Erev Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freeman

Posted by The Jewish Center on 04/03/2020

A Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freedman:
Thanks to our current plague, we are in a sha-at d'chak, a time of crisis. Not only because we are worried about those whom we love, but also for the holiday, we really want to be together with family and community. After all, that's the main point of the Passover feast. But multi-person gatherings are great venues for spreading viruses. So out of respect for pikuach nefesh, respecting the sanctity of life, you may choose to share your seder online. I've put together a brief list of the halachic issues involved. Start by giving thanks for video technology. Then, here's what you might consider:
Think carefully about manipulating your computer once the holiday has begun. To be really correct, log in to your video program at least 18 minutes before sundown.
If that sounds extreme, here are two options.

  • Ask Siri or Alexa to activate the video.
  • Turn on your laptop/smartphone/tablet before the holiday begins. Put the link to the video website on your desktop display where you can simply click on it.
Think twice about using the chat or the record functions. Typing and recording are in the category of work forbidden on festivals.
Ideally there should be a seder plate at each location where someone is logging on. At a minimum everyone needs access to wine or grape juice, karpas (any green vegetable), three matzotmaror (a bitter vegetable) and salt water. It'd be great to have some haroset for everyone too, but it's not halachically required. Even for the "Hillel sandwich" at korech, you don't have to include it.
Ideally everyone should have a hagadah. Consider distributing them before hand, or asking people to download one from the internet and print it out before the seder begins.
Be mindful of participants who live in a really different time zone, like if you're in Princeton and they're in Santa Barbara. Of course you wish you were there, but that's a logistic problem right now. So try to time your seder so that everyone can consume the required foods (wine, karpasmatsah and maror) during the festival - after dark.
One more thought about Passover observance in closing. During the seder we recite Kol dichfin yetei v'yechol, "Let all who are needy come and eat." You could respond to the hagadah's invitation in two ways. First, for people who are alone, an invitation to a seder is a God-send. This year those people could be really alone. Invite someone you know who is isolated to join your online seder. Also, let us know if you are willing to include a lonely Jew in your online gathering. If you are going to be one of those people who might sit alone when seders are happening, please call the Jewish Center and let us know. We'll try to join you to a virtual seder. Second, give generously to an organization that provides food to those whose food restrictions are not voluntary. I recommend Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS) or Arm in Arm.
Shabbat Shalom. May you have a sweet, joyful and liberating Passover!