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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/26/08

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Dear Rachel,

Less than a month into our marriage we were already experiencing some tension. The source of the discord originates with some friends we invited to our wedding. The invitation card we sent out asked the invitees whether they were coming alone or with a guest. Some of my friends wrote that they were coming alone but nevertheless brought friends along. Did they expect us to provide extra seats in advance for uninvited guests?

To really raise the level of chutzpah, some of these friends and their uninvited companions did not bring checks or gifts! How do they expect us to pay for the wedding? They know that my wife and I are currently students with only part-time jobs and that we do not come from wealthy families.

To avoid the familiar “Bar Kamtza” situation, my wife and I happily danced with all the guests, gave some of them honors, and also attended the sheva berachot dinners that our friends had offered us.

Within days of the wedding, my new wife asked me why I am still friendly with those who brought uninvited company to our wedding and failed to pay for themselves and their guests. Some of these people have been my close friends for years, and I am willing to forgive them. I consider my friends to be good people, each with his own flaws.

At the same time, I too am upset to see folks in black hats and suits − pious on the outside, but sorely lacking in middot and hakarat ha’tov. As the Yamim Noraim approached, I expected my friends to apologize for causing this tension in our marriage but didn’t hold my breath.

Should I call my friends and inform them of their faux pas, or just move on and let it go? Should I continue to trust them as friends, or cut off all contact with them? My priority is my marriage, but I don’t want to lose my longtime friends. Please help me!

A loving (new) husband

Dear Loving,

Your friends are young and − chances are − not serious enough to have considered the ramifications of their behavior. Bringing uninvited friends to your wedding was irresponsible on their part, but the reality of the situation is that they merely wished to be mesameach chassan v’kallah and meant no harm. (Unfortunately, in many instances ignorance turns out to be not so blissful.) You did the right thing by not allowing your displeasure to show and mar your simcha.

As to your suggestion that they ought to have paid for their dinner, guests should never be expected to pay for your choosing to dine and wine them at a feast to which you have invited them. Many couples and their families, while planning their elaborate affairs, irrationally count on the “checks” they will be receiving to help offset their wedding expenses. Such rationale is delusional.

While it is proper to give the bride and groom a gift (which needs not be cash), it should not be taken for granted. Furthermore, where is it stipulated that a guest is obligated to pay the cost of his/her host’s affair? In fact, the only prerequisite for partaking of a wedding feast, at least in our circles, is to participate in making the bride and groom rejoice. If one has no intention of doing so and merely stands by as an onlooker, s/he has no right to partake of the seudah.

Regarding your own personal conflict, you and your wife should consider that just as you have the need to be frugal, your friends might also be of moderate means. Having many affairs to attend may make it difficult to purchase all the gifts they would love to give yet cannot afford. (You mention Sheva Berachos made by friends; in their way, they may have considered this as their gift.)

To sever the friendship with your long-time buddies due to this incident would be foolish. Feeding guests you hadn’t counted on was an act of hachnassas orchim on your part. Provoking ill will or creating an embarrassing situation is not our way. Eventually, as your friends mature, they will realize they did wrong and may even one day admit to their error and express their regret at your dinner table.

By choosing to ignore the discomfort you were caused, you will evoke Hashem’s rachamim and He will look the other way where your own missteps are concerned. Chanukah is an auspicious time for arousing Hashem’s mercy. Hachnassas orchim and ahavas chinam infuse our lives with a glowing light and lasting warmth. May you share many happy and fulfilling years together.

* * * * *

Dear Readers: Speaking of gifts, Chanukah in our day has evolved into an elaborate gift-giving/exchanging occasion. This practice places an unnecessary monetary burden on many a household, not to mention the “s/he/they already have everything − what do we get ?” hassle.

How about good old-fashioned Chanukah gelt* for the kids (in affordable style) and homemade goodies for the adults who love to party or entertain? The current economic meltdown is a great excuse for curbing extravagance, and setting a new precedent for our children will certainly not hurt.

*Chanukah gelt was originally intended for use in the playing of dreidel, which is meant to facilitate the teaching of the story of Chanukah to young ones, via the letters on the spinning dreidel.

Dear Rachel,

We enjoy reading your weekly column and find it most informative and enlightening. Therefore, we seek your guidance regarding the following matter.

We are a well-established religious, loving and devoted couple in our 40s and are interested in domestic adoption.

If you know of a birth mother we could contact, please call us at 718-336-2021 or e-mail dlivitin@netzero.com. (We called Ohel but they have older kids and foster care.)

Thank you so much for your time and effort.

B&M

Dear B&M,

One never knows so I’m putting your message out there. May you be granted the de’light’ of a child in your lives.

Happy Chanukah!

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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