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To whom it may concern,                                                                                                                                             Elul 5779 / Sept. 2019

I was recently approached by a group of community activists for advice on a sensitive halachic matter, concerning patients in hospitals and rehabilitation centers who are bedridden and unable to participate in weekday prayers in a synagogue. The question was whether it would appropriate to install a live hookup in a community synagogue with reception on a screen at a patient’s bedside. It goes without saying that such a system may not be operated on Shabbat or Yom Tov, but the people who approached me asked whether this would be proper on weekdays.

The sound heard by the patient in his hospital room is generated by electronic waves, and is not the actual voice of the person reciting the blessing or prayer. As such, the patient cannot fulfill in this fashion his obligation to hear the Megillahon Purim, to hear havdalahafter Shabbat, or to recite a berachah. Moreover, as he is not physically present in the synagogue, he is not considered as praying in a minyan. Nevertheless, he is able to answer “amen” to the hazzan, and this is exceedingly beneficial. Aside from the great merit earned by answering “amen,” this experience can be extremely uplifting for the patient, providing him with the encouragement and inspiration he so desperately needs. And, it enables him to, in some way, maintain his familiar schedule and remain connected to his community even amid the pain and turmoil of his difficult medical condition.

The potential halachic problem with this system is the 2.4-second delay between the time of the hazzan’s recitation and the time the patient hears the blessing. The generally accepted halachahis that one may answer “amen” to a blessing only within 1.5 seconds after its recitation. However, a number of leading halachic authorities understood the Shulhan Aruch’s position to be that there is no time limit, and one may answer “amen” even later. Given the patient’s condition and the inestimable value of granting him this opportunity, and in light of several other halachic considerations relevant to this question, this lenient position can be relied upon. One such consideration is the fact that the patient answers “amen” immediately upon hearing the blessing; the delay is not between the time he hears the blessing and the time he responds, but rather between the time the blessing is uttered and the time the sound reaches his ears. Numerous Talmudic sources allude to an awareness of the time delay as sound waves travel, and thus it seems to emerge that the 1.5-second time frame begins when the listener hears the completion of the blessing, and not when the blessing is recited.

Finally, Hacham Ovadia Yosef, zt”l,regularly conducted Selihotservices with a satellite hookup so that all of Israel could participate, even though he was clearly aware of the 2.4-second delay. While other rabbis differed with this view, our community, along with the rest of Sephardic Jewry, follows Hacham Ovadia’s teachings and rulings. I therefore endorse this vitally important project, and pray that Hashem send a speedy recovery to all the sick and ailing among our community and among our nation.

Respectfully,

Rabbi Max Sutton

American Friends of Aram Soba | 1501 East 7th street Brooklyn N.Y 11230 |

Email: Aramsoba@ aol.com | Tel: 212-5615913