I would like to invite my sonís girlfriend to accompany us on a vacation. They are twenty-year-old college students. There will be three adult mothers and their young adult children all-staying in the same five-bed room rented house. My sonís girl friend is the only person who will not have a parent along for the trip (the girlfriend's parents are not part of the trip).
Is it appropriate for a young Jewish woman to be invited in this circumstance, or is asking her placing her in an improper situation? I must add that both of these young adults are smart, mature people and wise well beyond their years. What does Judaism say about this?
Thank you for your insight.
The wording of your question is interesting. You say “I would like to invite…,” and you raise the possibility that asking this young woman may place “her in an improper situation.”
From your question, it most certainly does not seem that the impetus for the proposed invitation is coming from your son or his girl friend. Rather, it is coming from you. You do not tell us why you see it as important to invite this young lady. I assume that it is because you want to be nice and hospitable, or because you think that your son would appreciate it. The problem with this line of thinking is that, in all likelihood, you are not privy to the internal status of their relationship. While it is possible that such an invitation might be welcome, it is equally possible that such an invitation would be uncomfortable for the parties concerned, would put unwanted pressure on them, or would “rush” them in an undesirable way. Hence, unless and until the impetus for the invitation comes from your son himself, I would not even consider it.
If your son were to make such a request, I would remind him that Jewish attitudes (across the spectrum) would certainly not regard it as appropriate for him and his girl friend to be together in an intimate fashion at a time when they have made no serious commitment to each other. I would also point out to him that the goal of a vacation in which seven people share a five-bedroom house is to spend convivial time together as a group. In this context, the behavior of a romantically involved couple within the group should not in any way upset or alienate others.
Jewish sources are absolutely clear on the goal of deferring sexual functioning to those forms of relationship that bespeak holiness. Vacations of the type that you are taking frequently place uncommitted couples in circumstances of tension vis-à-vis this ideal. Hence, the arrangement that you are proposing should only be entered into at the instigation of the young couple, and with the proviso that they will accommodate the needs of others in the group, and will abide by the ideals contemplated by the tradition.
If your son and his girl friend were to request to accompany you on this type of vacation, and are willing to adhere to the above ground-rules, I foresee no problem. This does not, however, strike me as a likely scenario.
My initial reaction is that if she is wise beyond her years, she will elegantly decline the invitation.
Otherwise, it is appropriate for you to rent a separate room for your son, and have his friend stay with you.
Surely you were not suggesting that they be "sequestered" in one of the rooms alone together.
That would not show wisdom on anyone's part.
I am assuming you are inviting the girl friend as a way of the family to bond, but wonder if the obvious problems created will have the reverse affect. Why not wait till you can also invite her parents?
Technically, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with your son and his girl friend joining you, as long as they stay within the bounds of halakhic propriety. But the standard within which to operate should be - "Is what I am asking the
right way of doing things?" If the answer is not a resounding "yes," then you have your answer.
This is an interestingquestion I did not expect to receive.
I seenothingwrong with your son’s girlfriendattending your familyvacation get-together. Theonlyconditions I would insist as a parent is thatsheand your sonsleepseparatelyandrefrain from publicdisplays of affection. Modesty is an importantvalue in Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, we are living in an overly permissivesociety that gives a rubberstamp to just about anykind of behavior.
Since other children are going to be present, I thinkit is importantthatboth your sonand his girlfriendact with thehighestdegree of personal comportment. Theotheradults can serve as theyoungwoman’s chaperon. Therefore, I seenothingwrong with her accompanying providedthesegroundruleshavebeenestablishedahead of time.
Well, Talmud doesn’t have any insight over inviting your son’s girlfriend on vacation, but we can glean some insight from rabbinic texts on marriage (gulp!).
We have a tendency to see our ancestors’ relationships through the lens of “Fiddler On The Roof”, with arranged (often unhappy, usually by force) marriages. In fact, the Talmud stipulates that, even if everyone else is in agreement, the woman must offer consent, and if she withholds consent, the marriage is off. (Bavli T. Kiddushin 2a-b). Likewise, until the middle ages, the wedding ceremony itself was divided into two pieces: kiddushin, the sanctification of the relationship, would take place first. Then, the bride would return to her father’s home (sometimes the groom along with her) until nisuin, the elevation of the relationship, could be conducted several months later.
So, how do these texts help us understand your question?
First, we understand consent to arrive only from communication: true consent can only come if the woman in question understands exactly what’s being asked. This is a vacation for adults; the young lady who loves your son is an adult (well, mostly), so treat her like one. Invite her, but talk through all the implications—including sleeping arrangements. Put everything on the table and allow this ‘smart, wise beyond her years’ woman to make the choices that are right for her.
Second, let’s look at the status of this relationship. You don’t indicate whether your son and his girlfriend are sleeping together or have some kind of shared living arrangement. Nor do you indicate how long they’ve been together, but clearly long enough that you would consider having her tag along with you to the beach (or wherever). That, at least, indicates the seriousness of the relationship. No, they aren’t ready to ‘take their relationship to the next level’, but they are committed to one another. In other words, it’s an adult relationship, so to understand that is to remove the possibility of impropriety. Then again, after discussing it with her, she may decide that the offer is sweet, but not appropriate for her at this time. Only she can answer that. And my guess is, if she is as thoughtful as you say, she'll answer correctly for her--and you.
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