The Sephardic Community of Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Is it permissible to invite non-observant friends and relatives to a family Simha, such as a wedding?  In many cases, it can be assumed that the non-observant guest will eat without washing Netilat Yadayim and without reciting Berachot or Birkat Hamazon.  Seemingly, then, by inviting him to the affair, the host is causing him to violate Halacha, and it is forbidden to cause a fellow Jew to transgress the Torah.  The question thus arises, is there room to allow inviting non-observant guests to an affair that one is hosting?

 Halacha indeed allows inviting a non-observant guest to a celebration, due to the combination of several factors.  Firstly, the host does not directly give the food to the guest.  The guest makes the independently willed decision to take the food, and we therefore do not consider the host to be involved in a Halachic violation.  Secondly, the guest would be eating in any event; if he had not been invited to the affair, then he would have eaten a meal at home or somewhere else.  Therefore, the host does not cause him to sin by inviting him to the event.  Additionally, when a person hosts a catered affair, he implicitly grants each guest ownership over the food he eats.  Thus, for example, the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles of Cracow, 1525-1572), in Eben Ha’ezer (28), rules that if a wedding guest takes some food he is served and betroths a woman with that food, the betrothal is valid.  The food is considered to be under the guest’s ownership, and he is therefore capable of betrothing a woman with that food.  Hence, when a non-observant guest eats food without reciting a Beracha, he is eating his own food, and the host is not considered to have facilitated the transgression.  Thus, it is permissible to invite Jews who are not Halachically observant to an affair that one is hosting.

 Another sensitive question that the Halachic authorities addressed is whether one may invite a non-observant Jew to his home for a Shabbat meal, knowing that the guest will drive there (and back) on Shabbat.  There is one writer, the author of the work Ben Yisrael La’amim, who allowed extending such an invitation, since this is done for the purpose of drawing the guest closer to Torah observance by having him experience the beauty of Shabbat.  However, the vast majority of Halachic authorities disagree, and rule that one may not invite a guest if he will drive.  Having a guest show up at one’s home on Shabbat by car, and then leaving by car, causes a Hillul Hashem (defamation of God), in that it creates a public desecration of Shabbat.  This is especially problematic if one’s has young children, who will see a guest arriving and leaving by car on Shabbat, and thus might be confused about the sanctity of Shabbat.  Certainly we do not want to offend any Jew, observant or not, and these issues are therefore very delicate.  This Halacha demonstrates not our disdain for our fellow Jews, Heaven forbid, but rather our sensitivity to the sanctity of Shabbat.  One who wishes to invite a non-observant Jew for a Shabbat meal should invite him to sleep over in his home or in another home nearby, rather than have him drive on Shabbat.  This is the ruling of numerous Halachic authorities, including Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Orah Haim 1:99), Rav Shemuel Wosner (Shebet Halevi, vol. 8), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and Hacham Yishak Yosef (in Yalkut Yosef).

 Another question arose regarding the case of a newborn boy born on Shabbat, and whose circumcision thus takes place the following Shabbat.  It sometimes happens that non-observant relatives will want to drive to the Berit Mila on Shabbat.  Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (1915-2006) was asked whether the Berit should be deferred until Sunday, to avoid causing Shabbat desecration.  Rav Waldenberg ruled that the Berit may, in fact, be held as scheduled on Shabbat, despite the concern that people will drive.  He notes that the decision to drive is made independently by the guests, not by the hosts, and if we forbid conducting a Berit Mila on Shabbat, then we would have to close every synagogue every Shabbat, due to the same concern.  Certainly, it is permissible to hold prayer services on Shabbat, and a Berit Mila, and this is not the same as extending a personal invitation to somebody who will drive. (However, one who openly drives to the synagogue on Shabbat should not be given any type of honor in the synagogue.)

 Summary: It is permissible to invite non-observant friends and relatives to a Simha, even though they will eat without reciting Berachot.  One may not invite a non-observant Jew to his home for a Shabbat meal if the guest will drive there on Shabbat.  It is permissible to conduct a Berit Mila on Shabbat even though non-observant friends and relatives may drive there on Shabbat.



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