Baltimore, MD - Sept. 24, 2020: The following was sent this morning to members of Shomrei Emunah:

Halachic Guidance from Rabbi Marwick for Yom Kippur 5781

Mikvah for Men on Erev Yom Kippur: Many men have a personal custom to go to the mikvah before Yom Kippur.  Mens mikvaos tend to be crowded and difficult to sanitize.  Therefore, unless one can secure a private appointment, I do not think it advisable for men to go to the Mikvah his year.  Gedolei HaPoskim advise that, in these unusual circumstances, standing under a running shower – with the water flowing over your head and body for 3-4 minutes is an acceptable substitute. (This leniency applies only to men’s immersion because it is a custom, not a halachic requirement.)

Medical Concerns and Fasting: Those who, due to health reasons, may not be able to fast on Yom Kippur must consult both their doctor and rabbi as to how to proceed. One may not fast if it could create a medical danger to their life or if it compromises their ability to fight a dangerous medical condition. Even in such situations, there may be times when some level of fasting can be maintained (shiurim). The details of these laws are quite complex, in terms of how and when they should be applied. As such, it is very important to discuss these issues, ahead of time, with both a rabbi and a doctor.

Pills: Individuals taking medications must consult their doctor and rabbi as to how to proceed on Yom Kippur. It is extremely important that one not decide on their own to discontinue the use of critical medications, such as heart, blood pressure, diabetes, or psychiatric medications for the day. Anyone taking blood pressure medications must be especially conscious of hydration concerns. If you are unable to swallow them without water, there are halachically appropriate ways to take these medications, Please be in touch for guidance.

Fasting: It is forbidden to eat and drink on Yom Kippur. This prohibition limits us from even small amounts of food or drink. One is not permitted to wash out their mouth with water or mouthwash.

Washing: Washing is generally forbidden on Yom Kippur, unless it is necessary for basic cleanliness. The custom is to be quite strict regarding this prohibition. Ritual washing, such as when you wake up in the morning or emerge from the bathroom, is limited to the fingers only, not the usual washing of the entire hand. [Kohanim, before Birchas Kohanim, may wash the entire hands as usual.]

This year, because of the pandemic, Gedolei HaPoskim have advised that it is permitted and encouraged, on Yom Kippur, to wash one's hands with soap and water and to use sanitizers like Purell, consistent with CDC guidelines.

Anointing: This prohibition includes the application of any oils, sprays, or powders on Yom Kippur, including perfumes and deodorants. Anointing is even more limited than washing.  It may be done to address an actual ailment, but it is not permitted for the sake of cleanliness.

Shoes: It is forbidden to wear any leather footwear (shoes, sneakers, or slippers) on Yom Kippur. Please aware that many types of sneakers are made of leather, or have leather parts, and should not be worn on Yom Kippur.

Intimacy: On Yom Kippur, a husband and wife must observe all of the limitations and safeguards (harchakos) applied during the period of niddah.

Candle Lighting: If one lights candles at home and wishes to drive to shul after lighting, they must explicitly state before lighting that they do not wish to accept Yom Tov with the lighting. In this situation, they should not recite the shehechiyanu bracha when lighting, but should say it with the congregation at Kol Nidrei

Remember: Please do not come to shul if you have any symptoms of illness or if you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, and are supposed to be in quarantine.

Masks in Shul: Please continue to wear a mask over your mouth and nose throughout davening, and at all times that you are in the shul or a tent.  Masks are not always comfortable and easy to wear for long periods of time, but they are one of the most effective measures we can implement.   Masks with valves are not allowed.  If you need a “mask break” please go outside, to an isolated area.  Please do not lower or remove your mask while you are in the building or near other people.  If someone is not wearing their mask properly, please do not confront them yourself, instead inform a gabbai or a shul officer.

Davening Alone: While we have tried our best to implement “best practices” to keep our members safe in shul, there is still some level of risk, and if you are in any way uncomfortable davening in shul or with a minyan, please do not feel under pressure to do so. 

For those who will be davening at home, I have prepared a guide to davening alone. Please click here for the Guide.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at with any questions.

We are looking forward to a meaningful Yom Kippur together at Shomrei.

G’mar chasima tova and a happy and healthy year to all!