What is the Rosh Yeshiva’s position on saying Kaddish Yatom over Zoom where there is a minyan on the other end?
The short answer is that it is fine if there are ten men gathered in one place. If there are ten men Zooming in from different places, it is more questionable, but there is a reasonable argument to say that this works as well. Let us consider the various issues:
- For a minyan, Gemara (Pesachim 85b) requires both a core ten, plus the shaliach tzibbur to be in the same physical room. This is ruled in Shulchan Arukh OC 55:13-19. Zoom would not help for the core minyan.
- The Gemara also states alongside this that אפילו מחיצה של ברזל אינו מפזיק בן ישראל לאביהם שבשמים. Which Rishonim understand to mean that once there is a core minyan + shatz in one place, anyone outside can easily be mitzareif (e..g, answer Kaddish and Kedushah, and it counts for him as tefillah betzibur, etc.) – Shulchan Arukh OC 55:20.
- So, the key question here is – is leading Kaddish Yatom like being part of the core minyan, or just being mitzareif? If there are 10 in one place, is the one saying Kaddish who is zooming in, a shaliach tzibur who has to be with them, or something else?
- In the case of a standard Kaddish, yes, the person saying it is a shaliach tzibur. It is something that must be said by the minyan, and it is a primary function of the shaliach tzibur.
- In the case of Kaddish Yatom and DeRabanan, however, it would seem that the clear answer is that he is not a shatz. His role is to say Kaddish in front of a minyan but not to represent the minyan. The evidence is as follows:
- We don’t say Kaddish Yatom if there are no Yetomim. It is being said by and for the yatom, not the tzibur.
- A minor and woman (Chavot Yair 222) can say it, so it clearly does not follow the general rules of shatz (Shulchan Arukh OC 53:6). The original story on which Kaddish Yatom was based is about a minor who was an orphan.
- Kaddish DeRabanan could be different – It is already in the Gemara (Sotah 49a), and has no connection to orphans. Similarly, Rambam (Nussach HaTefillah) says that whenever 10 people are learning together, one should rise at the end and say this Kaddish. For Rambam, this might be like a classic Kaddish and said on behalf of the tzibur. Nevertheless, see Mishnah Berurah 54:9 who rules that even if only 2-3 people were learning, as long as there are 10 in shul, a person can say Kaddish DeRabanan even if he himself did not learn! It is clear from this that Kaddish DeRabanan is like Kaddish Yatom – it is something that is said in front of 10, but not that represents 10 who learned.
- Another case where you need 10, but the one saying it is doing so in front of them, not representing them is HaGomeil. It is said by individual only when needed, said by women, there is a debate if requires a minyan bedieved, 2 talmidei chachamim – clearly not standard definition of minyan. The pasuk it is based on emphasizes saying before a gathered group – רוממוהו בקהל עם.
CONCLUSION: What emerges is that given that these kaddeishim only need to be said in the presence of a minyan, but not as part of or representing a minyan, it can work over Zoom to connect to the 10 that are gathered. This ultimately goes back to the principle of אפילו מחיצה של ברזל – once a minyan is in one place, you can connect to it as long as you are not a necessary part of it. Since you don’t represent it and you are not a core part of it, you can connect to it, and say your Kaddish in its presence, over Zoom. (This should be true about HaGomeil as well, as indicated above. It is quite likely that this also works for Sheva Berakhot).