Hosting Guidelines for Pesach

Dear Friends,
 
Some days ago, we sent out a statement with guidelines about hosting for Pesach. Since then, we have come to realize that people either misunderstood the statement or have been attempting to find loopholes when there are none. To clarify:

  1. No one should be hosting anyone for the Seder outside of those who already live under their roof, and likewise, no one should be a guest in anyone else’s home for the Seder. In the event of extreme extenuating circumstances, please contact your Rabbi, who will consult with appropriate medical professionals as necessary. While it is heartbreaking that people will be having the Seder alone this year, it is a bigger mitzvah to remain at home and conduct the Seder alone, refraining from the possibility of endangering oneself and others.
  2. Related to the above, a common scenario we are asked about is parents who wish to bring home newlywed or relatively recently married children for the Chag. While we understand the desire for a sense of normalcy and family togetherness this year in particular, this should absolutely not be done. Those who have not yet arrived in Dallas and are therefore unable to self-quarantine in place for the required two week period should immediately postpone their travel plans to a later, safer date and prepare to make Pesach wherever they reside.
  3. Many people have sent us the halachic ruling of several Rabbis from the Moroccan Sephardic Community in Israel permitting the use of Zoom for the Seder under certain circumstances, to allow family members to celebrate with one another even as they are physically distancing. This ruling was meant specifically for members of the Moroccan community, and was subsequently strongly disavowed by many other leading halachic authorities, including Moroccan ones. Indeed, several of the signatories  repealed their signatures. It is important to note that we pray for refuat hanefesh urefuat haguf, healing of the mind and body, and that mental health does fall under the status of pikuach nefesh. If you feel there is a possibility of danger to your own mental health or that of a loved one as a result of a prolonged period of solitude like a three day Yom Tov, please consult your Rabbi for guidance. In general, though, we feel that this ruling creates numerous complicated and largely unnecessary halachic problems. The tragic irony of Pesach that the inter-generational nature of our community, which is such a cornerstone of this holiday, is the very factor that spreads the disease so rapidly. To fulfill halachic directives regarding pikuach nefesh but still fulfill vehigadeta levincha (telling the story to your child or grandchild), it is critical that grandparents, parents and children still interact. We recommend family Zoom gatherings on Erev Pesach, with everyone dressed in their Yom Tov finery, sharing words of Torah and singing Pesach songs together, of course at a time when this would be halachically permissible in both Zoom time zones. This will create fond Pesach memories, engender a great deal of nachas and still allow for the optimal observance of Pesach itself.
  4. People have asked us whether they can make minyanim consisting of one or two families on adjacent properties that adhere to social distancing guidelines. Note that every major halachic authority today has declared these minyanim prohibited as a matter of Jewish law, and local authorities have declared them illegal. Participating in them endangers the lives of others, causes a chillul Hashem and also renders one poreish min hatzibbur, one who separates from the practices of the community. Those who organize or participate in such unauthorized minyanim will not be welcome in our shuls once we return to them, may it be soon.

As unsettling and unfamiliar as it is to approach Yom Tov in this manner, it is our heartfelt Tefilla to Hashem that if we adhere to these guidelines, we will merit health and safety for our community. We look forward to the day when we can join together as a community, and one day soon greet Moshiach!

Sincerely,

Rabbi Shlomo Abrams, Jewish Learning Center
Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum, Congregation Ohr Hatorah
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried, DATA 
Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky, Congregation Shaare Tefilla
Rabbi Yaakov Rich, Congregation Toras Chaim
Rabbi Aryeh Rodin, Congregation Ohev Shalom
Rabbi Moshe Segal, DATA of Richardson
Rabbi Zacharia Sionit, Sephardic Torah Center of Dallas
Rabbi Howard Wolk, Congregation Shaare Tefilla
Rabbi Nasanya Zakon, DATA of Plano

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