When I read my cousin’s invitation, proverbial smoke billowed from my ears. It was beautiful, a cream-colored, embossed invitation inviting us to share in the bar mitzvah celebration of Cousin Ben. But it was the little note on the back that niggled me.
Hi, Terry, I really hope you and Bob can make it! I know the food won’t be kosher, but we’d love to see you anyway!
I slapped the invitation down on my counter and fumed. How dare she! How difficult would it be for her to order two kosher meals for my husband and I so that we could share her celebration like all the other guests? Does she expect us to sit at the table and stare at everyone while they chomp away? Or is this her way of saying, “You’re too different; you’re both religious fanatics, so I don’t really want you to come”?
They don’t deserve for us to come. So…maybe we just shouldn’t. But then there’s the other voice, demanding that I stretch beyond the childish impulse to stamp my foot and fold my arms rigidly across my chest. Do the right thing, it whispers in my ear. Show that you care. Go, at least for a few minutes, say mazel tov, and then you can disappear.
What do you think, Rachel? Do I go or stew in silent resentment and do a no-show? Maybe I shouldn’t even acknowledge the invitation, and then they can think I never got it? I am eager to hear your thoughts.
Thank you for your time, Terry
I understand why your cousin’s note feels like a slap in the face. Especially in our times, when different diets are in vogue, it is the norm for a host to make special accommodations for people who have specific dietary needs. This one has nut allergies (or any other food allergy), he’s vegan, she’s a vegetarian, they’re gluten-free…
So, especially if you are aware that she is assisting others who have unique situations, it must feel like she views kosher as insignificant, a choice that does not have to be exercised. Even if you don’t know whether she is arranging the menu to assist with individual requirements, her attitude still stings. To ensure your comfort, and you’re family, is it really such a big deal to order two kosher meals from a local caterer?
My advice is not to make your decision in the heat of the moment. Take a day or even a week to cool down, and then reassess. Usually time enables one to adjudicate a more rational plan, one that will be beneficial for all involved.
If you don’t attend the celebration, will you regret your decision? When family members ask where you were, what will you say? And what about young Cousin Ben? How will your absence look in his eyes? Is it possible that your failure to show up will have long-term negative repercussions and affect your familial relationships adversely?
Now let’s examine some other choices. You can go and stay at length, enjoying cup after cup of ice water, coffee or maybe even some fruit, if you’re lucky.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Aunt Bessy will wonder, eyeing your empty plate with furrowed brows.
“Oh, not really,” you assure her with a little chuckle. “Trying to watch the waistline, you know how that is.”
Or you can make an appearance, as you initially suggested, smile brightly and blow some air kisses, and exit stage left at the first available opportunity.
Obviously, the choice is yours, but I suggest pursuing one of the latter possibilities. Family is not something to be taken for granted. Just visit someone who is alone without family support and you’ll see what I mean. I like to advocate the road of peace.
Mazel tov on the bar mitzvah!
Wishing you the best of luck with your decision, Rachel Stein
(Please note that my suggestions do not obviate the need to seek rabbinic advice when dealing with these types of situations.)