Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Strangers Among Us

Coming up soon are Purim and Pesach. These are two holidays that are associated with company. Certainly the Purim Megillah is full of examples of people holding feasts. And we are told for Pesach to proclaim "let all who are hungry come and eat." In far too many cases, however, this 'custom' of inviting is seen more in the breach than in the observance.

Most of the large communities of Klal are filled with people who are pretty much going to be alone for these holidays. Some are singles, living here now but from other places, places where their family still resides. Many will not be able to go home for Purim or Pesach. Some will be college students, some will be older singles working here. Some will be elderly people, perhaps without a spouse or any family living close by.

Some of those people might be couples, yet still alone except for each other. Some may be young couples who have recently moved to the community and have not yet developed any kind of social circle. Some may be older couples without family living nearby, or perhaps where friends have retired and moved elsewhere, leaving these couples fairly isolated socially.

And keep in mind that some of those alone may be ba'alei teshuvah or ge'rim whose families are not religious or Jewish, giving them no place to go for a holiday.

Regardless of how these people came to be alone, yom tov is an awful time to be alone. We Jews have always made much of gathering around a table to celebrate, gathering with others.

This year, plan ahead. Really open your eyes and look around your community. Is it really going to be such a hardship to set an extra plate or two at the table? Don't make assumptions that all these people surely will have someplace to be for yom tov. Ask! You're not sure who might be alone? Ask the Rav of your shul if there is someone who might want/need to be invited.

If we in Klal truly consider each other as "brothers," then let's get in the family spirit and invite those "brothers" for a seudah to share in the joy and simcha of yom tov. Now is the time to make your plans and issue the invitations.


Anonymous said...

While this post is laudable, this concern about people being along is often expressed in (sometimes unintentionally) condescending ways. As a single, I loathe being made to feel like I am charity case. The shul president announces that anyone who "needs" a meal will be set up with people who have "room at their table" or "would like the mitzvah of having guests." I don't "need" meals - I can cook for myself and I can stand my own company. I would however, welcome someone inviting me to their home, in advance, because they would (ostensibly at least) like to have me.

Lonely Blob said...

As someone who is alone in my city for school purposes, I wish sometimes someone would invite me over. Not a "if you ever are without a place, call us" kind of comment that doesn't have any meaning/feeling behind it. I mean a "hey, it would be great to see you sometimes- how about shabbos?" I end up inviting myself over 9 times out of 10. It is that 1 time when I get a smile inside. I feel wanted and needed.
Purim, Channukah and other "minor" holidays are sometimes the hardest days of the year for us "family-less people". Everyone wants to share the time with their family. But what about those of us who don't? Shavuous, odds are, will not be a problem. People think about yom tov. But Purim? They are busy with their families. And me?