Friday, February 20, 2015

Is it Allowed: A Virtual Minyan with Video Streaming

By Rabbi Jason Miller

It was 1998 and I was in my first semester of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary. My Talmud professor, Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner, approached me after class one day to discuss a project he was working on. As a member of the Conservative Movement’s Law Committee, he was examining the acceptability of a virtual minyan (prayer quorum). Knowing my interest in technology, he picked my brain about some of the technical implications of video-conferencing. He sought to answer the halakhic (Jewish legal) question of whether a minyan could be convened using non-traditional, electronic means. Some of the sources he was considering were drawn from the same pages we were then studying in his class, namely Tractate Rosh Hashanah as it deals with hearing the sound of the shofar to fulfill the obligation. - Rabbi Jason Miller

Rabbi Reisner’s project resulted in a teshuva (legal position paper) titled “Wired to the Kadosh Baruch Hu,” in which he ruled that a virtual minyan conducted via video-conferencing was not “kosher.”

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Rabbi Jason Miller is a tech entrepreneur, blogger and educator in Detroit, Michigan. He is president of Access Computer Technology and Access Social. He blogs at Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.