Inviting Non-Observant Jew for a Meal

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Many families face the problem of whether or not to invite non-observant friends or relatives to a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal. Extending an invitation to a non-observant Jew to join a Yom Tov se’udah involves the guest driving to the meal by car (unless they are neighbors), and that may constitute a violation upon the host of the  prohibition of Lifnei Iveir Lo Titein Mich’shol, placing a stumbling block before the blind (VaYikra 19:14). On the other hand the potential for the positive spiritual impact is enormous, for seeing a joyous family experience a Torah event such as a Yom Tov Se’udah with its delicate food, Zemirot and Divrei Torah has motivated many to increase their level of commitment to Torah observances.

Similarly, if one does not invite relatives to a Shabbat Bar Mitzvah one risks the predictable reaction of relatives becoming very insulted and upset and possibly alienating his extended family. The Poskim of the twentieth century grappled with this quandary and have presented a variety of approaches. I will present the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein, and of course, Rav Soloveitchik.

Rav Moshe (Iggerot Moshe O”CH 1:99) was asked by a Rav in Detroit whether it is permissible for him to encourage people to come to Shul when he knows that they will have to drive to Shul on Shabbat. Rav Moshe strongly rejects doing so. He argues that extending such an invitation constitutes a violation of “Lifnei Iveir”. Chazal (Avodah Zarah 6b) understand this prohibition to include facilitating others [analogous to the blind, as they are blinded by their passions and ignorance to sin-the stumbling block]. Extending the invitation to shul facilitates their sinful behavior of driving on Shabbat, a serious violation of Torah law.

Rav Soloveitchik had a different perspective on this issue. Based on the Mishna in Shevi’it (5:6), which teaches that one can sell certain agricultural equipment to a semi-observant Jew during Shemitah, but certain implements are forbidden to be sold. Plowing implements are forbidden to be sold as these items are clearly to be used for violation of Torah law, as all plowing is forbidden during Shemitah. Harvesting equipment, on the other hand, is permitted to be sold since certain harvesting is permitted during the Shemitah year. The concept is, that if the item is expected to be used only for forbidden activity then selling it violates Lifnei Iveir, but if the item is expected to be used for either forbidden or permitted activity one does not violate Lifnei Iveir, as one is not facilitating the violation of a sin in such a case since the item will not necessarily be used for a forbidden use.

In our case, one may invite a non-observant Jew on Shabbat or Yom Tov, if he offers him a place to sleep over. In such a case, one does not violate Lifnei Iveir since the invitation does not necessarily facilitate the violation of Shabbat or Yom Tov. By framing the invitation is such a manner the situation is analogous to the Mishnah in Shevi’it. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ruled in accordance with Rav Soloveitchik.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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