Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar published a notice Monday calling on the public to accept upon themselves a day of fasting and prayers in order to stop the swine flu pandemic that has reached Israel.
"We hereby call on all those who can fast to take it upon themselves to fast on Thursday... and to recite many prayers and slichot on this day," the rabbi wrote.
"And those who find it hard to fast should at least fast half a day, or take it upon themselves to refrain from speaking," he added.
Following the World Health Organization's announcement that over 1,000 people have been infected with the virus and that the disease has spread to 20 countries, the rabbi wrote: "Everybody is on high alert to prepare for this danger, with medical means and protection, according to the instruction of doctors and experts.
"And we will call the name of God our Lord, as our forefathers have done, and as it is written, 'Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses'."
Rabbi Amar noted that according to the Gemara in the Taanith tractate Rabbi Yehuda ordered the public to fast upon hearing of an epidemic among pigs, because a swine's' intestines are similar to human intestines.
"Therefore it is the duty of every person to look into his deeds, both things that are between us and God and those that are between one another, and we must turn to God with all our heart and become stronger through untiring Torah study," the chief rabbi concluded.