While Standing (Six Feet Apart) on One Food
Erev Shabbat, April 3, 2020
The Israeli Chief Rabbinate just issued a halachic ruling about Zooming on Pesach. It can be distilled to one word: forbidden.
But, of course.
Their logic, though, is fundamentally correct. Since no lives are endangered if you don’t Zoom and have a virtual Seder then there is no reason to have a virtual Seder since no one’s life is at stake.
This kind of logic is cold and harsh. You probably don’t need convincing, though. Those who are alone in their homes are suffering in ways we cannot know. They have not seen their families, have not held their grandchildren or children, haven’t done anything social in a month. And now some man living in the Middle Ages is telling them that, should they reach out and be with their families on Erev Pesach, they are committing a sin.
There is no moral reason for this halacha. There is nothing that exalts the soul and mind in this ruling. It does not connect us with God. All it does is disconnect us from those we love. This ruling was issued without compassion and without love. It is the mutterings of those who only know how to say ‘no’ and, as such, should be dispensed with and ignored. No person of compassion would subject another to emotional strain and say this is what God wants.
I have no doubt that most Israelis will simply ignore this. I suspect that a great many Orthodox will, too, no matter where they live.
I am sure that the Orthodox Rabbinate will not learn anything from this. They will not reflect on their insensitivity. They will not care about the suffering of loneliness of those who listen to their rulings. But most won’t listen because such a ruling is not about morality or even God – it is about being bound to a halacha at a time of extraordinary circumstances when doing so causes extraordinary pain.
The Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel is irrelevant. What could have been an affirming and consoling bit of halacha in these circumstances has been a firm ‘no.’ I am afraid to say it, but we have now seen the naked soul of the Chief Rabbinate.