Internet Seders?


The question about an internet seder has been asked.

1. I attach an article from the the Times of Israel

2. I attach a Teshuvah from one of the UTJ scholars. (I have omitted a second halachic issue that R Novak addresses, because it is so technical and he does not conclude that it prevents using the internet.)

Israel’s chief rabbis say Passover Seder can’t be held via videoconference

Teshuvah of R David Novak (UTJ):

Question: A divorcee and her daughter have for the past thirty years celebrated the Pesach Seder with a certain family. Because the father of this family was recently exposed to somebody diagnosed with Covid19, the family rightly does not want any guests in their house. So, this woman has asked whether it would be permissible for her daughter and herself to participate in their usual Seder over the internet.

Response:

  • I hold with those who permit the use of electricity on Yom Tov as it is not really fire (esh mamash), hence not subject to the prohibition of initiating or extinguishing combustion on Yom Tov. (This permission does not extend to the use of electricity on Shabbat for reasons spelled out in my UTJ responsum on the use of electronic keys on Shabbat when necessary.) So, the electrically powered internet may be used to enable one to participate in a Yom Tov ceremony like the Pesach Seder, from which their exclusion would very much diminish their enjoyment of the festival (simhat yom tov). See Rambam, Hilkhot Yom Tov, 1.6 and 6.17; also, Moreh Nevukhim, 3.43

  • I would add that those participating in the virtual Seder should be full participants, reciting kiddush, the various berakhot, and the essential part of the Haggadah (Mishnah Pesahim 10.5, viz., Rabban Gamliel’s three essentials). This will make them true participants rather than mere spectators. This will greatly enhance their Seder experience, for the human need for fellowship and participation in communal celebrations is as much a true human need as the need for food and drink (see Taanit 23a; Rambam on Mishnah Avot 1.6).

  • Finally, I have been very happy to learn that several leading Sephardic halakhists in Israel are permitting participation in a Seder over the internet during this most difficult year (and have been subjected to the criticism of some Ashkenazic halakhists). My hope is that at most, next year we will celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem; or at least under happier conditions than almost all of us face in this pandemic year.

Rabbi David Novak

Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5780

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