By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Unfortunately, there will be a very large number of families that will be sitting shiva right after Yom Tov.  A number of doctors and Rabbonim have raised concerns, however, about the picking up and borrowing of shiva chairs from well-meaning shuls and organizations.

Misaskim is an organization that does remarkable work. It is always there for Klal Yisroel – in numerous communities.  Their activities have saved countless lives.  But some doctors are questioning whether it is a good idea to offer shiva chairs to families in aveilus – because it creates two more interactions with homes that have had exposure to the COVID-19 virus.  People, as a general rule, do not listen to instructions effectively.

Dr. Stuart Ditchek, a faculty member of the NYU School of Medicine remarked, “In view of the very dangerous current pandemic, it is strongly advised that organizations not distribute furniture, sefarim and other items as the potential for cross infection is very strong. There are no safe ways to adequately disinfect all items as COVID droplets can survive on a wide variety of surfaces and items for up to three days. Even shoes are now known to be vectors of COVID droplet transmission.

Having the families of aveilim travel to pick up these items further exposes people and increases the risk of cross infection. While the chesed being offered by Misakim is incredibly kind, it creates unnecessary risks for this highly contagious disease to further spread inadvertently.”

Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, a noted Posek who lives in Chicago, remarked, “In Chicago, we are not giving out shiva chairs because of the concerns of the extra interactions between people who are at greater risk for being carriers, as well as the concern for the chairs not being disinfected properly.”

A well-known Brooklyn Posek also strongly discouraged the loaning out of shiva chairs and stated that the opinions of the concerned doctors should prevail.

Dr. Deborah Dienstag, a well-regarded community pediatric physician in the Five Towns further explains, “The major task we all have now is limiting further infections by self quarantine – Staying home.  Although clearly Misaskim means well for families in Aveilus, encouraging family members to leave home to pickup and then again to return Mourners’ chairs is not helpful in accomplishing our current task, of remaining at home and not spreading the virus.”

One of the issues that is still unclear is whether the chairs will be effectively disinfected on such a scale.

“Even in the most sophisticated facilities such as certain medical centers, COVID contagion on surfaces has posed a very significant challenge, continued Dr. Ditchek. “Relying on the cleaning of these items in this environment is just not safe for the community, the aveilim and the family members. Social distancing includes aveilus and all efforts should be made to protect families during this terrible time. We just do not yet know enough about the transmission to allow such activities , noble as they are. Even the CDC has revised the level of contagion recently to more than double of what was reported in China.”

Another issue is that these families may be asymptomatic carriers.

Dr. Dienstag further explains, “Many of the Aveilim themselves may be COVID-19 infected or carriers.  Special procedures would need to be initiated to disinfect chairs before and after use, another burden that Aveilim and their families may not be up to performing now.”

This author did reach out to Yanky Meyer from Misaskim who explained that each person picking up the chairs will be instructed to use proper PPE when bringing the chairs into the homes of the Availim. When the chairs are returned, they will be brought inside by trained staff members who will also use proper PPE.  He explained that the chairs now are all perfectly clean and they will all be properly disinfected upon their return.


Although there are doctors and Rabbis that claim that it can be effectively loaned out, this author recommends against it.  People can use sofa cushions and other items to sit on.  Since no visitors are coming, they can lay down on sofas and beds.   If some doctors are saying it is risky – we should follow what they say.

As reported by Vos Iz Neias