June 7, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Congregation B’nai Yeshurun Hosts First-Ever ‘Internet Minyan’

Teaneck—Those temporarily or permanently homebound often miss the opportunity to daven in the company of a minyan, and therefore aren’t able to fulfill the mitzvah of tefila b’tzibur, said Michael Karlin, president of Congregation B’nai Yeshurun.

Aaron Lehmann, said Karlin, a CBY congregant, had the idea to set up a live camera with sound, in a room where a minyan takes place, so homebound people could see and hear the davening, and potentially answer amen, thus fulfilling several associated mitzvos. “The chesed of this cannot be quantified,” said Lehmann.

With approval from a wide variety of sources, including CBY’s Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Lehmann and Karlin found one of the 25 security cameras in the building would be ideal, since it was already in the beis medrash. A microphone was set up with it, and after some debugging, the Internet minyan went live.

To participate in the online minyan, visit http:// 69.113.109.218:8010/. Both username and password are “cby,” and the minyan is visible by clicking on camera 16. Shacharis minyans take place online several times a day, often around 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. (10 minutes earlier Mondays and Thursdays for Torah reading days), 1:45 p.m. for mincha and at 10:01 and 10:45 p.m. for maariv. Because they are subject to change check the schedules at CBY’s website at http://www.bnaiyeshurun.org/. Live-stream Daf Yomi from camera 16 at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays, and at 7:00 a.m. on Sundays.

Lehmann’s inspiration for the idea came from several sources: the Kotel cam, and shuls in Teaneck and Woodmere who live-stream all day on Tisha B’av, like Keter Torah. Another inspiration was the Daf Yomi Siyyum Shas at MetLife Stadium, that live-streamed everything, while 90,000 davened in the stadium, thousands more davened at home, via computer or mobile device. When Lehmann was mevaker cholim, and saw hospital patients who kept tallit and tefillin on their night tables, he was determined to find a way they could participate.

Lehmann felt that women and long-distance travelers might want to take advantage of the Internet minyan. On his own travels, Lehmann noticed Chabad shluchim often don’t get a minyan on weekdays, and are lucky to get one on Shabbos. And, Lehmann added, sometimes people should not come to shul “because they are coughing so much, transmitting flu and viruses.”

Lehmann took his idea to five or six major Jewish organizations over the last several years—Young Israel, Chabad, and the Orthodox Union, and a number of individual rabbeim in the U.S. and Israel. While no one said it wasn’t permitted, he was told “there were halachic issues.” He was not deterred. “There are halachic issues with everything in yiddishkeit,” he said.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler at Yeshiva University encouraged him to bring the issue to Rabbi Hershel Schachter to iron out the details of what was allowed and what was not. Rabbi Schachter said it was definitely acceptable in cases when it is impossible to physically get to a minyan.

People listening in on the Internet minyan cannot say Kaddish on their own nor lead the davening, but they can answer kedusha, kaddish, or amen, and can listen to the Torah readings.

“The bottom line is that one would not count for a minyan or say kaddish when not a physical part of the minyan. But one who is forced to be homebound because of illness or injury can answer amen to brachot, hear the Torah read (on weekdays), and join with the tzibur in prayer. It is only for those who cannot daven in public, not for those who can and are lazy,” said CBY’s Rabbi Steven Pruzansky.

The Internet minyan is accessible to non-locals as well, and may facilitate participation in public prayer of many Jews across the country who, for whatever reason, cannot come to shul.

Now that the CBY Internet minyan camera is live, Lehmann is seeking to implement a live minyan in every time zone. “The current minyanin are too early for Denver, too early for Hawaii and California,” he said.

Lehmann said that there are plans to set up a camera in Boca Raton, which has an 8:30 a.m. shacharis minyan, which those in Chicago and possibly Denver might be able to access for their time zone. “The OU has agreed to build a central site for it,” said Lehmann.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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