Question: It is known that some sephardim generally arrive at a simcha a few hours subsequent to the time noted on the invitation. Is there any logic behind this custom?
Answer: Years ago, while serving as a rav in Los Angeles, I, together with my wife, went to a bat mitzvah celebration at the home of a prominent Iranian friend. The event was called for 7 p.m. We arrived shortly after 7:00 and were escorted to the backyard of the venue where there were tables and chairs for at least 500 people. Yet, to our shock and amazement, not a single person was there.
Thinking that we had come on the wrong date, I informed the person who had escorted us that I had probably made an error and that we were departing. As we were about to leave, I was told that the party was in fact taking place that evening.
Noticed my puzzlement, the host himself came forward to speak with me. He said that the satan visits every happy event in order to create an ayin hara and mar the simcha. To counter this, all invitations announce the simcha for at least an hour prior to the time when the event is really scheduled to begin. When the satan arrives at the scheduled time and sees no one there, he figures he is wasting his time – it’s a “no-show party” – and leaves. The guests, however, know in advance that the event won’t begin until at least an hour after the official time and therefore only arrive after the satan has already departed.
Not wishing to provide the satan with an opportunity to mar the simcha, my wife and I departed and returned two hours later – just in time for the beginning of the festivities.
Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of several works on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.