UPDATES: Rav Shlomo Amar stated in a letter that tehre is absolutely
no basis to this heter and that it is wrong. It has been communicated
to Rabbi Hoffman that 3 of the Rabbonim who signed have retracted the
ruling (Rav Moshe Suissa, Rav Aharon Cohen, and Rav Yonatan Sror).
The ruling was, apparently, issued only in one case of a Pikuach
nefesh situation with some of the details being different.
Rabbi Herschel Schachter explains that this is only in a definite pikuach nefesh situation. The articles that I have seen on this do not seem to emphasize this adequately. The quote from the rabbis does not seem to adequately explain that it is only in a situation where they are indeed in despair of their lives and not could lead them to despair of life.
If the government or a physician has decided that an individual must
remain in isolation over the course of Yom Tov and this individual has
a psychological condition where physicians who know this patient have
determined that there is a possibility that this person being alone
over the course of Yom Tov would be in a situation of pikuach nefesh
(possible suicide) if the individual was not able to communicate or
speak with family members, then the family members must reach out to
this person over Yom Tov to speak on the phone or use the internet by
leaving a connection open from before Yom Tov. Rav Moshe Feinstein has
decided that, in certain circumstances, psychological danger is
considered life threatening. Rabbi Soloveitchik went further and
noted, in the name of his grandfather Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, that
even if there is a concern that someone will lose his or her mind even
if their life is not in danger, that too is considered a case of
If a person is physically ill and alone and the
physicians have determined that there is a possibility of the
condition deteriorating further to a point of being life threatening,
then the family must remain in contact using electronic devices with
that person over the course of Yom Tov in order to check on the
person's well being.
If a parent who is ill lives outside of Israel
and the parent has a non-Jewish aide then the children who live in
Israel are allowed to call the non-Jew and speak with the non-Jew when
it is Yom Tov outside of Israel and not Yom Tov in Israel in order to
check in on the parent. Those family members in Israel can also ask
the non-Jew to show the parent a live screen of the family so that the
patient can see that his family members are safe and healthy. It is
also proper to tell the non-Jewish aide in America that if the patient
is upset or concerned over Yom Tov and the patient would like to speak
to family members, then the non-Jew should remind the patient that it
is Passover or the Sabbath and that after the Sabbath and holiday is
over they will certainly be able to speak on the phone.
someone is not as ill as described above, however they must be
confined and alone because of the circumstances related to the
Coronavirus then they may not use any electronic devices in order to
connect to family members on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Although it is
painful and sad to be alone and people want to be with family and
friends, this is not a sakanas nefashos, a life threatening situation,
and there is no place at all to allow the violation of Shabbos and Yom
Rav Schachter explains that showing a virtual seder during Yom Tov is improper.
However, to leave a computer screen on and to have people watch and
connect over the internet is a greater concern of violating Shabbos
and Yom Tov since it creates images and pictures when the people move.
If the government and medical professionals have said that it is not
safe for parents and children to be together then children may not
visit for Pesach, even at the insistence of the parents. Not listening
to the parents in this situation is not a violation of Kibbud Av V’Em.