A Prayer Leading Into Shabbat + Some Halakhic Issues of Isolation

I want to suggest the following prayer to enter Shabbat this week.

Sit in a comfortable chair. Take 3 settling long breaths. As you breathe, call to mind 3-4 good things that happened to you today. Think of them fully, calling the experience to mind. Breath again, 3 long breaths. Now say the following prayer:

As I set out on this journey of unknowns, be with me, God. Protect me from illness and all the dangers of this uncharted path. Strengthen along the way those who would care for me, whether physicians, medical researchers, food delivery people or the cable guy here and abroad. Bring me to a new place of calm and gratitude so that I can be strengthened to find my own way in this challenging time. Bring comfort to those who have already lost loved ones. Help me learn how I can be of service as a source of healing in the world.

May God’s angels of peace bring wholeness to us and to the world as Shabbat enters.

Shalom Aleichem Malakhei Hashareit!! I invite you to sing Shalom Aleichem!

(Click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-wAAtCvPnQ for the song)

Grant all of us a Shabbat of rest.

Shabbat Shalom and love to all – Rabbi David Booth

Halakhic Issues from Coronavirus

The unprecedented experience of most of the world Jewish community being under “shelter at home” or variant rules brings up a variety of Halakhic issues. Jewish living is so based on face- to-face connection that our inability to gather creates a spiritual and observance challenge. I want to outline a few of the issues and how we at Kol Emeth are responding.

  1. Virtual Minyan. A minyan requires 10 to make a prayer quorum. With such a quorum, one can say “matters of communal holiness” like Barchu and the Torah reading. Kaddish has customarily been included in such matters. A minyan cannot be constituted virtually because we have to be in the presence of 10 other Jews. The Talmud offers the case of a multi-room hall in which people are gathered in various rooms and can see and hear one another. To form a minyan, they must be in the same room. However, onlookers can respond with “amen” and fulfill their responsibilities for prayer and Birkhat HaMazon, the grace after meals. In this current environment, I am following the ruling of Rabbi Benny Lau. He asserted that we cannot form a virtual minyan—meaning no Barchu or Torah reading. However, since Kaddish is only by custom requiring a minyan, we can recite Kaddish. So our daily and Shabbat minyan will still say mourners’ Kaddish but we will not read from Torah (though we may study it) nor will we say Barchu.

  2. Shabbat practice. Shabbat generally is a day of rest in which we focus on being rather than doing. In our era, that particularly includes unplugging. However, our inability to gather means that unplugging could create immense loneliness and separation. So we are following a pluralistic approach. I will stream services only before Shabbat. I will lead Friday night services but they will end before sundown. I feel that I need to unplug and I am concerned that the text and writing needed to access a Zoom violate Shabbat. Rabbi Graff feels strongly that our community needs a way to connect on Shabbat. As a result, she, and sometimes Rabbi Eilberg, will offer a Zoom option on Shabbat.  We will also invite our singing group to convene for those who want. Rabbi Graff is identifying the emergency and sense of isolation to overcome the Rabbinic prohibition against temporary writing (as in the case of a sign on a screen, for example.) I am concerned that this may be a Biblical prohibition since there is a record of it.   

  3. Funerals. In the event of a death during this time of small to no gatherings, the practices will be constrained. I spoke to Sinai yesterday and clarified what will happen. They are still operating and will pick up bodies etc. Funerals will be at the graveside only, with just immediate family, attendance limited to 10 people including the Rabbi. There will be no communal shiva in person. We will instead create a Zoom call with family and those who want to join.

This is an unsettling and unprecedented time. I wanted to share with you a few of the ways we are wrestling with our relationship to Jewish law and practice as we navigate caring for our community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.