Thursday, February 08, 2007

Don't Come For Shabbos Unless You're Frum!

I'll be the first to admit that I've never read anything by Uri Orbach, so maybe there is some humor or irony in this article that I am missing. If so, please let me know and I'll be more than happy to retract my criticism of his article.

Mr. Orbach writes about the "horrors" (my word, not his) of having non-observant guests for Shabbos. Whether it be the fact that they arrive and/or leave on Shabbos, accidentally turn on and off the lights or have a cell phone ring, he simply "cannot handle it" (his words).

Personally, I found the whole tone of the article offensive. Especially odious was this line:

Don't come visiting on Shabbat, not even if you call in advance. If we happen to invite you – please politely decline. Because it pushes our buttons. We with our "mishigas," our rules and our old habits.

Really now. If you have a problem with non-observant people, then just don't invite them. When they call in advance to say that they are coming, just tell them no, thank you.

I don't know what kind of guests Mr. Orbach has for Shabbos. If he has guests who go out of their way to flout their non-observance, then perhaps Mr. Orbach needs to find some new friends, not swear off the idea of having Shabbos guests.

In the Wolfish household, we have relatives who are non-observant. And, yes, we sometimes have them over for Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. All such guests know that they are invited to remain for Shabbos and/or Yom Tov. The fact that they don't stay is their business -- I'm not going to tie them up to stop them from leaving after the meal is over.

However, the guests that we have over are, to a degree, sensitive to our religious sensibilities. They will turn off their cell phones before arriving. Men will wear yarmulkes (no, the women don't cover their hair). Aside from the actual arrival and/or departure, they won't engage in any activity that is an outright desecration of Shabbos. They wash and bentch and answer Amen to b'rachos. In short, they know how to behave on Shabbos; and, in the event that they slip up and unknowingly do something that is forbidden, we advise them nicely and gently that that can't be done, and it doesn't happen again.

If there are kids and they turn off or on a light, so what? If they are too young to know any better, then aside from the inconvenience of having a light off, there is no real harm. If they are old enough to know better, then we simply explain to them that they cannot do what they did.

Over Succos, we had the good fortune to celebrate a Bar-Mitzvah. We have many relatives who are not observant (coming from a non-observant family, the vast majority of my relatives, including my father, fall into that category). We invited them all to come and spend the entire Yom Tov with us. Some took us up on it (ironically, it was the observant [out of town] relatives who did so) while others did not. But even the non-observant were welcome to come, celebrate the Bar Mitzvah with us and spend time with us in our succah. Did some people violate the rules of Yom Tov in coming? Definitely, but they would no doubt have driven somewhere on that beautiful Sunday morning. As long as I made it clear to them that they were welcome to come before Yom Tov and stay until after Yom Tov was over, it wasn't a problem (according to my rav).

Ultimately, as frum Jews, it is our job to spread the message that observance of the mitzvos (commandments) is a good thing. You do that through positive exposure - by showing people the beauty of a Shabbos meal, how special the Yomim Tovim are, etc. And if it means putting up with the occasional religious faux pas, so be it - I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives. As long as your guests are willing to respect your rules, then there is no reason I can think of to not have non-observant people over for Shabbos and expose them to the beauty of a Shabbos meal.

The Wolf

13 comments:

RaggedyMom said...

This comes up a lot for us on both sides of the family. Your take on it resembles our own. We've always felt that the importance of the relationships trumps the importance of asserting some kind of religious point, and have been advised by a Rav in some cases to try to maintain the relationship minus preaching. I would not feel comfortable living in a community where this approach was not tolerated.

Hila said...

Wolf,

I read the same article just the other day. I actually wrote a "diary entry" for my History of Judaism class about the article. I couldn't quite tell if Orbach was being sarcastic or not...But I'm with you, it doesn't matter much to me either way, I was offended.

I'm just glad that I live in a community where all denominations and levels of observance are tolerated, welcome, and accepted. The (Orthodox) Rabbi of my shul invites secular, Reform, and Conservative people over for Shabbat in his home all the time. Those that have less experience with Shabbat observance are gently guided by the Rabbi and his wife as to why we do/don't do certain things, etc. I was there just this last Shabbos and it was such a pleasant experience--non-observant and observant guests alike.


Bah humbug to Uri Orbach.


-Hila

orthomom said...

I completely agree. I also somehow missed the humor or irony when I read the piece yesterday. The OrthoFamily hosts nonobservant friends and relatives frequently, and I have yet to encounter a lack of respect on a level I find offensive. I have never seen a cell phone at the Shabbos table and anyone who drove to my house has been smart enough to park their car out of my sightlines. The unpleasantness on the part of nonobservant Shabbos guests that Mr. orbach seems to treat as de rigueur hasn't materialized here either.

Ari Kinsberg said...

