The Wisdom of Guest Seating

The Ramchal in the introduction to Mesillas Yesharim states that only serving Hashem is considered true Wisdom. I usually explain this idea as follows: Wisdom is applied knowledge. Torah must be studied in depth to pick up its many nuances. Then, that Torah knowledge must be applied to each situation. Since every life situation is unique, and the Torah addresses each situation, we need to apply Torah to the our life, minute by minute. This is true wisdom.

We had an Aufruf in our Shul recently with many guests which illustrates the above principle. Some Shuls take a blanket approach of never asking a guest to take another seat. Other Shuls are not guest-friendly and have no qualms about asking anyone to move to another seat. Our Shul takes a balanced approach trying to accomodate both our guests and our members.

On this recent Aufruf Shabbos we began with an early assessment of what seats were available. As guests walked in, three people guided them to available seats. After about 10-15 minutes the clearly available seats were taken. We then made an assessment of which people probably weren’t coming, and which people are more easy going in terms of not having their regular seats. We guided the guests to those seats. If a guest took a seat before we could show them an available one, we made an assessment of whether they should be asked to move to a different seat. As more people came in, we had to decide the best places to add folding chairs. At Borechu, the supervised seating process was over, and we attended to our davening.

In every shul situation we should strive to properly apply the wisdom of the Torah. What a challenge! What an opportunity!

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