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Dec 10, 2020

Interesting Psak: bracha when lighting menora via zoom, and in outdoor minyan

Rav Asher Weiss dealt with the question (recently discussed on this blog) of lighting the chanukiya at an outdoor minyan, with a bracha.

Rav Weiss explains that lighting in a shul was established for a number of reasons. Whatever is not a shul, even if you pray there regularly, you should not light there with a bracha. Lighting at outdoor events with a bracha is a new thing and has no source for it. Ergo, in courtyard minyanim, street minyanim, public gardens or wherever else people are davening - you should not light menora in these place. If you want to light though, you can do so but without a bracha. Even though these places are being used for a regular minyanim, they still do not qualify for the status of a shul. All these places go back to regular mundane use after the minyan disperses - the parking lot becomes a parking lot again, the garden becomes a garden, the park becomes a park, etc - these are not shuls.

However, if one installed a tent of sorts for a minyan and that is its only use and hosts minyan there daily - this would take the status of a shul and you would light the menora there with a bracha.

Rav Asher Weiss went on to talk about another issue on the same topic of lighting with a bracha. That is, can one light with a bracha if lighting via zoom?

The situation presented is that of an older fellow, a widower, who lives at home alone. While normally the kids and grandkids would come over for lighting, this year because of Corona they cannot. This fellow has no window facing the public, so when he lights alone, nobody is seeing at all and perhaps there is no pirsumei nissa. His question is, can he use zoom to broadcast his lighting to his children and/or friends, thereby fulfilling the need for pirsumei nissa and therefore light with a bracha?

Before I bring the psak, I will comment about my own ignorance. I would not have thought this to be a question. The SHulchan Aruch writes about nowadays lighting indoors, not even by a window, and explains that the pirsumei nissa is for himself. While today with generally more options that might not be the preferred way, though chassidim generally light indoors without being near a window, it seems clear to me that halachically it is a valid option. I don't even understand why this is a question.

Rav Weiss though said that it is unclear if one can make a bracha when lighting alone and brings different opinions on the matter. Rav Weiss says that in his opinion one can make a bracha when lighting alone, if lighting at the correct time, but there are other opinions and publicizing the lighting even using technological methods such as zoom would be fine even according to them for allowing the lighting with a bracha. If a minyan is needed for a davar she'bkdusha, using zoom wouldn't qualify, but if a minyan is needed for pirsumei nissa or public praising of Hashem, then using technology for participation would work, and the same for Chanukah candles - for pirsumei nissa, using technology would be fine.

source: Kikar

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