shuls now? No amen yiha shima raba, no birchas kohenim on shavous etc..How can people make callous comments like “we daven better at home”? Are there still people not at least making porch outdoor minyan now that its safe to do so?

      Cheder: When we are 3 boys go on our shoulders and we dance with them to the cheder. The place for a boy to learn torah is in yeshiva not on zoom. The needs for early childhood development and kriah are essential. If not caught at the right time, its lost forever. Our well trained rabbeim take courses and are equipped to motivate and train children and a way that parents cannot. Doesn’t it pain us that they can’t return yet? if 95% of kids are not social distancing anyhow, should we not try via legal action and advocacy to reopen? Shouldnt we at least want to reopen? How can one say “oh they can learn at home”? Thats yddishkiet?

      Rabbi Hoffman I write this with full respect for your views but I feel the point where it must pian us that we can’t engage in the full torah way is crucial to bring out as well

      • This from a guy who constantly said this would be nothing and went to shul (indoors and said he shook hands) after it was clear there was an epidemic.

        You get to disagree with no one. Your opinion is not worth anything. You should ask mechilla from R’ Hoffman for even daring to appear to contradict him in any way as you are the last person who should be relying on your own daas, which numerous comments here have established is a non-existent thing.

      • Trump made this pronouncement to curry favor with the evangelicals not for any other reason. Does anyone know which church he attended this Sunday.

        • I disagree. I think he did it because he genuinely believes that being american means people have the right to pray without the govt deciding when its permitted and when its not. His beliefs may stem from his evngeleical support but its deeper.

          And thats why he doesn”t have to go to church. Its not a religious belief so your argument is silly

          • Nah, he did it, because his supporters (like you) are anti-science and can’t be rationalized with. If he says keep them shut, they will be upset with him and blame him for the bad economy as in any case you all believe the virus is a democratic hoax. So he says these crazy things and the fools who support him all soak it up and start praising him for it. He figures, either science is right and he will lose the election in any case or there is a possibility that just maybe when we reopen things there will not be a major resurgence and then he can crow about how this was all a democratic hoax to destroy his economy. So for him, there is nothing to lose by being reckless here.

            It is a shame that our President has put his ego before the well-being of our country. I should say I am surprised by how many support him, but a reading of history shows how easy it is for people to support leaders in sufficient numbers on foolish and reckless pretenses.

            • Hey Phineas- Yoni- educated rodef and your ten other obnoxious rude screen names Listen up you spammer your comments are all a bunch of hot air and nonsense. Full of lies. And the more your repeat and babble the same nonsense after I answered you already, the greater the fool and coward you are. Lets debunk all your malarky

              “Nah, he did it, because his supporters (like you) are anti-science and can’t be rationalized with.”

              We are very pro science when you can see it . Like what we see form covid -19 (Not climate change buba mases based pn theories). Now science says that if the curve is down one can return to normal with limitations. Science follows Israel’s model. They are very smart and advanced. We are now like Israel with numbers so down. Israel reopened shuls too In the frum community its near zero for a month already. Plus 75% of us got it. That’s sound science.

              you all believe the virus is a democratic hoax.
              Woing I believe the viurs was byad hahsem. Not a hoax or anyones fault. The democrats failed to seethe severity of it too. No one really took initial closures seriously. Noone is to blame. Now certain deaths could have been avoided in hospitals if not for lazy fake heros like nurses or if not for coumo forcing nursing homes. But overall it was byad hsahem.

              “He figures, either science is right and he will lose the election in any case or there is a possibility that just maybe when we reopen things there will not be a major resurgence and then he can crow about how this was all a democratic hoax to destroy his economy.”

              I missed that stupidty and it made zero sense. If he reopens and 100′ of thousnads die he will lose big time. you think he doesn’t care about that? Baloney

              It is a shame that our President has put his ego before the well-being of our country.
              No ego just basic common sense and balancing science of covid with , mental health and with the factor that people are dying to a lack of essential services whether medical care nd surgeries or other needs not being meet. ts a death numbers game balancing it on a macro level. For exmaple, I bet more deaths occur when kids are not structured than form covid in school. Math is not your specialty so i won’t bore you.

              You are anti trump vent is just hot air

            • Since science is your ultiamte go to, read up about children and covid 19. You’d be yelling to open schools. Your argument is we can’t live with emotions. we need to live with science. You can’t listen to a rav or Trump. its science.

              now here is the science that its safe. Emily Oster, economics professor at Brown University, author of several books and creator of the website COVID-Explained,

              Big talker and loud mouth I challenge you to show me the science that its dangerous for children to attend school. Come on loud mouth. Of course when its convienenat you go with emotions too.
              It sounds scary to allow kids who are roaming the garbage and not social distancing anyhow to return to school. its emotional.

