Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

Parsha Vayakhel Inspiration & the CoronaVirus

In this blog, I share some inspirational and thoughts on Shabbat, Praying in a Shul with Minyan, the rise of the Zoom Daf Yomi/Shiur and Zoom Minyan

But first I think when we look deeper at today’s situation, we have to ask ourselves if we are worthy of praying in Minyan? Reb Shlomo Carlebach on this weeks Parsha told over the following:

And Moses gathered the entire assembly of the children of Israel (Sh’mos 35:1)

Some of us think we can go to shul and pray without feeling close to G-d, but praying without feeling close doesn’t go.

The Holy Temple is the headquarters of prayer. Before you build the Beis HaMikdash, before you build a house of prayer, you have to be close to G-d. Therefore, when Moshe Rabbeinu gathers the Yidden, he first tells them about Shabbos and then about the building of the Beis Hamikdash. Yidden, let’s have Shabbos, let’s get close to G-d again, close to each other, and then we can start davening.

If you pray just for yourself – it’s meaningless. Praying has to be “b’shem kol Yisrael” ‘in the name of all of Israel.’ The Arizal brought down [that] before you daven you have to say, “Hareini mekabel alai es mitzvas haboreh v’ahavta lerei-acha kamocha” ‘I mamesh accept upon myself to love every person like myself.’ When I go to a grocery store, I don’t have to buy groceries for somebody else. When I go shopping in G-d’s grocery store, and I only order for myself, G-d says, “I’m sorry, I’m sold out.” By G-d, it’s only when you shop for somebody else as well.

So here it says “Vayak-hayl Moshe es Kol Adas B’nei Yisrael.” You must make sure everybody should be close to one another. How could you walk into the Beis HaMikdash without praying for somebody else?

I think this message told over 25 years or more years is so relevant in today’s situation.

  1. Shabbat & Corona Virus:

This Shabbat, March 21, 2020, will be the first time in our almost 72-year-old history here in Israel when we will not have any public transportation. No theaters, sports, stores or restaurants. Officially, not even shopping malls or beaches. The Government has announced: everything must be closed. Now if you notice, what is the first announcement in this week’s Torah Portion, Vakhel (Exodus 35, 1-2)?

וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה אֶת כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם. שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן לַה’…

And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: ‘These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD.

We are all assembled together this CoronaVirus Shabbat.
Who said that if Israel keeps Shabbat then Mashiach will arrive?
Talmud Yerushalmi Taanit 1,1
אילו היו ישראל משמרין שבת אחת כתיקונה, מיד היה בן דוד בא
However, in Talmud Bavli Shabbat 118a, the promise is that when Israel keeps two Shabbatot according to their Halachot, the Redemption will arrive.

Contributed by Natan Ophir

2, The Zoom Daf Yomi

So this just happened!

98 people from all across the globe on a live Zoom chat learning daf yomi

Everyday 7:15am Israel time, Check it out

Live: 332217442 
Or Replay:

We will hopefully see B’H more online Shiurim,(Not only Daf Yom)  so hopefully, we can learn much more Torah and Wisdom.

  1. The Minyan Conundrum

Do rabbis create an upside-down world in closing synagogues

In  Israel, a favorite in many Israeli coffeehouses, café hafuch (upside down in Hebrew  הפןך)  is the latte’s milkier cousin.

Now we have a situation in Israel and many parts of the rest of the Jewish world, where the world is upside down. We are facing a modern Pandemic and normally the reaction of the great Rabbis is do repentance (chuva in Hebrew תשובה). This means  going to synagogue with minions and praying to G-d for forgiveness.

Instead, because over night in Israel, the government recommended maximum group size went from 100 people to 10 people, many synagogues closed up and cancelled their prayer services.

Orthodox Jews pray three daily prayer services and hence go to their usual places three times a day any many have been doing it all their lives. Can you imagine doing this for 80 years and then changing your routine. During wars and attacks and poverty and deaths the only thing consistent was our routine of going to the synagogue.

Now the government says don’t go, and like sheep no one shows up.

Now nearly everyone agrees that we should follow government protocol and keep the big “Virus” from spreading, but I have seen very little creative effort to preserving the minion. The simple solution every one offers is to turn on the computer or phone and do everything virtually, but this has always been shown previously as limited in its scope. This year we were told that we could hear the Magilla by computer, but in previous years everyone agreed this was not the hallacha. Suddenly it is?

