One of my family members is having a family event at a non-kosher restaurant. I want to be there because it is a very important occasion and I don't want to insult my family. However, I know that in general I am not supposed to walk into a non-kosher restaurant. What is the halacha in such a situation? May one attend but not eat the food, for example, or must one not attend?
To sum up what's been said, there are three concerns involved of what people might think when seeing you in a non-kosher restaurant:
- "If Moshe eats there, it must be kosher." (This is especially a problem with a "kosher-style" restaurant, or one with a very questionable hechsher.)
- "I know it's prohibited, but if Moshe eats there, it must be one of those prohibitions that nobody really keeps anyways."
- "Uch, Moshe is a disgusting bum! He eats non-kosher!"
The OU did a few lectures a few years ago called "keeping kosher in and out of the workplace." As Fred indicated, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein felt that entering a non-kosher restaurant was a serious problem, but would be lenient if someone needed to use the restroom. Whether to apply that same logic to family ties, I don't know.
Many OU poskim have indicated that today, when keeping kosher is not unpopular, they felt if a yarmulka-wearing Jew is seen in a non-kosher restaurant in a big business district, with a bunch of colleagues, all professionally dressed, at 12:30PM on a Wednesday, with binders and briefcases all over the table, that a reasonable person would conclude he just had to attend this business lunch, not that he's eating. (And he could even order a kosher soda in a clean glass.) The same OU poskim also stressed that this was for business purposes, it doesn't mean "go hang out with your buddies on a Saturday night at a non-kosher restaurant, but just drink the soda."
The question of whether the same leniencies applied to a business lunch extend to a family event is one that a rabbi would have to determine on an individual basis, depending on the particulars of the situation. (Additional concerns here, assuming the relatives are Jewish -- we don't recommend hanging out when Jews are eating non-kosher, and your presence shouldn't be seen as validation of what they're doing.)
Your question seems to concern balancing considerations of mar'is ayin and shalom bayis (family harmony). One source you might consider is the ruling of R' Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:40) regarding entering a non-kosher restaurant:
And therefore, there is even reason to prohibit entering to eat items that are known to definitely be kosher (e.g. prepackaged items with kosher certification -Fred) due to mar'is ayin and chashad. But if he is really distressed, and there's nowhere else to go to eat, he may enter to eat food that is known to be kosher, but he must do this surreptitiously. For in circumstances of distress or loss, the rabbis did not decree prohibitions.
This is provided that nobody outside recognizes him (possibly this includes Jewish people outside that don't know him but can tell by his clothing that he is Jewish -Fred). As far as the people inside the restaurant, they will be able to see that he is only ordering known kosher items. But if there are people outside who could recognize him, he must tell them that he is really distressed and that he is therefore entering to eat items that are known to be permitted. But if he is not very distressed, he should not enter at all.
For a definitive answer on how shalom bayis considerations would affect the halacha in your situation, please CYLOR.
Based on R' Moshe, it would seem that there is actually a difference as to the location of this restaurant. If you'd go in and others would recognise you, then it's an issue of 'chashad' which is far worse than 'maris ayin' (mideoraisa vs. miderabanan). R' Moshe said that providing that everyone who's there recognises that you're not actually eating there and no-one else recognises you going in (thereby avoiding any 'chashad'), you can eat there if absolutely necessary.
The Mishna (Shekalim 3:2) writes that there is an issur derabanan to do certain acts which will give others the impression – maris ayin - that prohibited acts are permitted. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:82) writes that there is a similar prohibition, chashad, which is giving others the impression that one is performing an averah. This would be prohibited mideoraisa.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:40) writes that one shouldn’t eat even obviously Kosher food in a non-Kosher restaurant, as others will either assume that the restaurant is Kosher (maris ayin), or assume that they are eating non-Kosher food (chashad). Only under extenuating circumstances would one be allowed to eat there. This would include either missing out on an important deal or being really hungry and having nowhere else to eat. Likewise, if one needed to use the facilities there and had nowhere else to go, they could enter. One should go in an inconspicuous manner and ensure that no one outside recognises them without knowing why they’re entering.
I guess my response is that I believe that shalom bayis and respect for your mother and father is more important than the details surrounding kashrut (i.e. whether or not it is permitted to enter a non-kosher restaurant if you are not going to eat the food). I have seen families ruined because of such situations.
I also do not agree with what Fred posted stating the following: "As a personal anecdote, I know someone who entered a non-kosher (but "kosher style") restaurant for the same reason as you describe in your question. A marginally religious woman who knew that he was religious spotted him there and exclaimed: "So you eat here, too!" His explanation that he wasn't actually eating there (and was only attending a family function) fell on deaf ears, and the woman took his presence as license for/validation of her practice of eating there."
People need to responsible for their own actions.
I am a religious person, but when I am told by rabbis that shalom bayis comes second to other mitzvahs it makes me very uncomfortable. Honoring your mother and father is one of the 10 commandments. Although kashrut is very important, I have to believe that the commandments take priority.