Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Admit, I Just Don't Get It

I've gone to weddings with mixed seating and to those with separate seating. It doesn't bother me either way, except where I know no one at the table and at least my husband would be a familiar face. Only once were we faced with a Shabbos simcha seating dilemma, and since we didn't know before hand we were stuck. Shabbos sheva brochos for a nephew that were separate seating with a mechitza. I sat with my sisters in law and some of my nieces, my husband with his brothers and some of the nephews. We have on myriad other occasions, for a yom tov or holiday celebration, all been together and sat mixed at the table. Suddenly someone was awfully worried about the proprieties of seating us together.

One of the shuls in our area seems to be telling its members that "public" affairs should not be mixed, even on Shabbos. It's not enough to provide separate seating for guests who will not sit mixed in public regardless of the occasion; everyone must sit separately. My husband came back from a kiddush in this shul this past shabbos that was separate seating with a mechitza. We've all known each other for over 30 years, have sat together for over 30 years, happen to be related to the baal simcha, and suddenly we can't be "trusted" to sit together on Shabbos.

We are now invited for Friday night sheva brochos, the Friday night of Purim, and the baal simcha told us that we should know it will be separate seating with a mechitza. Every one of us at the sheva brochos will be related to each other. I'm going to have a full house of family, but only some of us are invited to the sheva brochos. Strangely enough, some of that family that will be here because of the sheva brochos is going to sit mixed at my shabbos table for lunch, with zero problems.

We've decided we aren't going to the sheva brochos. Of all times, Shabbos is not one to split up families. I'll sit at my own table, my husband will make kiddush for us and we will do what we always do on Shabbos--we will have the time and leisure to connect, to ask what is going on in each other's lives, what has happened that we should know about. I guess I'm feeling like that English saying: "What God has put together let no man put asunder." Yes, there are some places and situations where the private and the public are different. For me, sitting at a Shabbos table is not one of those times nor one of those places.


19 comments:

Elitzur said...

I fully support your decision. Actually, I won't go to separate seating weddings either (unless I'm REALLY forced). With little kids at home how often do I get a chance to do something with my wife. You want me to pay a baby sitter so I can not see her?

G said...

It's a brave new world people.

Strike that - It's a saddening and frightening new world.

Tzippy said...

It bothers me too when Shabbos invitations don't include the whole family or split us up. Happened to us just once and now we check beforehand, but they invited our whole family to a sheva brochos also and the men were on one table and the women on another table and the kids on another table. Why should sheva brochos be more important then being together with your husband and children on shabbos? The baal simcha made kiddush to be yotzai everyone and our three year old got upset that his father wasn't making kiddush. He asked if that wasn't an aveiroh. Who needs that?

Anonymous said...

Our rav holds that any public meal has to have a mechitza because bentching is tefilla and you can't sit mixed or daven mixed. Makes no sense to me. Isn't the same bentching in your home also a tefilla? That would mean you can't sit mixed at your own table and you need a mechitza.

G said...

Now there's creativity for you, a Rav who has devised a way to avoid having to both invite guests to his house for meals and accept invitations to eat elsewhere.

Brilliant!!

anonymously said...

Only surprised that there hasn't been a ban on eating in restaurants yet unless every table is surrounded by a mechitzah and the seating is separate. They are mixed seating and there is definitely bentching that goes on. I guess only those all the way to the left eat out.

leahle said...

Shhh anonymosly, don't give someone ideas! For big kiddushim our shul has separate areas for the men and the women but no mechitza.There are still men standing on the women's side and women on the men's side and no one makes a big deal about it. For a meal in the shul the hosts decide on the seating. I agree though that I wouldn't sit separately on shabbos with my husband and kids at other tables. Just not shabbosdik to me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I am not joining this new religion. What's next? Separate buses?

Suri said...

Don't know if it's still the case but it used to be that in Lakewood young married couples were told not to invite each other for Shabbos. One reason they gave us was tsnius. The other was the issue of mixed seating. By the way, it was okay for me to invite bochrim for a meal, which I refused to do. Wouldn't that also have been mixed seating? That's just one of the reasons why we aren't Lakewood people any more. When our parents heard this, the parents who were supporting us, they said it was time to move out.

Anonymous said...

In my family, most of us don't attend weddings (or anything else) that are separate seating. That's just our hashkafa, we believe that a family, including extended family, should sit together during a simcha and a seudat mitzvah.

But I can understand why others who believe differently (perhaps those who think they might have less control over their yetzer hora, or maybe some other reason) might want separate seating.

So, in the end, it's live and let live. Those who require separate seating don't attend mixed seating simchas, and we who require mixed seating, don't attend separate seating simchas. It is a fair solution, and besides, too many people at simchas ends up costing way too much money. It's win-win. Sometimes under very rare circumstances, like when a member of the chassidish side marries someone from the more modern side, there are three sections, women, men, and mixed, and that also usually works out well. But it is very rare.

Yoni said...

I don't think I'd go to anything that wasn't mixed seating... especialy since men only groups tend to get much more sloshed than mixed ones (maybe thats the real reason behind it) and also since I'd rather sit with my family, not to mention men only atmospheres are brutal and inhumane by nature.

And if I was married even more so, I'd hate to be seperated from my wife for some non-sensical chumra. (and that is exactly what this is, and I'm well aware of the sources and can clearly and irrefutably prove it as such.) (unless of course you're one of those kinds who thinks in total error that the accepted halacha is always the most "machmir" decision, even when that "machmir" decision is oiver on numerous lavin, and causes someone to make many serious transgressions, some of which might as well genuinely be yhareg v'lo yaavor in the genuine sense, like humiliating people.)

Ari said...

At a separate seating wedding, do they make the chosson and kallah sit separately? Two chupahs, perhaps? That's next, people. (or has it already arrived?)

Elitzur said...

Ari - I know of cases where the chosson and kallah have sat separately...

Abbi said...

My wedding was mixed, but we had separate tables for those family and friends that needed it. It worked out fine and everyone had a great time.

We have too much chareidi family to absolutely refuse to go to separate events.

My brother made a kiddush for his new daughter a few weeks ago at his home- and it was separate! (for some reason, the men got seats but not the women. What's up with that?)

Anonymous said...

In New Skver they don't even bother with the mechitza. They hold the dinner for the choson and for the kallah in two separate halls separated by a few blocks. Can't remember if they actually brought the kallah to the choson's hall for the bentching.

Sima said...

I'll agree that separate seating on Shabbos that splits up families is not something I would want and I would avoid going to such affairs. A wedding is a little bit different. You're going to have a mechitza anyway because of the dancing and the focus is on the dancing. how much time do you really spend at the table anyway?

Knitter of shiny things said...

Anonymously and anonymous-

There have been bans on restaurants with mixed seating and there are buses with separate seating. Both in Israel. The former is in Ramat Beit Shemesh, where there was the attack on the pizza place that had mixed seating and the latter are the Hareidi buses. Actually in America there's also the Monsey bus which has a mechitza, but that's because they have a minyan in the morning, so it's justifiable at least.

Gila said...

And people wonder why there are now women who have taken on the burka.....

Leora said...

Abbi, your brother is not the only one. The bris for my cousin's baby was on Shabbos and so was in their house. They only invited men to the bris because, as my cousin said, she just didn't have the room for separate tables and a mechitza. She and her mother ended up peeking through the kitchen door to see what was going on. And they didn't sit or participate in the seudah. Talk about crazy.