Rabbis allow Sabbath invites for non-religious Jews
Rabbis permit Sabbath invites even if guests will break Jewish law for the purpose of positively impacting Jewish identities.
Jewish woman lights the Shabbat candles Photo: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Rabbis from the Orthodox Beit Hillel organization have issued a ruling that it
is permissible to invite a non-religious person to your home for a Shabbat meal,
even if they will travel by car on the Sabbath itself.
In general, it is
forbidden according to Jewish law to suggest any kind of activity to someone who
might, through doing it, break Halacha. Therefore, inviting someone for Shabbat
when it is known that they will travel by car, and thus infringe upon the
precepts of Jewish law, has traditionally been heavily discouraged.
new ruling issued by the rabbis of Beit Hillel states that if the invitation is
for the purpose of positively impacting the Jewish identity of a non-religious
person, then there is room to be lenient.
According to Rabbi Ronen
Neuwirth, director of Beit Hillel, many secular Israelis are today seeking
spiritual input and experience in their lives, and the opportunity to expose
someone to a traditional Shabbat atmosphere should be embraced in order to
provide this positive experience.
“Shabbat is one of the most unifying
experiences and it is a real opportunity to create a connection between
religious and secular Jews,” Neuwirth said. “By inviting a non-religious friend,
neighbor or work colleague for a Shabbat meal, it can help bring society
together, unite families in which some members are religious while others are
not, strengthen a person’s Jewish identity and draw people closer to their
heritage,” the rabbi continued.
Neuwirth insisted, however, that inviting
a non-religious person for Shabbat for the purpose of business or general
socializing would not be permitted according to Beit Hillel’s ruling.
also noted that it was preferable to invite someone to either stay for the
entire Shabbat or to come before Shabbat begins.
In dealing with the
principle in Jewish law of “not placing a stumbling block before the blind” –
the basis of the prohibition against inviting a non-religious person for a
Shabbat meal, if it is known they will break Jewish law to do so – Neuwirth
cited a ruling by Rabbi Moshe Shternboch, the second most senior rabbi in the
radical Eda Haredit communal organization.
Neuwirth explained that
according to Shternboch’s ruling, based on the opinion of medieval rabbinic
source Rabbeinu Yonah, the principle applies only when something tangible has
been proffered that might lead someone to break Jewish law, which would not
apply to an invitation for a Shabbat meal.
“We want people to be partners
in what we see as a new spirit in Israel where so many people are looking for
spiritual input, and the purpose of this ruling is to help religious people feel
comfortable in inviting non-religious people over Shabbat,” Neuwirth
Beit Hillel has also issued guidelines for religious people wishing
to accept an invitation for a meal at a non-religious person’s house who may not
adhere strictly to Jewish dietary laws.
Neuwirth said that there are a
series of possible leniencies that would allow an observant person to eat
catered food from crockery and cutlery in a non-religious household, something
which has traditionally been considered highly problematic according to Jewish
Eating food prepared in the kitchen of a non-observant household
would not be permitted according to this ruling.
Neuwirth said that both
rulings were designed to “help strengthen the bonds of Israeli society,” by
providing greater opportunities for religious and non-religious people to
interact and be exposed to traditional Jewish experiences.