Originally published on April 29, 2020
Rav Moshe Shternbuch, shlita, the foremost posek in Eretz Yisroel, wrote a response to the question “If one should report to the authorities one who is not observing the Coronavirus regulations, in order that the government should punish him according to their rules and regulations.” The question was posed “based on experience that proves that many have fallen ill because of their violation of the regulations.”
Rav Shternbuch was asked to decide if one is allowed or perhaps even obligated to report infractions to the authorities. Rav Shternbuch began his response with a general overview of the pertinent laws. “The determination of the permissibility of reporting a fellow Jew to the authorities who will mete out a monetary fine is a decision of extreme seriousness, of the absolutely most serious decisions, as it is written in the Shulchan Aruch that a moser (one who reports another Jew to the authorities) loses his share in Olam Haba as soon as he even says that he will report him. Even if it will only be a minor monetary fine, he brings death upon himself….”
“…And all the more so if he reports him to the police so that they should fine him, because this is also considered arkaus (taking a fellow Jew to secular court) which is a terrible sin, of the most severe, going against the Torah, as the Chazon Ish wrote ‘and there is no difference between going to non-Jews and going to Jews who are ruling according to made-up laws, which is even more despicable, because they exchanged the laws of the Torah for transient laws. The fact that the people of the city agree to it, is of no im – port at all….’” “According to the din, the moser is obligated to pay for the loss of money that he caused and he is liable for nidui and should not be counted for a minyan.
The holy Chofetz Chaim has already written in the name of the mekubalim that someone who goes to arkaus is punished with the most severe punishment that he is megulgal as a dog, Hashem yerachem.” “On the other hand, regarding someone who endangers the public, it is an obligation to report him to the authorities, after he is warned. If it is possible, it is preferable that he should first be warned by a Bais Din or by the Rov [because sometimes if he is warned without that, he doesn’t believe that they would actually report him]. If after all this, he maintains his way and does not accept the warning and it is not possible to warn him anymore, he has the status of a rodeif who we would be required to give over to the authorities so that they should force him not to endanger the public. And all this may also only be done upon getting permission from a Rov Muvhak that it is a danger to the public. Otherwise every person would take the law into his own hand and would report his fellow Jew to the authorities based on his own judgement that the matter is a danger…”
Rav Shternbuch then proceeds to discuss the specifics of the question at hand. “Every specific incident has to be determined if in fact it falls into the category of “damaging the public.” Certainly, this is not determined by the decisions of the secular government authorities who have no concept of Torah law. Realize yourself, that they themselves change the regulations regularly, so how could it be possible that the laws of moser should be determined by the minute with their changing regulations…”
“It is true that these and similar regulations have been accepted throughout the world, and certainly we also observe the doctor’s orders on distancing in these matters, but we will not therefore decide that violation of every regulation constitutes “damaging the public.” Particularly when many of these regulations were put in place as additional precautionary measures…. Regarding one’s own self, everyone should be cautious and observe all the precautions. However, when it comes to causing a loss to others or to being a moser, every situation has to be evaluated, in order not to transgress a Torah transgression of the utmost severity.”
“Halacha l’ma’aseh, it would appear that one who is showing symptoms of the disease (and certainly if he is confirmed to have the disease) and goes out to circulate among people, it is a mitzvah to warn him immediately. If he doesn’t heed the warning or it is impossible to warn him, he gains the status of a rodeif and one is obligated to report him to the authorities in order to prevent damage to the public. However, regarding all the other regulations… no one can decide what constitutes “danger” according to Torah law. Rather, one needs to ask and receive permission from a Talmid Chochom and Rav Muvhak, and chalila to rely on this on hearsay or on basing one situation off another without receiving explicit permission from a Rav Muvhak.”
“And if it is recognized that there is a breach in the city, that many people are not observing the distancing regulations that have been explained by doctors to be helpful in minimizing the epidemic, it is incumbent upon the Rabbis of the city to strategize how to cause the community to better observe the regulations…And if necessary, the batei din can impose fines etc… after issuing warning according to Torah law. However, they should ‘neither do evil nor destroy’ by transgressing the terrible sin of mesira without weighing every situation independently.”
“In summation, the din of a moser is not dependent on the laws of the country’s regulations, rather on the determination of Chachmei haTorah in what are the parameters of a rodeif, and every situation has to be judged independently. With our great sins, there are many who imagine that the determination of who is a rodeif is dependent on the opinion of the secular authorities here r”l, and this in of itself is an unparalleled Chilul Hashem….” “And with our great sins, today, in the Yemos HaMoshiach, the inciters have increased r”l and it is a mitzvah to publicize that we observe the distancing regulations in matters of health. However, as it relates to leniencies in the prohibition against mesira or Hashem’s mitzvos, we do not reckon with them at all, only with the Gedolim of Hora’ah, and it is by their word that we will proceed, as that is the will of the Creator, may His name be blessed.”
“Above all, it is appropriate to remember, that although we are commanded to be concerned with the warnings of the doctors, it is forbidden to forget for a moment that the primary yeshua is dependent upon the Creator, may His name be blessed, and only through bitachon and daily pleas to Him, will He shield and save His children from distress.” Rav Shternbuch concludes his response with a prayer for Hashem’s mercy, anxiously awaiting great Rachmei Shamayim.
Source: Lehovin magazine, Parshas Acharei Mos-Kedoshim / 5 Iyar 5780 / April 29, 2020