(NEW YORK POST) – A top Israeli rabbi has asked people to kiss one Jewish custom goodbye during the coronavirus outbreak.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau said Israelis should avoid touching and kissing mezuzahs, the small casings containing parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, the Times of Israel reported.
Many Jews touch the mezuzahs, which are affixed to door frames, when they enter and leave a room – then kiss their fingers – to fulfill a biblical commandment.
During a time when “we are witnesses to the spread of a serious disease, there is no doubt that one should not kiss or touch the mezuzah at all,” Lau wrote in a statement.
“It is enough for a person to think about it during his entering and exiting,” he added.
He noted that the custom previously involved only touching mezuzahs, without kissing the fingers afterward.
In Israel, 21 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and about 70,000 remain quarantined in their homes, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who is ultra-Orthodox, said this week that gatherings of more than 5,000 were to be banned and urged people not to shake hands.
But he added that the Western Wall, which has hosted mass prayers against the coronavirus, would stay open in the Old City of Jerusalem.