Is Social Distancing a Jewish Value?

As communities seek to lower the impact of COVID-19, many families are spending a lot of time at home with their kids. This practice, of staying at home to help reduce the spread of the virus, is known as social distancing.

But is there anything Jewish about this idea of social distancing? As it turns out, yes!

There are three HUGE ways that staying home right now helps fulfill a mitzvah or commandment.

1. Above all other mitzvot in Judaism, saving a life, pikuach nefesh, comes first. It’s this very mitzvah that is allowing synagogues to shut down and rabbis to tell their congregations to stay home rather than come in for Shabbat services or other programs.

2. The Mishnah, an ancient collection of rabbinic commentaries, directs us to “share in the distress of the community…for he who shares in the distress of the community will deserve to behold the community’s comforting.” [Ta’anit 11a] Rabbinic literature focuses heavily on community and working toward the greater good. In many instances we are told to consider the feelings of others and the big picture or the purpose of our endeavors.

3. An easier way to boil this down for small children would be to say that this is all about cooperation, or, shituf pe’ulah in Hebrew. If your children are having a hard time understanding what social distancing means or why to do it, borrow this analogy from mom and makeup artist, Courtney Hart. She tells her kids that staying home and forgoing playdates helps others the same way that cooperating by pulling over to let an ambulance of fire truck go by does.


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Visit PJ Library’s Guide for Families Stuck at Home