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Dear Rachel,

Evidently there are people who think they honor you when in truth they are burdening you. You’ve addressed the topic of lavish bar mitzvah affairs before, but I fail to recall any mention of the latest craze: inviting guests to come for “dancing and dessert” at way past dinner hour.

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Now I ask you, Rachel, what makes a baal simcha believe that the invitee might actually relish getting dressed up to go out at that time of night for some sherbet and cookies? If I sound peeved, I am. I write this to inform my close friends, neighbors, etc., that I respect their right and prerogative to limit their guest list and am not in the least bit offended at not making the cut.

Very close friends of ours explained that for reasons x, y and z their son’s bar mitzvah was to be a strictly family-only affair. We told them that we understood, and we really did. And then we received an invitation for “dancing and dessert.” Really? At an hour that would require us to hire a babysitter and get dressed to go out just so we could wish our friends a mazel tov in person and have some Klein’s pareve ice cream?

Yeah, I know we could choose not to go, but that’s more of an option when it involves an acquaintance. When it comes to close friends, you feel an obligation. And frankly, it’s a pain. I could just as well convey my best wishes when I see them in shul or at shiur the next day.

While I’m venting, I’d like to call out the supposedly “strictly orthodox” Jewish families who are electing – with increasing frequency, I might add – to celebrate their sons’ bar mitzvahs in a mixed-seating venue. Before I get jumped on, I want to make it clear that I am neither chassidish nor Litvish or farfrumt; I’m just an ordinary frum fellow with human inclinations. Consider, please, the following scenario.

A close relative’s bar mitzvah. Large crowd. After maneuvering our way through a dense crowd of men and women congregating and schmoozing in the entrance hall, my wife and I take our seats at our assigned table and are shortly joined by other close family members. All good and well, except for the more than handful of young ladies sashaying in my line of vision. These are either grossly uninformed of the laws of tzniut or could care less.

I resolve my dilemma by positioning the large floral centerpiece so as to afford me the chance to make a bracha on the food I am about to eat. But I am soon duly denied my “privacy” when a waiter unceremoniously removes my personal partition (I guess to serve a more vital function elsewhere).

For the record, I was hardly the only uneasy participant at the event, but as close relatives to the baalei simcha we were obligated to attend. Had this been a small family gathering with properly attired participants, it might have been a different story.

Thanks for letting me air my frustration.

Mr. Perturbed

 

Dear Mr. Perturbed,

Take a deep breath and try seeing things from your friend’s perspective. They’re making a simcha and would probably like nothing better than to share it with all of their close and dear friends. Circumstances, however, force them to restrict their guest list. Still, they find a way to share the joyful event with those they can’t afford to host for the seudah – by inviting them for dessert and having them participate in the celebration in some form.

While you may find it a chore to pull yourself together and accept the gesture with grace, you might be surprised at the number of people who, unlike yourself, take pleasure in 1) getting out a bit; 2) socializing with friends; 3) communicating their best wishes to the hosts and 4) delighting the baalei simcha with their presence (despite not having been invited to the meal).

At the same time, you needn’t feel put upon. Your friends did what was best for them, and you understood… One would expect them to have the same understanding for you and not feel offended at your no-show.

Your second grievance is one of a more serious nature, and your own personal experience highlights exactly why mixed seating at simchas is avoided and eschewed by the strictly observant. There are unfortunately many people who are ignorant of the halacha that prohibits a male from making a bracha in the presence of an immodestly clad female, and of the detrimental effect a woman’s immodesty can have on her, as well as on everyone whom she encounters.

The lack of knowledge on the part of women in the area of tznius is truly heartbreaking. Rather than presuming them to have a “could-care less” attitude, I’d like to believe the majority don’t know better. One starts a trend and the others mindlessly follow suit – each, in turn, believing that “if it’s good for so-and-so, it’s good enough for me.” (You can apply this type of influence factor to both the mixed seating issue and the decline of tznius all too apparent in some frum circles.)

The following is an excerpt from “Oz Ve-hadar Levushah: Modesty:An Adornment for Life…” by Rav Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Feldheim Publishers):

“In a public letter written by the Chofetz Chayim in the year 5684 (1924), when endless tzaros befell the Jewish people, he quoted the verse, ‘For Hashem your G-d walks within your camp to save you etc. He shall not see nakedness with you [lest] He withdraw from behind you [and you remain unprotected]’ (Devarim 23:14-15).

“The Chofetz Chayim points out that the verse states that when there is tznius Hashem is between us and extends us His special protection; whereas, when there is pritzus and ervah-related behavior in our midst Hashem turns away from us and we remain totally unprotected. The Chofetz Chayim then went on to stress that the great sins of dresses with short sleeves, cut-out collars and uncovered hair are the reasons for the lack of protection and Divine intervention on our behalf.”

Hope your venting has helped you de-stress, and if it has served to enlighten the uninformed, all the better. Thanks for taking the time to air your frustrations in this forum.

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