A Shabbat story

My synagogue, like everyone else, shut down in mid-March. They've been holding Shabbat services over Zoom; most Reform Jews don't care about using computers on Shabbat but I do, so I haven't joined. But I miss my minyan, and also we've been preparing for my rabbi's retirement (all those celebrations went out the window too), so, um.

A couple weeks ago the Conservative movement put out a detailed analysis of the issue. Their conclusion (and yes I read the supporting documentation, all 35 pages of it) was that, basically, passive computer-based stuff you set in motion before Shabbat is ok under these specific exceptional circumstances (do not extrapolate beyond COVID). Starting two weeks ago I've used my tablet (intentional: battery, not wall current) to join the Zoom meeting before Shabbat. I left it sitting there with a headset plugged in, with my video turned off and mic muted. (Even remembered to disable my password lock so I could see the video feed.)

People tried to interact with me that first week, but I didn't want to interact with the software on Shabbat to unmute and apparently they couldn't do that remotely, so oh well. I had a conversation with my rabbi about this, saying I'd talk if I didn't have to do anything but I did so I couldn't.

This Shabbat was my rabbi's last as our senior rabbi, after 32 years with us. It was, as you'd expect, a very emotional service, and I'm glad I could attend even in this limited way. (Better, of course, would have been for us to all be together physically, but that is not within our power.) I knew that someone in the minyan was organizing a thing at the end where each of us would say just a few words (the request was to share something fun, not teary), but as usual I didn't expect to be able to join in. Only during the service did it occur to me that had I gone to the home of another willing participant, I might have been able to passively benefit from others' use of Zoom. But I don't know how kosher it would have been to set that up in advance even if I'd thought of it.

So there I was, sitting in my living room with my tablet on the chair next to me, listening to people share stories... when my cat walked across the tablet.

And unmuted me.

And somebody noticed and said "hey, Monica unmuted", so I explained about the cat, who they declared to be a "Shabbos cat" in the nature of the "Shabbos goy".

And then I ad-libbed a response (everyone else had had time to prepare), and I felt like I was part of the goodbye for a rabbi who has meant a great deal to me.

Thanks Orlando. I don't know how you did that, but I'll take it.