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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts The Coronavirus Pandemic

At the Shabbat Table

Chapter 9

Distant Learning

The student who tricked his Rav that he was listening to the zoom lesson...
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Yishai rolled from his side to his stomach, and sighed contentedly. There was no question. Having the air conditioning set to "meat locker" and a blanket pulled up to his chin was just the perfect combination.
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"Maybe this lockdown thing isn’t so bad, after all," Yishai thought to himself. "The one downside is the –"
His musings were suddenly interrupted by his phone. He reached out his arm and took his phone off of his night table. "Gemara class begins in five minutes. Please use the link below to login to the Zoom meeting." Yishai sighed. Leave it to his teacher to ruin a perfectly good afternoon nap.
Yishai contemplated sitting up. On the one hand, if he got up now, he could be ready on time, and avoid having Rabbi Ziv nagging him afterward about his attendance. On the other hand, the temperature controlled nocturnal experience seemed much more inviting. Ultimately, it wasn’t much of a battle. Given that the force of gravity encountered no resistance, on Yishai’s part, Yishai remained horizontal.
Yishai knew it was coming. The call from Rabbi Ziv sounded pretty much like Yishai knew it would. It had some words like "overcoming challenges" and "potential." It was the end of the conversation that got his attention, though. "Yishai, I’m sorry to say this, but if this keeps up, I’m going to be forced to call a meeting with the principal, as well as your parents."
Yishai hung up the phone and thought over the possibilities. Pretending to be sick wouldn’t get him out of zoom classes. Dentist appointment? The dentist offices were probably closed. And, anyway, that would just be a one time solution. Given that actually attending class wasn’t on the list of viable options, Yishai was running out of ideas. And then it came to him.
The next day, the notification came from Rabbi Ziv. And this time, Yishai was ready. He opened the Zoom link, set up the video he had made the night before, and went back to being horizontal. He could sleep well knowing that all his teacher and classmates would see was Yishai sitting in front of his Gemara, raising his head every so often to look at the screen in front of him. It was almost like attending class, wasn’t it?
For his part, Rabbi Ziv almost fell off his chair when he saw Yishai, present and accounted for. And, shockingly, he actually seemed to be paying attention! Rabbi Ziv was delighted when the scene repeated itself the next day. Of course, if Rabbi Ziv hadn’t been busy conducting class, he might have noticed that the scene was, in fact, repeating itself on a three minute cycle.
By the end of the week, Rabbi Ziv was so impressed with Yishai’s attendance, that he decided that such behavior couldn’t go unrewarded. He looked up Yishai’s address, donned his mask, and headed out to the pizza shop. A half hour later, Rabbi Ziv was ringing Yishai’s doorbell.
The pajama clad adolescent was understandably shocked, when he opened his front door, and found his Gemara teacher doing pizza delivery. "Yishai, I’m so proud of you for your attendance this week!" Rabbi Ziv gushed. "You really deserve this pizza, for all of your hard work!"
With that, the teacher handed the box to his startled student, and walked away. Yishai closed the door, and suddenly the pizza box in his hands felt very heavy. Had he done the wrong thing? Did he have to tell Rabbi Ziv that he hadn’t earned any reward? Was he even allowed to eat the pizza?
Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Arieli, shlita:
Yishai transgressed the prohibition of geneivat da’at (deception). (See Rambam, De’ot, 2, 6)
The pizza that Yishai received from Rabbi Ziv has the status of "mistaken gift." Had Rabbi Ziv known that Yishai did not actually attend class, the teacher would not have given Yishai a reward. Therefore, it would be proper for Yishai to tell the teacher that he is not deserving of a reward, that there was a misunderstanding, and that that pizza should really go to someone else, or something along those lines. If Yishai is too embarrassed to tell his Rav the truth, then, at least, he should give it to a different student-- one in which, assumedly, his Rav would prefer to give it to.
In summary:
Yishai must tell Rabbi Ziv that he is not deserving of the pizza.

Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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