However, when families invite a divorcee for Shabbat, they should bear in mind that the invitation is not just about displaying one’s fancy dinnerware or culinary excellence. A Shabbat meal is more than just filling up a guest’s plate with heaps of kugel and cholent (although that is still very much appreciated). In reality, the meal symbolizes a chance for the divorcee to recharge his or her emotional batteries. It should provide feelings of genuine hospitality as well as emotional and spiritual rejuvenation.
The Torah also proves the point that hosting guests involves more than providing a repast. Shabbat is about creating an atmosphere of family, unity, and love. The Torah alludes to this particular message through a line in the Haggadah: “Ha lach mianya.” Have you ever pondered over that phrase? Why is it that we take a moment from our action-packed Seder to invite an anonymous underprivileged person who is unlikely to hear our invitation to begin with? Additionally, we have already performed the mitzvah of ma’ot chittim prior to the Seder, so why does the Haggadah still feel the need to emphasize our responsibility towards the impoverished?
It is because in spite of our mitzvah of ma’ot chittim, we still need to give to those who are less fortunate. An anonymous donation of matzah, wine, meat, and chicken can alleviate a needy person’s financial predicaments; but does it necessarily provide holiday festivity and social warmth? A meal on Shabbat should develop kinship, dignity, and inner tranquility. Have we given those blessings to the needy? On the night that we are considered to be kings and queens, we must acknowledge that every Jewish member has the right to feel part of the royal clan. The responsibility to welcome an impoverished person to one’s home is not just restricted to those who are financially impoverished. It extends to those who can be emotionally impoverished as well (such as singles and divorcees). Therefore, if a family enables a single guest to feel accepted, joyous, and temporarily diverted from his or her distress, then they have truly accomplished a benevolent feat.
A further gesture that the Jewish Orthodox community can offer to divorced individuals (who are single parents) is parenting support and guidance. A single parent can benefit greatly from another parent’s advice on child rearing. A family can also offer to babysit a divorcee’s child so that he or she can run errands, meet a friend, or go out on a date. One must keep in mind that a divorced parent does not have that – oft taken for granted – shoulder to lean on. He or she no longer has a spouse to confer over significant issues relating to children. Being a loyal backbone for a divorcee (whether it is providing parenting suggestions or offering to babysit) truly ameliorates the arduous journey of marital separation and single parenthood.
In summation, our community should resist closing its eyes to divorced individuals and their challenges. Parenting difficulties, heartache, and the community’s initial disapproval are several tribulations that divorced people must endure. As a community, we can minimize these challenges by offering divorcees gestures of kindness and warmth. Yes, providing financial assistance to divorced individuals is tremendously helpful and sincerely appreciated, yet the most precious gift is offering sincere empathy and acceptance.
These gifts will make an invaluable difference in the lives of divorcees and their children.