Further, we know from many sources that G-d loves us much better when we pray with a minion, all of sudden that has changed?

I think we must be much more creative. . Don’t encourage people to break their life long habits. Believe me, it is very easy to break a good habit like going to a minion every day, but hard to put it back into place.

With thanks to Yehuda Lave

Let’s have move creative solutions and more chuva, not less.

  1. The ZoomMinyan ?

In accordance with the ruling of Harav Melamed below, we will be hosting a  Zoom Ma’ariv We can say
Vehu rachoom
You can answer amen to my brachot before the shema
We can say the shema together
You can say amen to the Brocha after the shema.
There is no Kaddish before the amida and no Kaddish after the amida.
We will allow 6 minutes for the private amida.
After that we will say aleinu and when we have finished aleinu all the aveilim can say Kaddish together.
It would be great if we can all hear each other’s amen but if you are in a noisy location please mute.
I believe this to be in accordance with Rav Melameds ruling. I apologize in advance if there is anything that we are doing or will do that is possibly not halachically sound. May the Kodesh borchu hear our prayers and send a speedy recovery to all who are sick and send a speedy end to this plague.

Response of Rav Eliezer Melamed Shlita on a Virtual Minyan

  1. Because of various doubts in the definition of “makom” (“place”) and in the definition of “kol” (“voice”), it is impossible to define a gathering in a virtual meeting (through zoom) as a minyan for anything requiring ‘kedusha’.
  2. Saying ‘Kaddish Yatom’ and ‘Kadish D’Rabanan’ do not include a ‘bracha l’vatala’, and therefore this electronic virtual meeting can be considered as if a minyan.
  3. ‘B’sha’at ha’tzorech’ (in times of need), when there is value for the entire virtual community to pray together, the saying ‘Barchu’ after ‘P’sukei d’Zimra’ and before the blessings of ‘Shema’ does not have a ‘bracha l’vatala’ and therefore it is permitted to say in such a virtual prayer.
  4. ‘Nifilat Apayim’ – In Jerusalem, the minhag is to perform ‘Nifilat Apayim’ even ‘b’yachid’ (individually), and in other places, the same is true if the place of prayer has ‘sifrei kodesh’. In my opinion, such a virtual gathering through zoom can be considered as a place with sifrei kodesh.
  5. Saying the ‘Yud Gimel Midot’ – If there is a ‘chazn’ who says the ‘Yud Gimel Midot’ out loud and with ‘ta’amei mikra’, the others can say it along with him.

It is important to add that all of this is for those who wish to l’hadare (to enhance) in prayer in a minyan, but according to the strict law, when it is difficult to pray in a minyan, one is
permitted ‘l’chatchila’ (from the outset) to pray ‘b’yachid’.

Eliezer Melamed

On a lighter side – Here is one thing that hasn’t changed:

A Costly Alarm System

Opening his front door, the Rabbi found himself face to face with the local priest. “Rabbi, may I have a few words with you?” asked the priest.

“Of course, Father,” replied the Rabbi somewhat nervously.

“Rabbi,” began the priest, “It must be evident to you that in this town we are plagued by thieves. Scarcely a day passes without one of my flock coming to me bemoaning the fact that his house has been broken into. On the other hand, I have noticed that thieves do not bother you Jews nearly as much.”

“Father, you are correct.”

“Yes, but why is that?” inquired the priest.

“Look at this little box here on the side of my doorpost,” said the Rabbi. “It’s called a mezuzah. We Jews believe that when we put a mezuzah on the entrances to our houses, the Holy One, may His Name be blessed, protects both us and our property.”

“In that case”, replied the priest, “I must have one!”

Not wishing to be the cause of an incipient pogrom, the Rabbi reluctantly handed over a mezuzah to the priest.

Some two weeks later the Rabbi was awakened by the sound of someone pounding violently on his door. Dressing himself hastily, he made his way down the stairs.

“Who’s there?” the Rabbi asked tremulously.

“Open the door! Open the door!” screamed a voice on the other side.

Leaving the door on the latch, the Rabbi cracked the door wide enough to see the priest standing in front of him, his eyes wild with great distraught.

“What happened?” asked the terrified Rabbi. “Were you not protected from robbers?”

“I was! But these people were worse than robbers!” screamed the priest.

“Who?” asked the rabbi.


About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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