Thursday, August 20, 2009

Now I Understand

It was 28 years ago. Both my future wife and I had just spent a year in yeshiva in Israel. We were young and idealistic. As we were planning the wedding, the subject of seating at the chupah came up. My wife and I wanted separate seating for men and women, as advised by our rabbis. My very liberal future in-laws were incensed. They told us in no uncertain terms that they would not be separated during the service. I couldn't understand at the time what the big deal was. You can't be separated from your wife for a half hour?

Fast forward to the present. Our neighbors here in Rehovot are very nice people. We aren't real close friends, but we're good "neighbor" friends, so to speak. We were invited to their daughter's wedding. The family is dati leumi, national religious, like most of our neighbors. The girl is engaged to a yeshiva guy, with a big kipah srugah. Although no mention was made on the invitation, I found out that the whole wedding, including the meal, would be separate for men and women.

Although my wife will be there for the chupah to say mazal tov, I decided not to attend the wedding. About 3 months ago I attended a similar separate simcha, and I left early, feeling awkward and somewhat offended. I decided then that I would not go to separate seating weddings.

When I attend simchas, especially of those with whom I am not very close, my wife is my companion. I have to sit through a long meal, with music so loud you can't talk, and I like to be with my wife. So why do they force married couples to sit separately? Because they are afraid of the single boys and girls mixing. I think that this is really obnoxious, dumb, and inconsiderate. There is no halachic requirement for it, either. It is just the latest example of pseudo-frum heredi practices polluting the modern orthodox world. I find it offensive and primitive. It is saying that the men can't control themselves around women, and therefore keep the women out of sight.

I suppose that if this was a wedding of a close friend I would have to swallow my lumps and attend. But otherwise I feel no inclination to go to such an event.


The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

> I think that this is really obnoxious, dumb, and inconsiderate. There is no halachic requirement for it, either. It is just the latest example of pseudo-frum heredi practices polluting the modern orthodox world.

But lemme guess, you think the Chareidim are the intolerant ones, right?

First of all, Dati Leumi is not Modern Orthodox. In fact, genuine Dati Leumi is a lot closer to Chareidi in style than Modern Orthodox. People confuse the two because MO's tend to be Zionistic, that's all.

Secondly, there is an MO posek (Rav Henkin) who holds that there should be separate seating at weddings (Bnei Banim vol 1) although he later modified his psak and suggested that, in fact, single kids sit mixed since a wedding is a great place and a proper environment in which to meet someone.

Besides, what does this have to do with JP? Are you straying from your mandate?

Anonymous said...

garnel, intollerant? Who said anything about that? Why are you changing the topic?

And also, saying that someones approach is backward looking is not "intollerant".


The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Actually bankman, look at the quote from his post I excerpted. He has just dismissed people he disagrees with as obnxious, etc and judged their possible motives without even asking them why they chose to do the wedding this way. That's tolerance?

Tolerance is saying "Well, I don't particularly like separate seating so I won't attend the wedding but I guess they feel they're doing the right thing." That's the exact opposite of what this post is.

G*3 said...

I don't know much about Israeli sub-groups, but here in the US among chareidim the seperate seating at simchas is just as much for the marries people as the single people. A man or woman talking to a member of the opposite sex who is not a close family member is considered improper, whether they are married or not.

Personally, I also think this is kind of insulting, as the implication is that poeple have no self-control and talking inevitably leads to sex.

DrJ said...

Garnel-- if vociferously arguing against a stupid position is "intolerant", than guilty as charged. But that's not what most people mean when they say intolerant. Obviously they feel they're doing the right thing, as do many people who do wrong things.

R Henkin once told me that Jews are being tested in their land and failing, and are thus not worthy of the land. So I'm not sure he's MO. In Israel Dati Leumi until recently was Mizrahi-- mainstream moderate religion with full integration into society, bnei akiva, etc. And regardless of what R Henkin said, I repeat, there is no halachic basis for separate seating. It has more to do with philosophy and chumrahs.

Yes its a little off topic for the blog, but it generally relates to JP's brand of fundamentalist extreme Judaism.

G3 I actually have less scorn for the Heredim, because they openly declare that they wish to be apart from society, and they do many things that would not be consistent with my lifestyle. But the DL/MO movement to the right, sort of pandering to the Heredim and rejection of the moderate religion of their parents, that bothers me.

Garnel Ironheart said...

>Obviously they feel they're doing the right thing, as do many people who do wrong things.

And you are qualified to be the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, are you?

E-Man said...


I agree that you should feel no reason to attend the event. However, I am unsure why it is considered dumb and inconsiderate. It is their wedding and they want a certain type of environment at their affair. They feel that this will enhance their simcha, why is that inconsiderate and dumb? You defanately do not have to go. All of my friends weddings that were separate seating I either did not attend or I went without my wife. I agree that it is probably not strict halacha, but it is more to create a certain type of atmosphere that they want at their wedding.

DrJ said...

Garnel, I am not an arbiter, I am arguing my opinion. What's wrong with that?

Ultimately is is the family's decision and they can do the wedding any way they see fit; they can do a nude wedding if they want. But I think that a wedding celebration, particularly the meal part, is a community event, and is at least 90% for the community, 10% for the couple. Thus, IMO, should strive to make the guests as comfortable as possible. I spoke to other people in the neighborhood who felt the same way, although they attended nonetheless. If most of the guests had been Heredi, that would be another story, since they would be more comfortable sitting separately. But that was not the case here.

From my perspective, going to somebody's wedding is a mitzvah and doing THEM a favor (unless its a really close friend or relative). I don't particularly enjoy setting through a long ceremony, a late meal, and the deafeningly loud music. So at least don't force me sit away from my wife.

G*3 said...

Its kind of sad that so many people only go to weddings out of a sense of obligation. If people would only invite those people who really want to be there, we’d all be relieved of both the oversized ridiculously expensive weddings rampant in our communities and the social obligation to go to weddings we don’t want to attend.

Joshua said...

Eh, I find this sort of thing to be stupid but I don't see anything inherently offensive about it. It isn't an example of the sort of thing where the separate seating is somehow severely discriminatory. If they think they have a halachic obligation to do it, then I just don't see the big deal.

G*3 said...

> If they think they have a halachic obligation to do it, then I just don't see the big deal.

I agree that it isn't offensive, but the steady slide towards the most stringent position, and often beyond it, is something that we should be concerned about.

E-Man said...

Well. just because someone else is more stringent, as long as they don't force themselves upon me and accept me for who I am and what I want to keep, then I have no concern.

BTW- performing a mitzva is not a favor for someone else, it is for yourself, no?