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    Going to a simchah – Vayyera

    banquetThe first simchah mentioned in the Bible is the feast Abraham made to celebrate the weaning of his son Isaac (Gen. 21).

    According to the rabbis (Rashi, quoting Talmud Sanh. 89b), Satan heard about it and came to God with a complaint: “With all the hype he didn’t do a thing to acknowledge You!”

    In modern terms we would say it was a secular occasion, with nothing religious, nothing really Jewish.

    Maybe this comment tells us more about the mindset of the rabbis than about the period of Abraham, but it is still a pertinent comment.

    The Talmud gives other examples of events that went overboard – even burials. Rabban Gamli’el, for example, objected to the extravagant displays that sometimes took place at funerals, and made an enactment that such occasions should always follow an ethic of simplicity (Mo’ed Katan 27a).

    Medieval Jewish history knows many recorded cases of over-the top-celebrations, to such an extent that many communities established sumptuary laws limiting how many guests one could invite and the maximum one could spend.

    It’s a precedent that ought to be followed in our own day.

    If you are fortunate enough to be affluent, who says you have to splurge on a lavish feast? Why not keep the occasion modest (and dignified) and accompany it with a worthwhile donation to Israel, to the synagogue, the local community… or a hospital, school or other charity?

    And bearing in mind Satan’s accusation, why not make sure that God and Judaism are not left behind at the door?

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