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Can I Disinvite My Brother From Shabbat Dinner?

Can I Disinvite My Brother From Shabbat Dinner?

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Question:

My mother insists on inviting my brother for Shabbat dinner every week. This brother opposes everything Jewish,All he does is eat, grumble, and leave makes a point of not participating in any traditions and refuses to even cover his head for kiddush. All he does is eat, grumble, and leave. He has no respect. Is there any point in having him there?

Answer:

You say he does nothing more than eat. But he does eat? That may be enough. There is a precedent for this in the Purim story.

Back in ancient Persia, a plot to kill the Jews arises. The Jewish Queen Esther invites her husband the king and Haman the wicked anti-Semite to a meal. She serves them food that she prepared, and Haman, who doesn't know she is Jewish, is described as being "happy and good-hearted" after the meal.

This is a strange way to describe such an evil person. Can a man who intends to annihilate an entire nation be called "happy and good-hearted"?

The Kabbalists explain that Haman was indeed a rotten man, but something touched him on this one occasion. The experience of sitting at Esther's table, eating her food, being in the presence of a righteous Jewish woman, was enough to reach even that cold and hateful heart, and for a fleeting moment Haman was good.

Of course that goodness was short lived. Haman went straight back to being the murderous villain that he had been a moment before. But a spark of goodness can never be lost. The Talmud saysThat goodness was short lived that Haman's great-grandchildren ended up converting to Judaism and becoming Torah scholars. Those souls were the sparks of goodness Haman experienced at Esther's table. The impact of that one meal only surfaced generations later.

Never underestimate the transformative power of a Shabbat table, the spiritual impact of a holiday meal, the embracing warmth of a Jewish home, and the profound influence of a Jewish mother. Just being there and eating her food can be enough to touch you forever.

Your brother is no Haman. He's not wicked, just disenfranchised. If Haman could be moved by just one meal, your brother can certainly turn around. You might not see immediate results. It might take years. It might take generations. You and I are only Jewish today because of the Shabbat tables of our great-grandparents.

Your mother has the wisdom of Esther. Your brother deserves his place at her holy table.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim!

Rabbi Moss

(Sources: Tiferet Shlomo, Remazei Purim; Talmud Gittin 57b)

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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izzy May 4, 2017

beautiful Reply

Simcha Bart for Chabad.org March 24, 2017

Boruch, you make good points, yet the questioner was asking what is the point of his coming - i.e., what benefit is there in his coming if he seemingly is not getting anything spiritual out of it. To that question, the article answered that you never know what benefits can result from it.

Yet even if your question wasn't asked, it is still valid - doesn't this person's attitude undermine the spirit and holiness of the Shabbat table? I would say we ought to look at this as if one had a guest that has other disruptive issues, whether as a result of emotional problems or some physical ailment - would a mother not have such a child at their table? Similarly, we should look at this son as someone who is in severe spiritual turmoil, and we are trying to reach out to help.

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Simcha March 24, 2017

Of course I'm not there, but I think the fact that your brother shows up, agrees to arrive at the meal, proves that he has a spark, whether or not he is aware of it. Reply

Baruch Rock San Diego March 23, 2017

While this is a beautiful and important response, I am wondering if the one asking the question perhaps had a different question in mind. Haman was evil, but he certainly was civilized meaning he did not make the Queen and King's meal an uncomfortable place to be. I think it safe to say that Haman was certainly courteous and understanding of the social dynamic at play at such a banquet (think Nazis sitting down to fine dining and classical music, while millions are being sent to the gas chambers). This is not the case in terms of the brother at the meal, he is ostensibly rude, defiant, and disrespectful towards all those at the table and towards the sanctity of Shabbas. How do we reconcile this point with the answer provided to the original question? Reply

David May 3, 2017
in response to Baruch Rock:

Because the brother is a Jew and has a Jewish soul. That is enough. Reply

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