Rav Moshe Feinstein on Catering Halls

A question came from London in 1958 from R. Ben Zion Rockoff on behalf of the owner of a catering hall.  He was an Orthodox man and was troubled by the fact that some of his patrons were not religious – obviously his food was kosher regardless of the clientele, the problem was that there would be inappropriate behavior – lack of צניעות, mixed dancing etc.  – is he allowed to rent his hall to people who will be breaking הלכה while they are there?

What ‘s the problem? Is it the catering hall owner’s problem if people want to have mixed dancing?  Two Halachic problems – the first is לפני עוור, right?  You rent a hall without setting down guidelines for usage and the guy renting it assumes that everything he’s doing in it is okay.  Second problem, a related concept – מסייע לדבר עבירה – we’re not allowed to provide assistance for a Jew to commit a sin – we’ll see this issue again in another תשובה later – so even if the bride and groom knows that there’s something wrong with having mixed dancing and maybe there’s not so much לפני עוור – nevertheless, by renting the hall to them you are assisting them in their plans to break הלכה.

Let’s understand that at a Torah level there isn’t any question – the גמרא in עבודה זרה tells us quite clearly that there is no such thing as  לפני עוור or מסייע לדבר עבירה if the person has other options – this case is in London – there are plenty of catering halls in London.  You aren’t providing any assistance.  However, at a Rabbinic level, there are still views that there’s a problem – however, even there –

שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק א סימן עב

 אבל עיין בש"ך יו"ד סי' קנ"א סק"ו שמחדש דכיון שהוא משום שיש חיוב להפרישו מאיסור, מותר לישראל מומר שאינו חייב להפרישו ו... ופי' בדגמ"ר כוונת הש"ך דלא דוקא במומר אלא דאף בסתם ישראל אין מצווין להפרישו אלא בעובר בשוגג אבל כשעובר במזיד על איזו עבירה אפילו אינו מומר אין ישראל אחר מצוה להפרישו עיי"ש

...see in the Shach, YD 151:6 where he introduces the idea that although one is required to distance another Jew from a sin, nevertheless there is no obligation with respect to a "scoffing" Jew....The Dagul Mervavah explains that the Shach's explanation was not meant to apply only to a "scoffer", bt even with an ordinary Jew the only time one has an obligation is when his violation is unintentional, but if an ordinary Jew is deliberately committing a violation, there is no obligation on the part of another Jew to intervene.

Based on this, there is no requirement to keep a non-observant Jew from sinning!  However, there is another wrinkle:

עכ"פ להש"ך והדגמ"ר אין בזה איסור מסייע ידי עוברי עבירה. אבל המג"א סי' שמ"ז סק"ד פליג עליה ואוסר לסייע לישראל מומר אבל בכאן נראה דגם להמג"א אין לאסור דהא ודאי כשלא ישכיר זה את האולם למי שירקדו בעבירה ישכרו לעשות החתונה אצל אחרים ואף אצל החשודים בעניני כשרות המאכלים ונמצא שאדרבה במה שמשכיר להם את האולם שלו מונעם מעבירה דמאכלות אסורות ולעבירה זו דרקוד הא לא מסייעם בעצם כלום שגם בלא סיועו הרי יעברו ולכן אף להמג"א אין לאסור.

 ...in any event, according to the Shach and the Dagul Mervavah there is no issue of providing assistance to those who would sin.  However, the Magen Avraham in 347:4 argues and maintains that there is a prohibition to provide assistance to a Jewish "scoffer".  Nevertheless, in this instance it seems that even the Magen Avraham would not prohibit the activity (of rental), since if the owner here does not lease the hall to people who would be engaged in inappropriate dancing, the lessee will rent a hall somewhere else, perhaps from someone who is not trustworthy on issues of kashrus.  Therefore, the exact opposite is the case - by renting the hall to them, he is preventing them from eating prohibited food and as far as dancing goes, he is not aiding them one bit, because even without his help they would be violating that law.  Therefore, even according to the Magen Avraham there is no basis to prohibit the rental of the hall.

Rav Moshe deals with some other side issues, but basically concludes that you need to consider that not only is there no problem of מסייע לדבר עבירה if you rent them the hall, but even worse, if you turn them away they might go to a non-kosher catering establishment and you will end up being מסייע לדבר עבירה for them eating treif!

As we have many times in the past, we see Rav Moshe very much aware of the reality of the world around him and understands that p’sak is not a dogmatic issue with absolute rights or wrongs but needs to be considered under the circumstances.  The very first point he makes is that the case is coming from a city where there many wedding halls – if the wedding were in a small town where there weren’t any options – perhaps he would have ruled differently, or if not ruled differently at least taken the analysis in a different direction.

Based on a shiur March 2010

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Last Updated February 17, 2011
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Adam M. Charney
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