We announced earlier today, upon the advice and instruction of our medical committee, that we will stop all communal prayer and programming at Shaarei Shomayim. We close this special physical building to public gathering with great sadness.  However, Shaarei Shomayim is not closed. Shaarei Shomayim is more than a building. Shaarei Shomayim is a community, which allows us to do things together that we cannot do alone. Our identity as a community is now more important than ever. A s we face so much anxiety, we can and must help one another. It is now that we call upon our faith in Hashem to give us the strength to be our best selves. It is now that our actions best educate our children about what truly matters. 

In doing all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, we fulfill the mitzvah of pikuah nefesh. By chance, I taught this morning the famous section of Talmud Ketubot 19a, which teaches that nothing stands before saving a life. 

The following video is based on a message that I shared in shul, as Shabbat ended this past week. 

SHAAREI SHOMAYIM COVID-19 MESSAGE

We will continue to pray. In many respects, our prayer now b'eit tzara (at a time of trouble) is more important and of greater obligation. Please continue to pray. Please join us for our daily "zoom" tehillim and prayer gathering at 7:45 PM, every evening.
Meeting ID: 856 859 6785
+1 647 558 0588 Canada
In these past few days, I have worked with colleagues and health experts to bring together local community leaders in issuing a strong statement asking all corners of our community to abide by the instructions of Toronto health authorities. This morning, the statement was issued and disseminated. It states: 

Medical experts who are dealing with COVID - 19 on the front lines are urging us all to remain at home with our families immediately. Alone. This includes but is not limited to the closure of shuls and schools. 

The letter suggests that some schools may stay open. Let me clearly state my view that all public gatherings in synagogues, schools and all other places must stop until the pandemic has passed. This requires the physical closing of schools and shuls.  

Halachic Guidance

* We should each daven alone in our own homes. This is based on explicit medical and Halachic guidance. 

*  Anyone who is an Avel saying Kaddish or who is observing a Yahrtzeit should not seek a minyan.  In observance of the yahrtzeit, light a candle, recite a Kel Maleh Rachamim, say Tehillim and learn Mishnayos. Rabbi Shore and I are available to learn over the phone with anyone commemorating a yahrzeit.

*   We should all add Avinu Malkeinu at both Shachris and Mincha from now until further notice.

*  As social distancing continues, we should plan to have our Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Seder meals alone with our families. We should not be inviting guests.

Guidelines for seeking medical care for people with respiratory symptoms:

If you think you have 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, use this self-assessment to help determine if you need to seek further care.  Click here for general information from the city of Toronto. 

*  People without any symptoms who have been exposed to a COVID-19 patient should not at this time seek medical attention or try and get tested. They should self quarantine.
*  Call your doctor if you start to have symptoms (increased congestion, coughing or fevers).
*  Seek emergency medical treatment if you have difficulty breathing, but please do not go to the emergency room if you do not need emergency care.
*  Call ahead if possible and advise health care workers of possible exposure to COVID-19.
*  Ask for a facemask as you enter the facility. These steps will help the healthcare provider's office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed.
*  If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.
* Any member of our community who has tested positive must immediately inform family and friends (or any acquaintances if applicable) who may have been exposed to him or her. This includes informing me and / or your child's head of school. 

Please contact me if you have questions or concerns: rabbistrauchler@shomayim.org 

We pray that the need for these measures will be short-lived. May Hashem bless us with health and wisdom, as we do all we can for our families and for one another. 

Rabbi Chaim Strauchler  
rabbi chaim strauchler | shaarei shomayim congregation | 416-789-3213
r abbistrauchler@shomayim.org | w ww.shomayim.org
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