WITH EVEN MORE UPDATES: The Heter for Zoom at the Seder is Incorrect and Should be Retracted


    by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com

    UPDATES: Rav Shlomo Amar stated in a letter that tehre is absolutely no basis to this heter and that it is wrong.  It has been communicated to Rabbi Hoffman that 3 of the Rabbonim who signed  have retracted the ruling (Rav Moshe Suissa, Rav Aharon Cohen, and Rav Yonatan Sror).  The ruling was, apparently, issued only in one case of a Pikuach nefesh situation with some of the details being different.

    Recently, a group entitled “Igud Chachmei HaMaarev B’Eretz Yisroel” issued a ruling (publicized on Arutz Sheva) in regard to Zoom, the social media site, and discussed whether it can be used to conduct a Pesach seder on Yom Tov itself.  Their idea was to connect the elderly with younger family members conducting a Seder. The Rabbis identified three possible problems (using an electronic device on Shabbos or Yom Tov, uvdah d’chol, and a concern that it will be used on other holidays).  This group of Rabbis tried ruling leniently to allow it.

    With due respect, while the heart of these Rabbis is in the right place in showing concern for the elderly, there is no question that this ruling is erroneous for a number of reasons. We will address for now, only the three issues that were brought up in their letter.

    1] The additional use of cameras does increase the uptick of the wattage used by the camera.  True, with most cameras the wattage used is very little – but a watt is still causing the extra use of electricity and it is considered a davar hamiskaven and a psik raisha denaicha lay.  This is also true of the microphone.  It is, therefore, forbidden. [Many Poskim also hold that there is a problem of Kosev – writing when dealing with video cameras, so even according to those opinions that allow the use of electricity in limited circumstances it is still problematic].

    2] The prohibition of Uvdah d’chol is not permitted for a Dvar Mitzvah when there is a srach melacha involved.  This is the clear ruling of the Pri Magadim in his Aishel Avrohom 306:16. Although one could possibly argue that this Pri Magadim is only for  Ashkenazim (although we do not find any Sefardic authority that argues), there is a clear proof from the Gemorah in Shabbos 143b proving the Pri Magadim.  The Gemorah there states :uBilvad shelo yisfog” – yisfog is an example of uvdah dechol and it is not permitted for the tzorech Mitzvah of saving the three meals.

    3] There are numerous other halachic issues involved here, but there is no question that allowing use of Zoom and social media – would open up the floodgates of abuse.

    When purchasing a mantel for a sefer Torah it is important to adjust the size of the mantel to fit the Torah.  We do not cut the Torah itself so that it will fit in the mantel.  It is clear as day that numerous Poskim will come out with rulings forbidding such a breach in Torah observance. ADDED LATER:  Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the Rav of Tzfas, ruled that the ruling is erroneous.  Yisroel Reisman shlita likewise stated to this author that although they may mean well – this heter does not pass the test of halachic validity.  Normative Poskim do not agree with such a heter.  Rav Gershon Bess concurred and stated, “during a  time like this where we need much rachamei shamayim – this is the wrong kind of demonstration of ahavas Yisroel.”  Rav Hershel Ausch, Av Bais Din Valkan, also told this author that this is “chillul Yom Tov.” Another major Posaik in Brooklyn told this author that Rav Yasha Ber Soloveitchik held that the microphone was an issur deoraisah – this is certainly worse. This Psak is a chillul hashem.”  I am also told that Rav Hershel Schacter will soon publish a responsum forbidding it.  Rav Yisroel Meir Lau also issued a psak saying that it is forbidden, however, this author has not yet seen that ruling.

    Also, here the electricity is used with meleches machsheves – and both parties are being mechaven – doing it purposefully.  All the heterim of camera use is only when it is aino miskaven.  Many Poskim are of the opinion that this is a deoraisah.  Some Poskim hold that it is tikun maneh others hold that it is makeh b’patish.  Rav Elyashiv held that a video  camera is Kosev. The Chazon Ish held, of course, that Electricity is boneh.

    The Zoom solution recommended by these Rabbis is also not a recommended one.  Generally speaking, people confined to nursing homes have an earlier seder than the family does – because they cannot stay up that late.  This is a known fact to anyone that ever had anything to do with a nursing home.  Rather, efforts should be made so that the members of the nursing home will have their own Seder with a qualified person who is dedicated to their well-being.  Also, anyone that is familiar with Zoom and the elderly will quickly realize that it is not a feasible idea.

    With due respect, this ruling should be retracted.


    The author can be reached at [email protected]

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