Is it appropriate to invite yeshiva bachurim to one’s
Shabbos table if one has a teenage girl at home?
Of course! Saying no would be tantamount to positing that one who has a teenage girl at home is exempt from the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim in regards to bachurim, and that would be untenable.
The Gemara (Berachot 10b) compares hosting talmidei chachamim to bringing the korban tamid. It would certainly be unseemly to send a teenage girl away if yeshiva students are Shabbat guests.
From a broader perspective, it’s inarguable that those immersed in Torah study benefit from interacting with all different types of people around a Shabbat table, especially with a young woman their age. There are few natural ways for young men and women to meet today without evoking greater expectations, and the Shabbat table is an ideal setting for such meetings. (I personally know of shidduchim that resulted from Shabbat table interactions.)
The ability to relate, converse, and share ideas with others is important for young adults’ self-development, growth, maturity, and even refinement of thought. Assuming there is nothing untoward in their contacts, it sounds like a wonderful opportunity for everyone.
The only thing that would be even better is if the teenage girl invited over some of her friends to join them at the Shabbat meal. Under proper adult supervision, only good things can happen.
— Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the Israel regional
vice president for the Coalition for Jewish Values
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If girls behave in a manner that attracts attention and try to engage in conversation with boys or don’t dress in a modest fashion, it certainly is improper to invite yeshiva students and thus expose them to an immodest situation.
Even in a place where girls behave in a proper manner, if the yeshiva students are not accustomed to being in a social settings with girls, and the encounter will cause their thoughts to stray, it’s best to avoid mixed Shabbat meals.
So, generally speaking, the answer is no – but not always. It depends on the circumstances.
— Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzefas
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My first instinct is to say no. Why create unnecessary distraction or confusion? It’s always best to err on the side of caution in these matters and to avoid the needless tensions that may arise from yeshiva boys sitting at the same table with a teenage girl (or teenage girls sitting at a table with a yeshiva boy).
And yet, I struggle with my negative response because, at the end of the day, the healthy way to address gender issues in the frum community is not merely through fear-based suppression, but through discussion and education, inculcating our youth with a positive outlook on the segregation of the genders.
This includes explaining to our children the foundational principles of the beauty and dignity of relationships from a Torah point of view, offering them a clear understanding why Hashem created male and female in the Divine Image, the reason for their attraction to each other, the challenges therein, and the vital importance of first cultivating one’s own gender identity without distractions before harnessing that attraction toward holy ends when men and women have matured and are capable of building a sacred union in marriage.
So my final opinion remains that it’s best to maintain gender segregation as much as possible (with certain exceptions, of course – e.g., family gatherings), but not in a neurotic or obsessive way, which just contributes to inciting the yetzer.
Let us use this question as an opportunity to teach our next generation the majesty of building healthy, loving, and sustainable marriages.
— Rabbi Simon Jacobson, renowned
Lubavitch author and lecturer
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I think the answer depends on the community with which one’s home affiliates. All communities face the fundamental question of how to promote sanctity in interactions between men and women and girls and boys. Rashi notes at the beginning of Parshat Kedoshim that the Torah uses the word kedushah (sanctity) in the context of geder ervah.
Some Torah communities keep children of opposite genders basically apart until they are ready to meet potential marriage partners; in such a world, it might be better to refrain from inviting yeshiva bachurim lest they become overly interested in the teenage girl.
On the other hand, the separations already in place in those communities may be enough to forestall any interactions anyway.
At the other end of the spectrum, some Torah communities allow much social mixing of the sexes in general, believing it fosters healthier overall relationships. In homes in such communities, there seems little point in not extending hospitality because both the bachurim and the teenage girl likely meet boys or men anyway. Homes and yeshivot in such communities, though, need to emphasize the proper ways to behave in a world where men and women socialize freely.
In the middle, perhaps, are communities where boys and girls, men and women, largely do not mix, but have fairly free conversations at Shabbat tables. In such communities, the answer seems particular to each family, and its sense of its teenage daughter and confidence of ensuring propriety.
Also, a man once told me he made a practice of inviting yeshiva bachurim as a matter of hospitality when his daughters were teenagers, not yet ready for marriage. One young man made a particular impression. Years later, when his daughter was of age, he tracked down the young man, arranged the shidduch, and the couple is married (happily, as far as I know). So there’s that.
— Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein, author, regular
contributor to www.Torahmusings.com