“Should We Daven For A Covid-19 Patient Who Didn’t Adhere To Regulations?” HaRav Zilberstein Responds

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Hagaon HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, the Rav of the Ramat Elchanan neighborhood of Bnei Brak, and the son-in-law of HaRav Elyashiv, z’tl, paskened that if someone defiantly chooses not to wear a mask, in some cases he’s considered as if he’s knowingly harming himself and there’s no need to daven for his refuah.

Kikar H’Shabbos reported that someone approached Rav Zilberstein, one of the greatest poskim of the generation with specific expertise in medical issues, saying: “In a certain shul, there’s a tzaddik and talmid chacham who says Tehillim for cholim and many people give him names to daven for.”

“One shul member who has health issues comes to shul without a mask. Other mispallelim, including the talmid chacham, asked him to wear one but he absolutely refused. The talmid chacham said to him: ‘You’re destroying yourself with your own hands. Don’t come to me asking to daven for you.'”

“Sure enough, the man contracted the virus and when he was hospitalized in serious condition, his family members asked the talmid chacham to daven for him. The talmid chacham responded that he doesn’t want to daven for him ‘because we warned him that he’s knowingly committing suicide and that he shouldn’t come to me if he gets sick.'”

The man then asked Rav Zilberstein his shaila: “Am I obligated to daven for someone who goes to shul without a mask?”

Rav Zilberstein responded: “If the patient was already unhealthy even before he contracted the coronavirus and maybe he wasn’t even completely in his right mind, we have a chiyuv to daven for him despite the fact that he didn’t wear a mask.”

“There’s a lot of confusion and there are people that rationalize that there’s no need to wear a mask. The Minchas Elazar said that if a person puts himself at risk in order to save his possessions and he’s saved through a neis, he doesn’t bentch Hagomel.”

“There was an incident of a Jew who owned precious stones and he walked in the street holding his package of precious stones. An armed thief accosted him and tried to steal his package. Although the Jew was aware that the thief was armed, he refused to cede the package and instead fled the scene. The thief shot at him but didn’t succeed in hitting him.”

“The Jew approached us and we paskened that he’s a pere adam [wild man] who put himself at risk. According to the din, he was obligated to give over his possessions and not risk his life and therefore he doesn’t bentch Hagomel. Hagaon Rav Chaim Palagi wrote that a person who drank poison and put himself at risk but the doctors managed to save his life, doesn’t bentch Hagomel because he brought the tzara on himself with his own hands. But if he drank it due to great distress because he was starving then he does bentch Hagomel.”

In conclusion, Rav Zilberstein paskened: “We don’t need to daven for a person who knowlingly harms himself for no reason. If the man is saved, he doesn’t bentch Hagomel. But if prior to his extremist actions he was already in a difficult situation or he was ill, then we daven for him. If he’s saved, the man has to bentch Hagomel.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)




47 COMMENTS

  1. I would point out that Reb Osher Weiss in Minchas Osher on inyoni corona simin chaf was asked this exact shaila and strongly felt that the chola should continued to be davened for.

  2. According to Dr. Zelensky it is not medically proven that wearing a mask does anything. Hence, the halacha would be to daven for everyone regardless of whether he wore a mask or not.

  3. ,במחילת כבוד הרבנים

    There are plenty of other people who will daven for them, without caring whether or not they were bowing at the altar of their government to wear a mask or not.

    We all know that Chinese Wuhan virus by itself rarely kills, it’s usually something else that does it, either a pre-existing condition an a condition caused by treatment.

    Pass their names along. You don’t have to say what the issue is. Just that they need to tfilos.

  4. I respectfully disagree. While I believe we must wear masks. avoid groups, social distance, daven beYechidus if we are high risk or if a safe minyan is not available. I also believe that those who refuse to wear a mask are just misled by the many “experts” who promote this behavior. Should we not daven for a child who gets measles because his parents are nonvaxxers? Do we not daven for a sick person who avoided doing tests that were supposed to uncover illnesses that go undetected till a late stage, Do we not daven for an overweight cardiac patient who didnt know his blood pressure was high? I think emotions are high and we have to forgive each other for our mistakes. Especially those that harm us.

  5. What about a smoker who gets cancer? Should we daven for him?
    What about a person who eats junk food, with lots of sugar, and gets diabetes and now has a lot of health
    issues as a result? Should we daven for him even though he harmed himself with his diet?
    What about someone who is overweight and thus prone to more diseases – and did not try to lose weight? Should we daven for him?
    What about someone who was in a car accident and got injured, but was not wearing a seat belt? Should we daven for him?

