By Michele Chabin
Religion News Service
NEW YORK (RNS) Observant Jews are permitted to sidestep traditional Sabbath rules on electronics and listen to the radio as Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, according to guidelines distributed to hundreds of Orthodox rabbis.
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future, distributed special hurricane guidelines -- which he originally wrote while working in hurricane-prone Florida -- to the school's rabbinic alumni.
Observant Jews' Sabbath rules typically prohibit turning on and off electrical appliances and carrying items outdoors unless there is a ritual enclosure called an eruv.
The protocols instruct Jews to leave a TV or radio turned on in a side room, but not to change the channel. A radio's volume may be adjusted on Shabbat, as long as the radio isn't digital, Brander said.
If the storm is still raging, worshippers should stay home, the document says, noting that a missed Torah portion can be read the following Shabbat.
Jews should assume that the storm has destroyed their community's eruv, Brander said, "but carrying is permitted for life/limb threatening situations" or in cases where medical attention is required."
In anticipation of a blackout, Brander advised Jews to light long-lasting candles and flashlights prior to the start of the Sabbath. If the fire dies or the batteries lose power, it is permissible to ask a non-Jew to replace them.
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan advised his flock to stay home if Irene makes conditions too dangerous to attend Sunday Mass.
"Catholics take Sunday mass very seriously," he said, "but the church never asks us to risk our health or safety to get to church on the Lord's Day."
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