"All such guests know that they are invited to remain for Shabbos and/or Yom Tov. The fact that they don't stay is their business -- I'm not going to tie them up to stop them from leaving after the meal is over."

we have non-observant guests over for meals, but lately i'm feeling more uncomfortable about having them travel. i don't really like the business of offering them the opportunity to stay over because we know very well that 99.99% of the time they won't.

mother in israel said...

Uri Orbach is a very popular humorist and commentator. For many years he and a left-wing secular columnist co-hosted a radio show together. I have heard him and in my opinion he represents the worst of religious Zionism.

mother in israel said...

To make myself clear, he is seen as a representative of the religious community. And he does a bad job.

Still Wonderin' said...

"we have non-observant guests over for meals, but lately i'm feeling more uncomfortable about having them travel. i don't really like the business of offering them the opportunity to stay over because we know very well that 99.99% of the time they won't."

Don't be uncormfortable. View it as an investmenr in the future. You never know what the future will bring. As long as you take the time to explain to your children that different people do different things, and why, you should look past the past that these guests travel to and from you on shabbos.

I speak from personal experience that you never know how your hospitality and understanding will manifest itself in the next generation. My experience has been particularly remarkable. I hope one day you can say the same.

SaraK said...

Wolf,
I agree with you completely.

And SW, I agree with you, as well. You really never know what can come of your understanding.

Jacob Da Jew said...

Ari: I recently had the same question. I too felt uncomfortable about having my guests travel on shabbos..

So I asked a Shaila and I was told that it is not my concern HOW the guests get there, I have to be nice and polite to them.

And so I had them over, and they said that they had such a good time because I did not preach to them. They also said that it was the best meal in months.

In summary, think to yourself -What would G-d want me to do here?

Would He want me to show these people how to enjoy shabbos ?

OR

Let them continue to be unaware of the beauty of Shabbos?

I'll leave you with that.

BrooklynWolf said...

And, I should add, it's not like they are going to be sitting at home being Shomer Shabbos anyway...

The Wolf

Ezzie said...

I don't know how I missed this post until now...

Great post. My mother is a BT, which means my grandparents and aunt/uncle/cousins aren't frum. On my father's side, there are plenty as well. Yet for my own bar-mitzvah, everyone was offered the opportunity to come for Shabbos - and most took us up on it. My aunt has 2 sons, E & J, and she came alone with E.

E told us afterwards that it was one of the nicest Shabbosos he'd ever experienced, and kept calling us for some of the zemiros tunes he'd heard from a close family friend from Israel who was there. (He's quite musical and ended up part of a Jewish a capella group in college.) Of the two brothers, he is more traditional - or even "RW" - Conservative, while his brother married Reconstructionist and I'm really not sure what he feels.

Sure, he was probably always a bit more inclined that way than his brother, but I've often wondered if that Shabbos helped spur his strong appreciation for Judaism. I'm definitely sure that it didn't hurt it a bit.

Ari Kinsberg said...

still wondering:

"As long as you take the time to explain to your children that different people do different things"

my discomfort has nothing to do with my children. actually i have only one son who is way too young to realize not everyone is religious. and if he could, that would be fine. i have no problem (in fact i prefer) that he be exposed to people of different backgrounds.

jacob (and still wondering):

"Would He want me to show these people how to enjoy shabbos ? OR
Let them continue to be unaware of the beauty of Shabbos?"

my discomfort is that many of my non-observant guests have been to shabbat meals, in some cases many times. will my meal really be the one that does it for them? (i guess you never know).

also, the truth is that in many cases my invitation is as much (or even more?) of a social one than a kiruv one. these are old friends or aquaintances that i don't see anymore and a shabbat meal is simply a convenient and pleasant time to do so. this is really why i feel uncomfortable.

wolf:

"it's not like they are going to be sitting at home being Shomer Shabbos anyway"

i have no idea what they would do that specific night if i did not invite them. and if they want to be mehalel shabbat, then fine. but why on my account?

i have heard of various heterim (such as the one you mentioned about offering them a place to sleep over). do you know if this issue is discussed anywhere in print. (how about a post?)

Anonymous said...

I just found this post (in a round about way after reading about Dunkin Donuts on SaraK). I used to be barely Conservative. I participated in a group with ties to an orthodox organization (I don't want to give too much detail to make it seem I'm bad mouthing a specific group). A few people there were harping on every mistake I ever made, seeming to take great offense. I finally stopped going to their events.

But I started dating one of the members (one who was nice to me!) Her family was very warm and accepting of me. I was invited for several Shabbos and Yom Tov meals, and they never jumped on me if I made a mistake. They just told me later what happened, and the reasoning behind the laws, etc. I've since married the wonderful woman, have become more religous (I wouldn't say frum... not yet anyway, but shomor shabbos and kosher now) and have shabbos guests myself on occasion.

Just telling this because some people mentioned never knowing what being welcoming to non-religious guest could bring. It definitely brought me in after I almost wrote all othodoxy off.

(not a regular wolfish reader, hope anonymous posts are okay... if I become regular, I'll get an account)