  6. The question was asked on false pretenses as if its a given that if you wear a mask it helps against the virus, this is false masks especially the surgical ones everyone is wear do absolutely nothing. even the fancy 3M masks dont work because the pores in the mask .04 microns large and the virus is .01 the person asking the shaila fooled the rabbi

  7. I do not understand the non-sense of this…
    If someone smokes and gets diagnosed with a lung disease R”L, do we not daven for him because he harmed himself?

  8. It would be wonderful if rabbanim would also check the facts before paskening these shailas
    The CDC released a document with updated facts;
    Of the participating patients in the corona infected group,
    3.6% never wore masks
    3.6% rarely wore masks
    7.2% sometimes wore masks
    14.4% often wore masks
    70.6% always wore masks

    We need to look at the science before judging people for their decisions

  9. FYI There is literally no scientific evidence that common surgical masks do anything for the wearer since they are unsealed and only protect from the spread of saliva droplets FROM the user which can theoretically infect others if the saliva contains the virus (and even that has not been conclusively proven to do anything to stop the spread of a microscopic virus)

  10. he also said last week that we are all obligated to daven for Trump, even though he was oppposed to going fanatic about the masks and is more open minded about not wearing it. that sounds like a complete contradiction to this psak here. this whole report sounds made up actually because this Rav is not a Dummy

  11. I hope Hashem is more tolerant of us. In spite of all our transgressions we still beseech Him for His mercy! Why are we less tolerant of others? I don’t get it!

  12. This is a detailed psak and a psak by nature must be read with great care to understand if there are any qualifications.
    I can see many qualifications: for instance:
    • “IF someone defies regs
    DEFIANTLY…”
    (For instance, some cannot stand the continued use of masks more than a few minutes or more.)

    • “…we don’t daven for someone who KNOWINGLY harms himself…”
    What if someone has read the many differing opinions (most recently the GBD) and truly believes that he will not harm nor be harmed by not wearing masks?
    (The GBD mentions nothing about masks.)
    Etc.

  13. Masks are incredibly harmful because they lower oxygen levels in the blood (leading to hypoxia) while raising carbon dioxide levels (leading to hypercapnia), and force you to inhale and exhale more forcefully, stressing the cardio-pulmonary system. This is especially dangerous for the elderly.

    Even doctors who wear surgical masks do so to prevent them from drooling into a patient’s wound, not to protect them from pathogens, and hospitals are required to increase oxygens levels to compensate for the loss of oxygen in the mask. There’s an entire body of OSHA regulations that requires that workers be tested to see if they’re fit to wear a mask and for how long—it’s dangerous stuff and can cause dizziness, fainting, and headaches.

  14. Please look up the Great Barrington Declaration. It was written 7 days ago, authored by 3 top epidemiologists from Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. Co-signed by 35 other scientists or medical professionals including 6 Israelis.
    In 7 days, over 31,000 medical practitioners (22K+) and medical & public health scientists (8k+) signed along with 386,000+ concerned citizens have signed it.
    It explains that the lockdowns are counterproductive and cause worse ramifications than opening up.
    It declares that the proper approach now is a FOCUSED PROTECTION to open up everything and protect those who are of risk.
    Was Rav Zilberstein aware of this declaration? It was just translated to Hebrew.
    Please look it up and then, follow the science!

  15. Please look up the Great Barrington Declaration. It was written 7 days ago, authored by 3 top epidemiologists from Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. Co-signed by 35 other scientists or medical professionals including 6 Israelis.
    In 7 days, over 31,000 medical practitioners (22K+) and medical & public health scientists (8k+) signed along with 386,000+ concerned citizens have signed it.
    Was Rav Zilberstein aware of this declaration? It was just translated to Hebrew.
    Please look it up and then, follow the science!

  16. Based on this psak, is the same also that one does not need to daven for someone that got sick due to ALL self inflicted causes, like lung cancer from smoking, or, heart disease and diabetes caused by obesity?! Or, injuries caused by high risk activities like mountain climbing, jet ski, driving speeding?! REALLY?!

  17. Wow. The entire world has been mesmerized into believing that masks do something, when there have been no studies at all that confirmed that masks have any efficacy with COVID. Suddenly the medina’s decision is Kadosh Hakedoshim?

