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I am not a Jew but I casually read about your religion, interested by the complexity of the rules, the way they evolved historically and their impact on the social interactions.

This is partly driven by discussions with (Jewish) friends on how colorful your religious life is (and - to be completely frank - how complicated this seems to be for an outsider given the complexity and volume of the rules I mentioned earlier), and a Jewish radio station I often listen to when driving or biking from work (which recently addressed a point such as "can a Jew have a coffee at the bar on the corner of the street" - I am in France and was mesmerized by the depth of the analysis which took 30 or 45 minutes).

A recent question (Source for choosing your meal guests wisely) triggered a question that I had in mind for quite a long time already: are there social interactions (such as meals, festivities, ...) that are closed for non-believers?1

My curiosity comes from the fact that since I grew up in a loosely Catholic environment in France I know that this is not something that exists in Catholicism (all religious activities are open to the wide (believer or not) public, there are no home events that would be limited to Catholics, etc.) but they also have zero rules (comparatively) when it comes to influence of religion on everyday life (the (now lifted but still present) ban of meat on Friday is the one that comes to mind).


1 What about purely religious ones (such as religious public activities in a Synagogue for instance)?

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  • @JoelK: thank you, that would be a good example of the second part of the question (which I am interested in but now wonder whether not top delete, as it will attract probably more questions than the first one that I am more curious about as it would be less usual). Though "Also, we're not allowed to invite (or, I think, expect) gentiles to attend a holiday meal." is right on spot. DIT: it is actually a very good question and interesting answer. – WoJ Sep 14 '20 at 14:31
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    @WoJ the reason behind that prohibition is not that they aren't welcome technically but the allowances to cook on the holiday itself is only to cook for fellow Jews. Accordingly if one were to invite a gentile many of the allowances for cooking wouldn't apply the same way and you are likely to mess up during your food prep, and thus the prohibition on inviting them. But that's not exactly a closed ritual as much as one where having gentiles invited makes it unnecessarily complicated so we avoid it. – Double AA Sep 14 '20 at 15:01
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    I find it interesting that for a religion that has a reputation of being exclusive to in-group members, I cannot think of a single example of a ritual action that a gentile cannot watch. Guess we are not as closed off as the popular conception would have it. – Mike Sep 14 '20 at 15:39
  • @DoubleAA And in fact, if a gentile shows up (uninvited) at a holiday meal, we can welcome him to join us (Orach Chaim 512:1). – Meir Sep 14 '20 at 17:41
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There are areas of the Temple complex that are off-limits to gentiles, and those include the inner courtyard, where the sacrifices are slaughtered and offered, and where most of the various other Temple rituals were performed. So at best a non-Jew could watch those only at a distance.

There also are a number of foods which Jewish law requires the participants to be in a state of ritual purity to eat. These include sacrifices, and some of the agricultural gifts given to the priests. By Rabbinical law, gentiles are unable to reach that state of ritual purity. So presumably they would be able to be present while Jews are eating these portions, but they would have to be careful to maintain "social distance." (Actually, even for the non-Jew to just sit at the table might create problems, due to certain technicalities of the laws of ritual purity.)

All of these laws are currently in abeyance, some because we don't have the Temple, and others because we don't have the Red Heifer for purification. When the Temple is rebuilt (and may it be speedily in our days!), these laws will come into effect again. (As noted by DoubleAA in comments, non-Jews may send animals to the Temple to be sacrificed, so if cameras can be set up in the courtyard of the Third Temple, they'd presumably be able to watch a live feed of their offering being brought.)

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  • Forget the impurity concerns כל בן נכר לא יאכל בו – Double AA Sep 15 '20 at 14:00
  • Note while gentiles would (pre-TV) have difficulty watching a sacrifice being offered, they are able to send animals in to be sacrificed on their behalf. – Double AA Sep 15 '20 at 14:01
  • @DoubleAA That's as far as eating from the Korban Pesach itself. Not necessarily does it apply to other korbanos, and it also wouldn't prevent the non-Jew from sitting at the table and eating any of the other foods. – Meir Sep 15 '20 at 14:03
  • Even impurity wouldn't prevent sitting at the table... – Double AA Sep 15 '20 at 14:04
  • @DoubleAA Theoretically no, but in practice there'd be far too much chance of them touching one another. Besides, since נכרים הרי הם כזבין לכל דבריהם, then if he touches the table it becomes a ראשון לטומאה, and if he moves it (היסט) it becomes an אב הטומאה; either way, that would in turn affect the food on the table. – Meir Sep 15 '20 at 14:08
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Having non-Jewish guests is very common at all types of social events. There are none that forbid non-Jews from coming.

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    The question was a simple yes or no. I responded no. – N.T. Sep 17 '20 at 6:19

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