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QUESTION

Midwest, USA

Is it permissible to make a siyum for Ta’anit Bechorot where I, as the rabbi, learn a masekhet and hold a live Zoom with the bechorot, but no one is in the same place–so there would be no actual communal seudah, rather people would all have food separately. A Kof K article mentioned Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT”L as permitting one to listen in to a siyum over a telephone in extenuating circumstances, but not being able to see the source inside I would imagine he means listening in to a full siyum with people and a seudah happening, though perhaps ultimately in a Sha’at HaDechak that wouldn’t matter. The other option is to suggest each bechor learn something on their own like Sefer Obadiah or a selection of Mishnayot, etc. and make their own siyum. Thank you!

ANSWER

I don’t have explicit sources to demonstrate this, but my take is that Zoom can work to define participation, not presence. So it doesn’t work to create a minyan, which is defined as men in the same geographic space, but I do believe it would work for something like HaRav et Riveinu, which requires pirsum and 10, but not minyan.

In this case, the idea is that you are participating in the siyum, which you definitely are. As to partaking in the seudat mitzvah, that is a little trickier, as that might require eating from the same food. Nevertheless, if everyone is eating together on Zoom, we can analogize it to everyone getting their own dish, with their own special food, and yet they are all eating together. Add to that, there are some Acharonim who argue that if you heard the siyum you can do the eating at home (see Minchat Yitzchak 9:45). Although we don’t generally rule that way, we can combine it to the idea that over Zoom everyone is eating together, and it is fine.

If people can learn, say Avot, and make their own siyum, all the better. Maybe you can do some community learning of Avot leading up to Pesach.