In Groundbreaking Amudim Video, Rav Dovid Cohen, Shlit’a Details Halachically Permissible Use of Technology on Yom Tov/Shabbos for Those in Mental Health Crisis and Recovery

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NEW YORK (Sandy Eller/VINnews) – For decades, the greatest of poskim have allowed diabetics to check their blood sugar levels on Shabbos and yom tov, because these matters involve issues of pikuach nefesh. The same is true for a myriad of other illnesses because of the concept of “v’chai bahem,” living by the Torah laws and not dying by them, and even when questions arise, one is permitted reach out to professionals on Shabbos. During this COVID-19 crisis, the situation is even more critical, not just for matters of endocrinology and cardiology, but even for issues of mental health.

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Acknowledging the current historic crisis and its tremendous effects on those struggling with mental health issues as well as those in recovery, Harav Dovid Cohen Shlit’a issued a p’sak halacha that allows certain individuals to use technology under particular guidelines in order to avail themselves of lifesaving mental health services.

Rabbi Cohen said that it is vital for those facing life threatening challenges to have continued access to those who provide them support, even on Shabbos and Yom Tov. With face to face contact prohibited at this juncture in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, the only way for those in crisis to get help is through digital means.

“It is permitted to use all these machineries, so to speak, Zoom and everything else, in order to stay in touch, only mita’am pikuach nefesh,” said Rabbi Cohen, adding that there is no heter to use Zoom as a platform to connect people for a Pesach seder.

Harav Dovid Cohen, Shlit’a, Permissible Technology on Shabbos & Pesach 2020: Mental Health Crisis and Those in Recovery from Amudim on Vimeo.

Quoting Rav Chaim Halevi Soloveitchik, Rav Cohen said that for people who meet the relevant criteria, using their phones to call a mental health professional or attending a meeting through a Zoom conference, even as a preventive measure, does not fall under the category of chilul Shabbos.

“As Rav Chaim Brisker used to say … I’m not maykil on Shabbos, I’m machmir on pikuach nefesh,” said Rabbi Cohen.

Rabbi Cohen went on to say that any use of technology should be done with a shinui. Rabbi Avraham Kahan, Rav of K’hal New City and a dayan at Beis Din Vaad Hadin Vhoraah, further clarified that concept, discussing using one’s non-dominant hand or his/her knuckle to dial or log in. He emphasized that the need for a shinui is only applicable to those situations falling under the preventive category; anyone who feels that he/she is facing an acute mental health crisis should not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or avail themselves of Amudim’s hotline.

More than 350 people have already taken advantage of a free anonymous support line set up by Amudim, staffed by a coalition of mental health professionals, seeking support while struggling with staggering losses, devastating illness and mandatory isolation as the deadly coronavirus pandemic rages on. Launched two weeks ago by Amudim in partnership with Child & Adult Psychological Services, Empower Health Center, Madraigos Midwest, Naaleh Cleveland, Nesivos, Relief, Shalom Task Force, The United Task Force, The Living Room, and numerous mental health practitioners in private practice, the support line currently has over 60 volunteers answering phones from 8 AM to 11 PM EST. Calls that come in after-hours or that cannot be answered by available volunteers are transferred to a live 24/7 call center to be returned as quickly as possible. Staff members are monitoring all calls to ensure that urgent matters are replied to without delay, even overnight.

The line is under the joint direction of Dr. David Pelcovitz, chairman of Amudim’s clinical advisory board, Dr. Shloime Zimmerman, co-chair of Amudim’s clinical advisory board, and Myriam Lankry, Amudim’s clinical director, and will be operational over Yom Tov and Shabbos, as per Rabbi Cohen’s psak halacha. Callers can reach out for help by dialing 888-7-AMUDIM, 888-726-8346 or 718-972-3000, with caller ID disabled on incoming calls to ensure complete confidentiality; and help is also available via email at [email protected].

Even as coronavirus is expected to peak in the New York area and word has begun to emerge of people who have survived life-threatening bouts with the pandemic, the mental health crisis spawned by COVID-19 continues to grow larger.

“All of us are having a difficult time coping with today’s realities, with lives tragically cut short and our entire society facing new challenges, but for those with mental health issues and the recovery community, the impact is magnified exponentially,” said Amudim’s CEO Zvi Gluck. “We want people to know that our support systems are in place and literally just a phone call away to help anyone, anywhere, with concerns large and small, even on Shabbos and Yom Tov.”


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8 Comments
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ruby
ruby
3 years ago

resiliency of the human being & the instinct to survive ; whats amazing is that despite normal living being redefined in so many ways from backyard chupas, to empty shivas, to kids & adults w access to dozens of death notices & pics of body bags life goes on UBER EATS & youtube are as busy as ever.
TRAUMA – maybe better said the lack of , our ability to really be moved is harder… ” almost nothing blows us away anymore … when hearing of a niftar … who else went… do u have a pic
this psak has always been the psak .. that “allows certain individuals to use technology under particular guidelines in order to avail themselves of lifesaving mental health services.” HATZOLOH ALWAYS took in manic episodes etc.. on shabbos and zoom is at most a derabonon- emese psak but not groundbreaking- gut yom tov

Worried
Worried
3 years ago

Thank you to Rav Cohen who has the strength to Paskin on a matter that most want to bury under the table.

The lack of connectivity for many will create huge mental issues And my concern is that those individuals who are mentally stable today, will not be after this ordeal. For Klal Yisroel we should all be told to use zoom (a ruling for the many rather than the few).

Happy
Happy
3 years ago

I love this, and will probably be able to use the new psaks for the rest of my life.

1. I am no allowed to go to shul, therefore I can daven when I want. I am not restricted to the time of davening in shul. Also I can daven where ever I want.

2. When I buy something new all I have to do is be koneh when I buy it, and then hefker it in front of 3 people. Which can be on a WhatsApp chat. I don’t even have to know if they actually saw me hefker the item.

3. Bedika chametz is now 10 Cheerios to be put out. And found, no feather or candle is allowed.

4. Biur chametz i eat 9 of the Cheerios and the 10th gets crushed into the toilet. I don’t have to even go out of my house.

5. My lulav I’m not sure what to do with. But I can burn it later by itself, or probably throw it away.

6. Now if I have a mental health issue, I can use my phone on shabbos and Yom tov. Amaizing because the current situation has probably cause many of us to have mental health issues.

These new psaks comming out is making Jewish life easy.

I wonder what will be next.

7 days
7 days
3 years ago

Daas is connection.
Hesech hadaas is disconnect.

BillyW
BillyW
3 years ago

Finally some Seichel! Until recently Halacha was never paskened in a vacuum. That an aged man locked in an apartment with no outside knowledge is “Spoken to by G-d” is a recent invention.
When the Rabbonim of the past paskened on electricity it was easy to be Machmir. What did they see electric in their house to use on Shabbos? An incandescent light? Fire-Assur, A washing machine? Assur anyway, A radio? Not proper for Shabbos, A toaster oven? Assur anyway.
It’s hard to imagine if a Posek today were Paskening on electricity with no prior knowledge and looked around and saw all the sensors, digital controls, alarms, central A/C, or an LED light that goes on when you open a door that they would have Paskened as stringently as was done back then.

Kalman
Kalman
3 years ago

This is a clickbait title and seems like Genevas Daas. The title suggest something radical and new, yet there is no chiddush here. Title should be changed. It’s misleading.

Jihad
Jihad
3 years ago

Billyw….. you and I are total non players in the game there for I am many would appreciate if you keep your silly childish comments to yourself

Benzi
Benzi
3 years ago

This psak is for people
Attending a 12 step therapy program.