  18. latest data shows it is not an epidemic requiring lockdowns and masks at all times:

    360 deaths under the age of 70

    only 1,000 seriously or moderately sick

    only 2% of the so-called infected are actually sick

  19. “Sure enough, the man contracted the virus and when he was hospitalized in serious condition, his family members asked the talmid chacham to daven for him. The talmid chacham responded that he doesn’t want to daven for him ‘because we warned him that he’s knowingly committing suicide and that he shouldn’t come to me if he gets sick.’”

    Is that really how a “talmid chacham” behaves? One of the three trademarks of a real Jew is that that have compassion. If this is how the “talmid chacham” speaks, it makes me wonder…

  20. It as a blatant lie. I sent my son to ask Rav Zilberstein and his answer was “ER IZ TAKEH A SHOITEH! UBER FAR A SHOITE MUZ MEN OICH DAVENEN”!

  21. The entire premise of this is wrong. Even according to their proponents masks don’t protect the wearer, they protect other people from the wearer. So even leshitosom someone who refuses to wear one is endangering others but not himself, so if he gets sick it was not caused by his own behavior.

    And really there is no reason to believe them in the first place. They have no credibility. The evidence does not show that masks have any effect, good or bad. They are pure theater.

  22. It’s all fake news he never said it stop advertising disgusting news about Rabbonim

    There is no need even to explain why this is all stupidity in the level of your app in the gutter of gutters

  23. It is not up to us to pass judgment on others. We should just daven and be mispallel for all cholei in Am Yisroel. I happen to know a very respectable and refined person who cannot wear a mask due to getting panic attacks. I don’t know the details but I would certainly not pass judgment.
    That’s beside the fact that the CDC claims there’s no 100% proof that masks help against the virus. And there are communities that were very strict in mask wearing and still unfortunately contracted the virus. So its not for us to judge but to daven. And may kol cholei yisroel have a refuah shleima bkurov. Amein.

  24. You guys are missing the point. It doesn’t matter whether o rnot masks work – even if we knew for a fact that masks do work, of course we should never turn our back on our brother and not daven for his recovery. What kind of animal refuses to daven for his recovery, accepting even death for our fellow man instead? It’s crazy.

  25. It’s unfortunate that this was published, as I do generally respect Rav Zilbershtein – I believe this will and already has caused a bezayon of rabbanim

  26. I’m so used to these comment sections being full of people asserting that daas Torah has paskened and how dare anyone have the chutzpah to question gedolim. Apparently that only applies when someone else disagrees with a psak. Yenem is a shoiteh am haaretz maskil for having an opinion. On the other when I disagree, then with all due respect to the rav, he got wrong.

  27. I think you guys are missing the point. This is not just about a person taking his own risk. Thus, the question is – should we daven for someone who is most likely a murderer.

    Detailed explanation: The person who is not wearing mask exposes others to risk, each of the exposed – exposes someone else, and the chain continues with a new link, say, every 5 days. Even if one such person has low probability of dying, someone along the chain is. Currently, some states have R_t about 1.1, that is one person on average infects 1.1. R_t would be large in communities with lots of contact and low mask coverage. According to my computations , a person who is not careful and gets a virus himself, has 50 to 80% chance to kill at least on person in several months. So, the person is most likely the murderer.

  28. to Derachecha – Dr Zelensky is a das yochid and not in ID or pulmonary specialties

    to Resident mortal and y2r – the science might never provide 100% proof, masks work in a hospital settings around covid patients and when properly worn are able to stop the personnel from contrating the disease

    to eric55 – the current understanding is that the virus is not aerosolized, which means it does not travel by itself but only as a part of a much larger sized droplet which is stopped by the mask. Surgical masks are around 60% effective according to one study, and N95 are 95% effective, of course all studies are only models.

    to Freedom Fighter- I looked up the CDC paper and quote is completely out of context. There are many factors that were considered. Specifically, taking off masks to eat etc would negate all benefits. Not wearing them properly, not being pinched, or fitted for n95. etc. These half truths are worse than anything. Masks have been proven to work in hospitals where the medical staff does not commonly get infected. The masks may fail to work for general public b/c the people are not educated or do not care or both to use them properly. Another point about the study is that was conducted on a very small group and not repeated. From the statistical stand point it’s not a meaningful study until confirmed by independent research.

  29. I heard from a reliable source that the Rav on purpose did not give a straight answer to the question.
    Rabbi Zilberstein was trying to send out a strong message that we should all follow the advice from our medical doctors and our government. If a person made a mistake and got the wrong information and then he got sick, of course the Rav will daven for all sick people.

