How our streaming services work halachically And how you can join us
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman
Jewish Law (Halacha) forbids 39 specific actions on Shabbat. See my https://learnemunah.com/holidays/shabbat2.html for more on these laws. In this modern internet age, opinions vary about the 39 prohibitions and the applicable laws based on them.Among these prohibitions is the proper observance of numbers 36 and 37, extinguishing a fire, and kindling a fire. Two others are also questioned, 32 and 33, writing two letters and erasing two letters.
Among the questions these four prohibitions raise today are the use of the internet on Shabbat and holy days. Does turning on or off a computer amount to extinguishing or kindling a fire, an "electric spark"? Most current Orthodox opinions agree that it either does or that it creates the appearance of a violation. Therefore such things should not be done according to most traditionalist opinions.
There is also debate about online keyboard typing since the letters and words created do not constitute the creation of physical letters and words. Again, the standard Orthodox opinion is that such should not be done, whether viewed as an actual violation or as a compromise on the protective "hedge" around Shabbat observances. To my knowledge, there is no established halacha specifically addressing these two issues. There are only minhagim (local or group opinions).
Based on these concerns religious Jews typically avoid using the internet on Shabbat and other holy days.
While agreeing with this protective principle, in theory, we at Beit Emunah note that many people around the world have no access to a shul or other established Jewish community to properly observe these divine appointments. In non-Orthodox communities driving to services is generally permitted as they conclude that attending services is more important than not driving. Orthodoxy generally rejects this compromise and so many religious Jews have no way to get to even local shuls for services. As Sephardic Jews, we observe the Sephardic minhag (tradition) of embracing the more lenient rulings for the good and encouragement of our community.
The inability of attending services is a serious problem for many Jews and others. Because of this extra-biblical minhag-based prohibition, many elderly and disabled Jews sit alone at home or in nursing homes on the holy days rather than joining their fellows at shul as they would prefer. Likewise, many Jews for whom a proper shul is miles away also have no place to attend services nor to establish meaningful relationships with other Jews. Further, as most Orthodox shuls are located in wealthy areas economic disparities also prevent many from taking part in Jewish communities. We offer a solution. Our practice, in the absence of established halacha, permits people to gather for the worship of HaShem with a community that provides mutual support via the internet. Our Shabbat and holiday gatherings are based on the principles of Ahavat Y'israel (love our fellow Jews).
How It Works
In order to comply with established Shabbat halacha and Rabbinic opinion: Our computers, routers, etc. are turned on well before the beginning of Shabbat and/or other holy days. They remain turned on until well after the conclusion of the day(s). This satisfies the prohibition concerning electricity. This is the same method used for heating and air conditioning, lighting, security alarms, Shabbat elevators, etc. This is well established within the modern Haredi culture. To take part set up your free Zoom account before Shabbat and create a link via your bookmarks, toolbar, etc. All our broadcasts use the same link: https://zoom.us/j/6714203394 . Open the link to our shul room before Shabbat begins. The message will say something like "Waiting for the host," When the Shul opens your broadcast should begin automatically. Make sure and turn off your auto-sleep option so your browser remains active. As long as your computer is on before Shabbat and left on until after Havdalah Saturday evening we see no halachic problem opening your browser with a mouse click and clicking our link. Some prefer to keep our YouTube page open instead. This method is completely halachically compliant with such well-established items as Shabbat elevators, Shabbat "stoves" (blech), Shabbat lighting, and heating and air, and so on. Those who utilize such conveniences for personal use have no room to criticize our use of this same principle to help people attend shul.
We recommend participating fully in our Zoom shul as if you were physically present in a regular shul. These are not shows, they are services. Your cameras and mics may be on or off as you prefer. In our Zoom Shul, you will be able to take part in the live readings, etc. if you wish. Speak to Rabbi Shlomo before Shabbat for more information.
WHOEVER you are, regardless of your Jewish movement, regardless of your Jewish status, if you are Noahide, or merely curious and respectful, YOU are welcome at the BeitEmunah.org and LearnEmunah.com Shul. We are merely a gathering of like-minded people who love HaShem and one another. We hope you will join us.