Porch Minyanim

by R. Gil Student

I. Pesach, Prayer and Bentching

In the current phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, all shuls around the world are closed and nearly every Jew globally is praying without a minyan. Even during its strictest period, the Israeli government allowed a few minyanim to continue under health department guidelines. In the US, I know of a family with ten adult men (a grandfather, father and eight sons above 13) who continue praying as a minyan. A widely discussed option is for neighbors to pray together on their front or back porchs, without anyone leaving their own property. Every community will have its own concerns about local health guidelines and the ability to consistently follow them, as well as anti-semitism that may be flamed by even perfectly legal and healthy minyanim. Setting all that aside, I would like to discuss whether in theory, if not in practice, neighbors can join together as a minyan, everyone remaining on their own property. The matter is less simple than many people think and is discussed by many recent responsa specifically related to Coronavirus. [...Click headline above for more...] 

NASCK COVID-19 Protocols for Levayahs and Cemeteries

Among the many trying challenges we face in these dire times is the sorrow of isolation from one another, added to the deeper one of personal loss, as we accompany those beloved to us to their resting places. Just as the current times demand that we now pray and study at home, the way to give honor to the dead during this pandemic is by staying at home. That is what the niftar (departed) would have wanted and what Jewish law, which warns us to be extremely careful to guard our health, demands of us. We therefore must not congregate at funeral homes, shuls, residences, or on city streets to pay our respects to the niftar and their families. While we honor the departed through proper Jewish burial despite the challenges entailed, we must maintain a balance. We must remain sensitive and committed to serving our bereaved families as fully as possible, while working to ensure their health and safety, along with the health and safety of the funeral home and cemetery staff. We recognize that the burial may provide the only opportunity for family to say Kaddish and be offered proper nichum aveilim (comforting of the mourners). As such, the following suggested policies and procedures should be followed at the cemetery to minimize the risk of exposure and to ensure the safety of all. B’virchas kol tuv v’chag kasher v’sameiach, Rabbi Elchonon Zohn 1. PARTICIPANTS a. Crowd size should be limited to the greatest extent possible. A minyan for Kaddish is not required at every levayah. Nevertheless, when requested, a proper minyan for Kaddish at the burial should be accommodated. b. Participating relatives should be limited to the surviving spouse, children of the deceased and their spouses, as well as siblings and parents, G-d forbid. c. If an experienced chevra kadisha, known to the cemetery, is directly overseeing the kevurah (burial), they should be permitted to do so with adherence to proper safety procedures regarding PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). See #2b, below, for details of safety procedures. d. In any case, no more than 20 people should be present; this includes all family, chevra kadisha, funeral directors, and clergy. Of course, we must comply with state and federal regulations, taking into account any exemptions they allow for such gatherings. 2. INFECTION CONTROL PROTOCOL a. All visitors who intend to exit their cars (to carry the aron, shovel, or to recite Kaddish) shall wear masks, and preferably gloves (to be provided by the family or funeral home). b. Active participation in the carrying of the aron (coffin) or kevurah requires wearing the following PPE, and adherence to the following procedures: · Face mask · Disposable gloves · Protective gown (if available) · One shovel per individual — no sharing of shovels · All shovels to be sanitized by those using them 

before and after use [...Click headline above for more...] 

Rav Grunwald: Preparing for Pesach While Dealing With COVID-19

Brief Questions and Answers by Rabbi Yehoshua Grunwald Q. Can one appoint a rav to sell the chametz on his behalf through a phone call, email, or text? The contemporary poskim permit appointing the rav via phone call, text, or email. Although in normal situations it is preferable to appoint the rav in person and perform a kinyan, nonetheless, due to the current environment it is certainly preferable to appoint the rav via form of technological-distant communication. It is preferable that the rav has documentation from you that you are appointing him, the amounts and types of chametz, and the locations of the chametz. Speak to your rav how he advises to go about this. Lastly, it can mentioned that it is customary to give some compensation when appointing the rav, which can be done even when not coming in person.Q. I have never made Pesach before, and now because of COVID-19 I am forced to stay home and make Pesach. Can you offer me some guidance? Firstly, it is recommended that you buy 2 new sets of pots for all your Pesach cooking: one for milchigs and one for fleishigs. Although, technically many pots can be koshered, however, the halachos of doing it are intricate, the process is tedious, and there is a lechatchila to buy new ones in any case. As such, where ever possible it is my recommendation to buy new ones. The chametz flatware and dishes also cannot be used for Pesach, but for those you can mostly manage with disposable. Secondly, remember that you will need to toivel your new pots. (Usually when toiveling a new pot you will be required to make a beracha for the tevila, when in doubt ask a shaila.) Thirdly, you will need to ask your rav how he advises you to kosher the kitchen. You will certainly have to clean down the sinks, countertops, cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, and anywhere else where the Pesach food or utensils will be touching so that there shouldn’t even be a crumb of chametz there. Following that, everything will need to be covered or kashered. As for the counters, refrigerators, freezers, and tables, most poskim are satisfied with covering them. Additionally, most poskim are satisfied with koshering a self clean oven by running it through a full self clean cycle. Pertaining sinks, stove tops, and non-self clean ovens, there are many varying opinions, so ask your rav. On a final note, when you start cooking for Pesach make sure all your chametz dishes are stored away so that you don’t mistakenly use a chametz utensil.

Q. Usually I go to a hotel for Pesach and perform a mechiras chametz on my entire home. As such, I usually don’t clean my house for Pesach. This year that I will be staying home, I seek guidance how much I must clean my house to rid it of chametz. Please advise.
A. You must clean in a way that you rid your house of any chametz that is approximately the size of a cheerio or greater, so that you shouldn’t come to mistakenly eat chametz on Pesach. Use your common sense where such chametz may be found. For example, you may likely expect chametz to be found under the pedestal of your dining room table, in pockets or pocketbooks, in the crevises of your couch, or in your baby’s carriage. After performing your best efforts of cleaning, the remaining chametz will be covered by your bittul and/or mechiras chametz. [...Click headline above for more...]