Ethics

For the week ending 5 June 2004 / 16 Sivan 5764

The Stranger in our Midst

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: A guest of someone in our neighborhood walked into our synagogue one Sabbath eve and took a seat. His host prayed elsewhere so that he had no one to guide him to a place to sit. Although the seat he took had no nameplate attached, I knew that it was the seat of a regular worshipper who would soon be arriving and would probably not wish to embarrass this stranger by telling him to move. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: When one pays his dues to a synagogue he is entitled to the seat which has been allocated to him. While it may understandably be awkward for him to ask a guest to relocate, it would not be difficult for you to take some action which can satisfy everyone. All you have to do is call to the attention of this stranger that he is occupying a regulars seat and show him to a place which is not regularly occupied or which you know will be empty that evening.

The entire problem could more easily be solved if you or others in your synagogue would demonstrate elementary hospitality by greeting a stranger and showing him to a place.

(It might also be a good idea to ask him if he has a place to eat!)

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