Driving on Shabbat?


    If you're Shomer Shabbos but your friends aren't, is it OK to invite them over for Shabbat dinners knowing that they would have to drive?


    Dear Miriam,

    We're Shomer Shabbos but many of our friends are not and live a distance from us. I would like to invite them over for Shabbos or holiday dinners but feel funny knowing they would have to drive. What do you think is the right thing to do?

    Driving on Shabbat?

    Dear Driving,

    When I was a junior in college, I was invited to a Shabbat meal at the home of an observant friend. After a lovely dinner, the host said, "Would you like to spend the night?" I quickly said no, and she replied, "I knew you'd say that, but I was also obligated to ask." Basically, your question could be rephrased to say, "Am I allowed to be complicit in having a friend break the rules on Shabbat?" The answer has to come from your own comfort with differing Jewish practices and your own understanding of your role in other people's decisions. 

    If you wanted the halachic answer (ruling based on Jewish law), you'd have asked a rabbi rather than an advice columnist, so I'm operating under the assumption that you don't want me to quote rabbinic rulings on the matter. If you're interested, though, a quick Google search of "non-frum Shabbat guests," yields quite a range of Orthodox commentaries. The three main categories of answers seem to be as follows:  1) If you know someone is going to drive, don't invite them; 2) You have to provide such guests with a place to stay, and if they don't accept, it's their problem not yours (as per my college experience), and; 3) Don't ask, don't tell (I saw this phrase on two of the first three websites I looked at).

    I'm going to operate under the further assumption that these categories of answers are as unsatisfying to you as they are to me. So I'm going to go out on a really non-halachic limb here and encourage you, without qualification, to invite your friends. Shabbat meals are wonderful, celebratory, inclusive experiences, and I'm in favor of as many people of as many Jewish (and non-Jewish) stripes as possible getting to experience them. 

    If that also doesn't feel quite right to you, when you issue the invitation, you could include something like, "As you know, my family is shomer Shabbos. If you'd like to have that experience, we're happy to host you overnight until sundown on Saturday." Don't offer the sleepover option as a loophole, though — it has to be genuine, especially because they might take you up on it. While, technically, you may be trading some level of Jewish stringency for this overtly welcoming approach, your friendly neighborhood advice columnist would choose that option any day.

    Be well,