The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted Jewish life in every area, but probably the most significant is in regard to acceptable religious practices. Synagogues and Jewish communities across the religious spectrum have struggled with questions of the acceptability of live-streamed or Zoom services, whether kaddish can be recited with a virtual minyan, or what limits to place on funeral attendance and tahara (ritual preparation of the body). Upcoming Passover seders present many unique challenges as well. Which of the following is an example of exceptions to normal practice being allowed by religious authorities during this upcoming Passover celebration?
A. A group of Orthodox Sephardic rabbis in Israel have ruled that a videoconference with Zoom or other apps can be used for Passover seders, so long as computers are turned on and everything is set up prior to the beginning of the holiday.
B. The Vaad Ha-Rabonim of India, the assembly of Indian rabbis, has ruled that the use of roti, the traditional unleavened flatbread, is acceptable on the seder plate in those communities where matzah is not available due to production issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. However, if using roti, the rabbis require the addition of a portion of the Al Cheyt prayers traditionally recited on Yom Kippur (e.g., “We have sinned against You unwillingly and willingly” and “We have sinned against You in our eating and drinking.”)
C. Rabbi Menachem Posner, staff editor at Chabad.org, has noted that it is acceptable to open the door for Elijah only so long as your door does not face your neighbor’s door.
D. Pesach Sheni, or 2nd Passover, falls one month after Passover, and exists to benefit those who were not ritually clean at Passover time (such as those who had contact with corpses), because these people are not allowed to eat the Korban Pesach, the Passover sacrifice, when impure. Rabbis in many Chassidic communities, including in Bnei Brak, the suburb of Tel Aviv that has been devastated by coronavirus, have ruled that the virus is a form of ritual impurity; therefore, Passover in these communities can be delayed until Pesach Sheni, which this year falls on May 8.
E. The Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in the United States ruled that video conferencing is acceptable for seders. While the Assembly would prefer that a non-Jew activate the technology, lacking that option, the Assembly prefers that Siri or Alexa take on the role of the “shabbos goy.”