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Going to a Simcha?
By Chaiya Kahan
To many people getting an invitation to a "simcha", meaning a joyous event like a bar mitzvah or a wedding, is for many people a mixed bag. On one hand, they are happy to receive an invitation, on the other hand they feel that they do not know how to dress or act at the simcha or what type of present to bring.
But know that there is no fixed answer for all occasions. Everything is dependent on everything. Knowing this principle, we may begin.
Now if you received an invitation, unless you have a good reason why not to go, you should go to the simcha. The actual obligation really depends on the closeness you feel to the person who send you the invitation. Sometimes people send invitations to every one, so that they will not offend anyone; therefore if you are a neighbor whose relationship is generally a mere "hello, how are you?" type of relationship, you need not go if it is mildly difficult. Rather, thank the neighbor on the next occasion that you see him/her, explain that you will not be able to attend, but you would like to extend your "mazel tov". If you are a closer neighbor or a relative, you should make an effort to go the simcha. If you can not attend, call up and thank them for the invitation, explain the difficulty that you have, such as: you have another more pressing previous engagement, you are ill, or what ever, and then extend your wishes for a hearty mazel tov together with wishes that you both shall be together for the next simcha.
What to bring? This depends on the status of the people, your financial status, and the relative closeness between you and the people who are making the simcha. If you are a distant neighbor, something small is adequate, how ever if you are a rich uncle, then something more expense would be appropriate. What are their status, if they are poor, it might be helpful for you to show your generosity, if they are highly honored people from the community, you might consider showing your respect by buying a slightly nicer gift. The price is dependent on your relationship to them.
What is the occasion? A bar/bat mitzvah, for example, would entail a present for the boy/girl. Consider something educational: a book, a writing set, etc. If it is a wedding the something useful for setting up a house is a good idea. Consider, towels, a clock, serving platters or fancy bowls. For a new baby, cute baby clothing are always acceptable. Always make sure that you put a card inside with your name so that they know that it came from you.
Money is always acceptable. Jews have a liking for "chai" 18, so $18 is a traditional number. However, in wealthier circles, this is considered a minimum, and again, depending on your relationship, closeness and generosity, a larger denomination may be appropriate. Denominations of $25, $36 (twice chai), $50 and up are always welcome.
What to do at the simcha? The first thing to do when you arrive is to seek out the people who are celebrating and extend your warmest "mazel tov" on this special occasion. Go to all the family members that you know and tell each of them this. It will make them feel very happy and it will impress on them that you attended and that you are a warm and nice friend. It is very customary to say "mazel tov" twice, like when shaking hands, "mazel tov, mazel tov" twice in a row. Make certain that you include a warm handshake and a smile but don't force it.
Next find your place and sit down don't just run out after wishing the family mazel tov. Some events have assigned seating, and others pick your own place. Have something to eat. Introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you, you will probably find some people boring, but some times you will end up with a new friend. It may sound strange but it is bad manners to leave quickly, so sit for a while before leaving.
When you leave, do not just pick yourself up and walk out. Go back to the people who are making the event and wish them mazel tov again. No one will be slighted if you "over wish" them mazel tov. Tell them how much you enjoyed the event, and mention something you liked, such as the food or the music or even the flowers on the table. It will make the host, who probably sweated over planning the even, feel so good that some one appreciated his/her efforts.
Just remember, bottom line, make the hosts feel happy, it is a mitzvah!
from the Febuary 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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