On Wednesday, the head of the Tzomet Institute, Rabbi Menachem Pearl attacked a halakhic ruling made by a group of rabbis permitting the use of “Zoom” software to allow seniors in home quarantine to participate in a virtual Passover Seder with their extended family.
The Tzomet Institute was founded in 1977 and specializes in customizing technological and electronic appliances to comply with halakhah (Jewish law).
“The letter [stating the ruling] is very dangerous, and what people understand from it is even more dangerous, “ he told Arutz Sheva. “Families will rely on this letter to make a Seder with their parents, when no rabbi intended to permit such a thing.”
He added that, “The letter relies on a [specific] ruling that using electricity ignites fire, but computers function in a different manner from the types of electrical devices that [this ruling] was referring to.”
Rabbi Pearl noted that, “The Tzomet Institute has been working on this issue for about two weeks already and is in contact with Zoom, Google, and other companies in order to find a way to satisfy the halakhic requirements.”
Earlier, Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau also attacked the ruling as “irresponsible, beyond absurd, and showing the lack of even a minimal understanding of the meaning of a halakhic ruling. It’s a shame that such people … mislead the public,” Rabbi Lau told Army Radio.
The rabbis who signed the letter that was published on Tuesday included Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, head of Jerusalem's rabbinical court; the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Gat, Rabbi Shlomo Ben Hamo; and Rabbi Aharon Cohen of Yakir.
In their ruling, they wrote that it was permitted to launch Zoom before the festival began and then leave it running, and that this would not constitute a violation of halakhah.
They added that it was possible to be lenient about the prohibition of “uvda d’chol” [typical weekday activities] given the special circumstances, and that there was no reason to be concerned that allowing such a leniency in the current situation would lead to people using the technology in the future as well, as people would understand that it was only being permitted in an emergency.
The minority opinion halakhic ruling permitting 'Zoom' (in Hebrew). Photo: Screenshot