Zooming for the Glory of G-d

Friday, 20 November, 2020 - 2:35 pm

I am going to go out on a limb and assume that Chinese-American businessman, Eric Yuan is probably not a religious man. When he founded Zoom, he most likely did not have in mind that it was being made for the glory of G-d. It is further likely that the development of most internet technology is intended for the following two purposes - commerce and entertainment, and of course, profiting from commerce and entertainment. Did they know that deep down it was fulfilling the passage in Ethics of Our Fathers Chapter six, “Everything that Gā€‘d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory. As is stated (Isaiah 43:7): "All that is called by My name and for My glory, I created it, formed it, also I made it."?”

Now technology has been used extensively for promulgating religion and Torah teaching. Tools like email, the World Wide Web, and social media platforms have enabled promoters of Torah to reach incalculably more people than before. Video streaming platforms have propelled Torah’s teachings to the furthest reaches, geographically and conceptually. People could be wherever they were and access a class, a lecture, an inspiring video and the like.

In this COVID lockdown era, Zoom and similar technological platforms have been the lifeline for people to stay in touch with their families, companies, friends, and their religious communities. We have prayed on Zoom, learned Torah on Zoom, and attended life cycle events – baby-namings, Bris ceremonies, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, funerals and shiva calls – all on Zoom. We are so “zoomed out” that I heard someone mention the other day that instead of saying Zei Gezunt (Yiddish for “Be Well”), people have been saying Zei Gezoomt…

But this past week Zoom unwittingly reached a new level of “doing the L-rd’s work.” This year’s Kinus Hashluchim (shluchim conference) was forced by COVID to be virtual. Being that the five day conference would cater to people from all time zones, it was decided to have an unprecedented element of the conference. As night fell in Australia last Saturday, a Zoom farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) began. As Shabbat ended in each time zone, more and more people joined from their respective locations. It was intended to last for 23 hours, until a few hours after Shabbat ended in Hawaii, the last Chabad location on the spectrum. But something unique happened. As Hawaii was wrapping up, Australia and the Far East were waking up and the rejoined. Then Asia and Europe jumped back on when they woke up. By the time it was Sunday morning in New York, the Farbrengen was still going full force. When Zoom’s maximum of 1,000 participants was exceeded, a link was created to allow others to watch a streaming link of the event. The spontaneous global conversation just kept going and going. People logged in when they had an hour or two and continued to inspire each other. It came to an end last night after 130 hours of non-stop farbrengen. As Shabbat was approaching in Australia, it was time to wrap it up.

I have no doubt that the name of Hashem was glorified this week like never before, by this beautiful display of unity, love and ongoing inspiration. Eric Yuan, you da man. You just need to figure out how to allow more than 1,000 devices to login at the same time. Of course we look forward to the time when we will be allowed to gather in person. But in the meantime, this global 5 day farbrengen was like no other!!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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