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Mar 31 Update: Zoom Seders, Biur Chametz Update, New OU Series

03/31/2020 01:09:51 PM


Good Monday Morning, DAT Minyan Community!


Here are today's update:

  1. ZOOM SEDERS ARE NOT ALLOWED: Over the last two days, I have received numerous inquiries regarding the “Zoom Seders.” Evidently, this idea has blossomed over the Internet, and has taken on a life of its own. I will clarify the facts, but since many people are too impatient to read, let me be clear up front: ONE MAY NOT HAVE A ZOOM SEDER. Period. Underlined. Italicized.

Here are the facts: last week, the Times of Israel reported that fourteen Sephardic rabbis in Israel issued a limited-use permit for a Zoom Seder. The response was immediate. Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, and one of the most important Sephardi Poskim, stated the rabbis were “mistaken.” The Chief Rabbinate, as well as Tzohar, also rejected their blanket ruling. No other recognized Posek – either Sephardic or Ashkenazic – has subsequently agreed to the ruling.


Let’s play devil’s advocate; let’s say the 14 rabbis were not mistaken:

  • It is only applicable if you are Sephardic (if you read the actual Teshuva, that is a key piece of the ruling).
  • If you ARE Sephardic, the ruling only applies where: there are elderly family members who are alone; the only way teenagers will come to the Seder is if they are able to see their grandparents (hence, the video with the grandparents is the only way the teens will fulfill the Mitzvah of Matza and Hagadah); without this connectivity, the older people in question will not have the incentive to continue living. THOSE were the conditions of the Teshuva.

Consequently, as the vast majority of us are not Sephardic, this ruling is not applicable. Period. And for those who ARE Sephardic, this ruling was refuted by leading Sephardic Poskim.


So, what do OUR Poskim say? Here is the Halachic ruling from Rav Herschel Shechter, שליט"א. You can read it for yourself (it is in both Hebrew and English), but the salient points are as follows:

  • If an individual must medically remain in isolation over Yom Tov, and where physicians who know this patient have determined there is a possibility that this person, being alone over the course of Yom Tov, could possibly attempt suicide if the individual was not able to communicate or speak with family members (hence, Pikuach Nefesh), then the family members must reach out to this person over Yom Tov to speak on the phone or use the internet (not video; see below) by leaving a connection open from before Yom Tov. Rabbi Soloveitchik felt that even if someone would lose his or her mind (literally, not figuratively), but not be in danger of suicide, that too is considered a case of Pikuach Nefesh.
  • If a person is physically ill and alone, and physicians have determined there is a possibility of the condition deteriorating further to a point of being life threatening, then the family must remain in contact using electronic devices (not video; see below) with that person over the course of Yom Tov in order to check on the person's well-being.
  • However, if someone is not as ill as described above, but must be confined and alone, then they may not use any electronic devices in order to connect to family members on Shabbos and Yom Tov. It is sad to be alone; it is painful to be alone – but it is not a case of Pikuach Nefesh, a life-threatening situation, and there is no place at all to allow the violation of Shabbos and Yom Tov.
  • While there may be room to allow a person to leave a phone on before Yom Tov and conduct a Pesach Seder from their home so that others can follow along (like for Baalei Teshuvah who may not know how to run a Seder) "under great and pressing circumstances," it is NEVER ALLOWED to leave a computer screen on and to have people watch and connect over the internet, as that creates a greater concern of violating Shabbos and Yom Tov, since it creates images and pictures when the people move.
  • Note that Rav Shechter specifically disallows Zoom in ALL cases.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Consider doing a pre-Pesach Zoom call with family. Decide as a family which parts of Magid and Nirtzah you want to do as a family. Have the kids to Mah Nishtana, so the grandparents can get some “Yiddishe Nachas”! Maybe you have family traditions regarding certain tunes for Avadim HaYinu, V’Hee She’Amda, Dayeinu, etc. You can sing all the songs from Nirtzah. If your kids are older, and have learned Divrei Torah on the Haggadah, let them shine by sharing them with the family. There are things we can do to capture elements of what makes this holiday so special, while still maintaining the sanctity of the Yom Tov itself.

  1. BIUR CHAMETZ: Last week, I gave information regarding burning Chametz next Wednesday. I offered, for those who cannot burn their Chametz, how to bring it my home for burning. That offer is hereby rescinded. The City, while allowing small “open burns,” does not a lot of smoke, and if I allow people to come to my house, it will be going on all morning. Plan to do the following:
  • Do not burn bags of Chametz; limit the Biur to the 10 Chametz items you put out for Bedikat Chametz the night before (say, Cheerios). All other Chometz should be thrown in the garbage bin outside.
  • Make sure the burning is fast; wrap the Cheerios et al in a tissue, or lunch bag, and burn it.
  • Do not use last year’s Lulav as fuel, as it creates a lot of smoke.
    1. Tomorrow: The last of our Pesach series, “Thoughts to share at the Seder/General Q&A” will take place at 7:45 pm. Log in at
    2. Thursday: Our “Biographies of Tanaim and Amoraim” series continues at 4:45 pm. We will discuss the “Five Rabbis of the Seder.” Access the class at:
  1. NEW OU SERIES: Over this next week, the OU is presenting four programs to support community members (men/women) navigating this unfolding crisis.
    1. Tuesday March 31, 2020: 8 pm EDT - Steering Your Family Ship (Families): Manage anxiety and stress; Get the social support you need; Boost your mood and maintain a positive outlook
      1. PRESENTER: Aliza Septimus, PhD
    2. Wednesday April 1, 2020: 8 pm EDT - Navigating Loneliness, Anxiety and a Very Different Sort of Pesach (Singles)
      1. PRESENTER: Rachel Levine, PhD
    3. Thursday April 2, 2020 8 pm EDT - Facing Challenges Without A Partner: Tapping into Our Inner Strengths (Widow-Widowers)
      1. PRESENTER: Chana Gelb, PhD
    4. Sunday April 5, 2020 8 pm EDT - Individuals Alone With Kids - Alone Without Kids - Coping with Unique Family Situations (Divorced Families)
      1. PRESENTER: Malka Ismach, PhD
  1. DAILY VIRTUAL (NON)MINYAN: Join us at our regularly scheduled times for Shacharit and Mincha/Maariv by logging in at: or calling in at either 253-215-8782 or 301 -715-8592, using Meeting ID: 637 344 5618. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT ON THE VIDEO IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SEEN!


Have an awesome day!

Rabbi Joseph Friedman



Sun, November 29 2020 13 Kislev 5781