My Shabbos Shul gives members who come on a regular basis a set seat each week. Since I was responsible for allocating the seats when we moved into our new building, it’s still my job to resolve seating conflicts. So it wasn’t out of the ordinary that a friend directed my attention to a quiet conflict in progress last Shabbos. No words were exchanged, but it was clear from the body language that two people were claiming the same seat.
After davening, I went over to the person who was assigned the seat and let him know I was aware of the situation and would try to resolve it. He said that he didn’t want to make waves and that the other person seemed to want the seat more, so he would take a different seat nearby. I offered again to try and resolve it, but he said it was ok, and he appreciated my involvement.
During the week, I daven regularly at a different weekday minyan. A number of months ago, the main gabbai clarified to me that regular daveners of the minyan could have a regular seat. Since I met the criteria, I said a regular seat would be great, and I was assigned one.
When I walked in last Sunday, I was told by a different gabbai to take a different seat on Sundays, because the person in my seat davens there on Sundays in the spring and summer months and he would be coming for the next 6 months. On the Emes (truth) scale, it would be hard to call a Sunday only spring-summer davener, a regular. But I didn’t say anything and I took the other seat. I thought that it was interesting that I was involved in resolving a seating issue on Shabbos and here I was on the other side of the table.
Reflecting upon the two events and seeing the Shabbos Shul member choose the route of Shalom over Emes, I decided to follow suit and not say anything to the Gabbai about the issue. The take away is that we do have rights, and there are times when we’re entitled to assert our rights. But perhaps our default position should be to relinquish or rights and choose Shalom over Emes.