              You are the same lying hypocrite yoni and your other ten screen names. I know your style already and i know your are yonasonw . *Funny how you went from being a law expert to a science expert

            • Ooo… poor Archy… His feeling are hurt. He is pro-science when you can see it like with COVID-19… Guess what you can’t see COVID-19 with your naked eye. You can figure it out from seeing people get sick and using modern diagnostic testing to show that it is COVID-19. But climate change you think you can’t see? Well we have extensive observational data, models for how CO2 works and historical CO2 levels, so I really don’t get your point. Or I do get your point, and it is that you are ignorant and like to yell a lot about ridiculous things.

              Even as to being pro-science when it comes to medicine that is a lie. You said you went to shul and shook hands on 3/15/2020. That was sheer anti-science stupidity.

              But go on a diatribe to deflect from the failure of this President to put knowledge before his ego. Like you, intellectual thought is apparently not a key part of how you live your life.

              Just pathetic your response and a sad indication of our community if many others believe the same.

    6. During Purim everyone was laughing off the NOT shaking hands or social distancing and wearing a mask was unheard of. Now this crisis is almost over with a loss of hundreds of Yidden , thousands of Yesoymim,almunes left behind , do we really chas veshulem need to rush back to shuls and chas veshulem watch a re surge in covid patients? i rater stay in my backyard a few more weeks and be on the safe side , let not be Tzoyek al huUver

    7. Shuls ARE essential but they are also dangerous. Whats the argument here?
      We care about lives more than our government so we choose to err on the side of caution.

      • Late on or on time doesn’t make it less or more essential. Like R frankel siad come to shul and talk but come to shul Yidden belong in shul. Of course don’t talk

    8. The same church Obama attended.
      What’s wrong with evangelicals? They’re great family people, support Israel and care about our country.
      Here you see Yidds who are neither.
      That’s why so much Jew hatred.
      Too many Yidds in the Dem camp with Golden Calves in their shirt pockets.

    9. This topic has nothing to do with Trump.
      Yet the criminally demented haters hijack it . That’s how sick they are. Shows desperation 4 months before the election. It’s going to get more frenzied. They’re going to scratch their faces bloody and their vile language will ratchet up on the fake news networks. About October time, they’ll go totally insane. Just watch.

      • My goodness you sound so frenzied and mad… Of course networks like Fox News, Breitbart, and whatever other fake news networks you were referring to will ratchet up their vile lies as we get closer to Oct. It is a sad state of affairs, but you really need to calm down. Hannity, Ingraham, and co will spread vile lies regardless of whether you get worked up or not. Best to figure out a good way to combat their destructive rhetoric that is bringing down international cooperation and drawing us nearer to WW3.

        • Yup and CNN and NPR will rachet up their lies tellig stroies about small pockets of the economy who had 40 deaths reopened and it went up to 50 deaths for a few days. That means all reopening is bad and that this small data set of 40 to 50 (25% seems like alot) is so credible.

          Same fake news and lies

          • If it is true that reopening made it go from 40 to 50 deaths, then that is not a lie. As to concluding that you should or should not open in that case, that is a value question, not a lie. Get your terms right. Accusing someone who says something truthful as a liar is just reflective of your own personal hatred for honesty.

    10. we can pitch big open tents in shul parking lots or any big space and have just a specific number of people in the tents at one time spread out from eachother . After that another shift can come in to daven and then another shift up until sof zman tefillah . … The main point is DON’T ANYONE TALK DURIflyhighNG DAVENING !!!!!!!!!!! ( except for the words of davening itself ) …… As soon as Ha-shem sees that there’s NO TALKING during and inside these tent minyanim , HE will STOP and END this Magayfah . ……. This will take MANY weeks of us davening properly , to prove to Ha-shem that we’ve repented completely , but at least there is an end in sight somewhere and the sooner we start this repentence process , the better off we will all be

    11. I was brought up in a frum community and I never left my upbringing.
      I am high risk. I am glad that Shuls are open but I am not yet ready to be in an indoor Shul. When the numbers stay down I will be happier.
      Even before this pandemic I was disturbed by the pattern of people that were really sick and likely contagious coming to shul.

    12. This past Shabbos, I davened in a backyard minyan with mostly social distancing. At the end of davening a person who was 3 feet away from me (I was maskim since we both wore masks and I tested with high antibodies) started saying kadish and pulled his mask off since it was inconvenient for him.

    13. Re-read your own comments and listen to what you have written.

      Perhaps you’ll see that there is a reason to connect to Hashem through a new path: re-building the holy temple.

      Why else would we suddenly now find it ao difficult to daaven as we have done for generations?


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