I’m always amazed that the modern-day, Orthodox, interpreters and deciders of Halacha, Jewish Religious Law, don’t seem to have read the Bible beyond the legal fine print.
Honestly, I’m not just being cynical here…OK…maybe a little….but listen.
Women can’t serve as clergy or even as president of a synagogue…that is according to the Borsalino Brotherhood. Yet, as we read in the book of Judges…Devorah (Deborah) was a prophetess and a judge…clergy and president and was even the Commander-In-Chief of the Army of the day.
Back to this thought in a moment…but allow me to digress and it will all come together…I promise if you stick with me.
FAILURE TO ZOOM…FEAR OF ZOOM
From the start of the Plague, a year ago…Orthodox Rabbis have been celebrating the “amazing” and beautiful Halachic Decisions made by their key decisors. For example…attendance at synagogue and rules regarding the minyan.
Frankly, while other denominations leaned into ZOOM by offering a full prayer service experience including the ability of a mourner to join with others in saying Kaddish and BTW increased their own audiences by often having many more worshippers online than they ever had in person (an opportunity if I ever saw one…speaks the marketing guy)…the Orthodox legal team forbade any on-line activity or engagement that required a minyan (ten men praying together).
Fear of non-return to the synagogue, at a later time as some have speculated? Basic control tactic? Perhaps…but what a lost opportunity and one that led to countless scofflaws gathering in illicit prayer services and an unknown number sick and dead because of it.
I don’t want to get started on my full list….back to the story…
PURIM…ONE YEAR AGO…
A year ago, Purim, was the last time many of us were in full attendance at synagogue. The full impact of the Plague was still not grokking for most of us…there was no legal shut-down, yet. And, while we were sort of sitting distanced it was a bit of a wink/wink, nudge/nudge…kind of funny to some…soon to be over to many…and Purim..in our community was probably the first Super Spreader event.
Now, here we are a year later. We have many tragic deaths under our belts. We have weathered lockdowns and partial opens and more lockdowns and seem to have learned little…at least in the Orthodox community and I’m not even going to touch the more Orthodox and Charedei communities who ignore it all.
Purim. Favorite holiday of many…at least in top 3. Crowded synagogues. Lots of kids. Tons of Food. Noise. Good cheer. They tried to kill us. They lost. Let’s have a party.
WHY ENCOURAGE SUPER-SPREADING?
Obvious and dangerous opportunity for yet another super spreader event. Obvious and smart candidate for a ZOOM celebration of reading the megillah…joining in with many…having your kids dress up as you listen and in general celebrating and being safe.
Instead, the Synagogues are encouraging attendance by offering many indoor and outdoor reading options in small groups and staying away from the power of a ZOOM engagement because the Megillah needs to be “heard” meaning not through a microphone or worse streaming platform but in the same room, in the same plane as the reader.
I say encouraging…because most have not made, at least not yet, ZOOM options available. Privately, a few Rabbis have told me that once they fill up as many in-house readings as they can they will decide on how or if they use ZOOM or other options. Meanwhile the pressure is on to attend.
RABBI SCHACHTER GAVE YOU THE ANSWER
Curious I went to the source. Loaded for bear and ready to criticize yet another, sadly missed opportunity to make our people safe while we keep them spirituality engaged in a community and family setting.
Rabbi Hershel Schachter is the acknowledged Halachic great in the so-called Modern Orthodox community. He is a Rosh Yeshiva at the denominations leading Rabbinic School at Yeshiva University and the go-to for most of the Rabbis who received their ordination there and many others as well.
In the tradition of Rabbinic Legal Bulls…Rabbi Schachter published one on January 30, 2021…Rulings on Corona….Issues of Purim.
In the document, the Rabbi provides the reader with a host of can’t and can do’s around the Purim Holiday as impacted by Covid and our current situation.
One of the key issues is how do I hear the megillah in light of what I have already shared…in person…same plane ruling. What amazed me, caused me to pause and then made me wonder was the last sentence in the paragraph dealing with what to do if all else fails…
The Rabbi Writes:
“If this is not possible (last resort), one may rely on the opinions that the mitzvah can be fulfilled over the telephone or via ZOOM”
WHY WAIT FOR ALL ELSE TO FAIL?
Dear readers. Esteemed Rabbi. Much else is failing. Not enough people have had the vaccine. Many are older and worried. Many have children and are worried. Many are single and are worried. WHY ARE WE FORCING THEM TO FIRST TAKE A SYNAGOGUE OPTION?
This part of the Rabbi’s decision should have been the lead and shame on all the synagogues who are using Rabbi Schachter as the excuse not to, from the start…publicly and openly offer a beautiful and well-planned zoom option to their congregants and I guarantee others will join as well…..you will reach more people…touch more lives and impact more observance by following Rabbi Schachter’s ruling before it all hits the fan and not after.
I started by expressing my surprise that our Legal Leaders don’t read the story….
GO TO THE TAPE
The last chapter of the Book Of Esther (woman…get that?) is the epilogue to the story.
Haman is destroyed. The Jews fight back the Persian Proud Boys and a Holiday for the future is declared.
And while Mordechai sends out the first announcement it isn’t until Esther (and today she couldn’t have a title) sent out a confirming one that the Holiday becomes established. …but clearly, had she been living today she would have sent her message over some digital platform…after all she was cool.
לְקַיֵּ֡ם אֵת־יְמֵי֩ הַפֻּרִ֨ים הָאֵ֜לֶּה בִּזְמַנֵּיהֶ֗ם כַּאֲשֶׁר֩ קִיַּ֨ם עֲלֵיהֶ֜ם מָרְדֳּכַ֤י הַיְּהוּדִי֙ וְאֶסְתֵּ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֔ה וְכַאֲשֶׁ֛ר קִיְּמ֥וּ עַל־נַפְשָׁ֖ם וְעַל־זַרְעָ֑ם דִּבְרֵ֥י הַצֹּמ֖וֹת וְזַעֲקָתָֽם׃
These days of Purim shall be observed at their proper time, as Mordecai the Jew—and now Queen Esther—has obligated them to do, and just as they have assumed for themselves and their descendants the obligation of the fasts with their lamentations.
וּמַאֲמַ֣ר אֶסְתֵּ֔ר קִיַּ֕ם דִּבְרֵ֥י הַפֻּרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וְנִכְתָּ֖ב בַּסֵּֽפֶר׃ (פ)
And Esther’s ordinance validating these observances of Purim was recorded in a scroll.
And there you have it. Scroll then. TikTok today.
ESTHER WOULD HAVE ZOOMED & TWEETED & TIKTOK’D
If for no other reason…than to celebrate the heroine of our story…don’t endanger yourselves…ZOOM like she would have done