  30. Really? I don’t have to daven for the refuah of anyone who is overweight? smokes? doesn’t wear a seat belt?
    I am trying to think of everyone I have ever davened for, if it was a tefila levatala? or maybe poison is not like covid.

  31. To those questioning whether masks help. The many, many healthcare professionals who have been treating covid patients daily and have not contracted the virus will tell you wearing a mask helps limit transmission and spread. Foolproof? Of course not. Nothing is.

  32. If someone contracts syphilis and passes it on to his wife, doesn’t he deserve our heartfelt תפילות?

    Or someone with emphysema who drags is oxygen tank out behind the hospital so that he can smoke his pack a day, should we hope for his רפואה שלמה?

    I smell laziness and hypocrisy…

  33. The point here is, the Rav Shlita has an opinion and issued a psak. You want to daven and say tehillim, kul hakavod, no-one said it is assur.

  34. @rational – I for one wasn’t blasting R’ Zilberstein. I was blasting the person who asked a shailah on whether or not to daven that another yid should survive an illness – that he should stay alive

    @always_ask_questions wrote: “I think you guys are missing the point. This is not just about a person taking his own risk. Thus, the question is – should we daven for someone who is most likely a murderer.”

    Actually, the article states: “The talmid chacham responded that he doesn’t want to daven for him ‘because we warned him that he’s knowingly committing suicide and that he shouldn’t come to me if he gets sick.’” It was not a question of him spreading the illness to others. The question was whether to daven for him if he brought the harm to himself. any commenters, including myself, are protesting because only a cruel person would refuse to daven that a person should recover – as in, not die!

  35. In response to those saying masks don’t work:

    There is considerable evidence that masks do, in fact, reduce the transmission of viruses, including COVID, and thus can save lives if used widely. Here are several studies supporting this (two of which are based on analyzing all the available prior studies).

    “Efficacy of face mask in preventing respiratory virus transmission: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease (2020)
    —A total of 21 studies met our inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses suggest that mask use provided a significant protective effect (OR = 0.35 and 95% CI = 0.24–0.51)…This study adds additional evidence of the enhanced protective value of masks, we stress that the use masks serve as an adjunctive method regarding the COVID-19 outbreak…The effectiveness of masks has been proven in different settings, populations, and areas.

    “Community Use Of Face Masks And COVID-19: Evidence From A Natural Experiment Of State Mandates In The US,” Health Affairs (2020)
    —This study provides evidence from a natural experiment on the effects of state government mandates for face mask use in public issued by fifteen states plus Washington, D.C., between April 8 and May 15, 2020. The research design is an event study examining changes in the daily county-level COVID-19 growth rates between March 31 and May 22, 2020. Mandating face mask use in public is associated with a decline in the daily COVID-19 growth rate by 0.9, 1.1, 1.4, 1.7, and 2.0 percentage points in 1–5, 6–10, 11–15, 16–20, and 21 or more days after state face mask orders were signed, respectively. Estimates suggest that as a result of the implementation of these
    mandates, more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases were averted by May 22,
    2020.

    “The role of community-wide wearing of face mask for control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic due to SARS-CoV-2,” Journal of Infection (2020)
    —We assessed the effect of community-wide mask usage to control coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)… The COVID-19 incidence in HKSAR (129.0 per million population) was significantly lower (p<0.001) than that of Spain (2983.2), Italy (2250.8), Germany (1241.5), France (1151.6), U.S. (1102.8), U.K. (831.5), Singapore (259.8), and South Korea (200.5). The compliance of face mask usage by HKSAR general public was 96.6% (range: 95.7% to 97.2%). We observed 11 COVID-19 clusters in recreational ‘mask-off’ settings compared to only 3 in workplace ‘mask-on’ settings (p = 0.036 by Chi square test of goodness-of-fit)…Community-wide mask wearing may contribute to the control of COVID-19 by reducing the amount of emission of infected saliva and respiratory droplets from individuals with subclinical or mild COVID-19.

    "Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review," (Preprint).
    —Here, we synthesize the relevant literature to inform multiple areas: 1) transmission characteristics of COVID-19, 2) filtering characteristics and efficacy of masks, 3) estimated population impacts of widespread community mask use, and 4) sociological considerations for policies concerning mask-wearing…The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets in both laboratory and clinical contexts. Public mask wearing is most effective at stopping spread of the virus when compliance is high.

    I recommend people read these studies, and others on the efficacy of masks, before claiming that "masks don't work" based on something you heard online or in a Whatsapp group.