“Patur Mitzvos” – Being Exempt

Question

I’m curious about what a certain phrase means. What does “patar mitzvos” mean?

You see, I am Jewish, not so knowledgeable about religion, but I work with an Orthodox woman who just got married Sunday. I was invited to the wedding. It was not the first Orthodox wedding I have been to, but it was the first with separate seating for men and women at the reception.

But there was one man sitting in the women’s section who actually had a place-card there. And he was at my table, together with his mother. He was in his early 20s and his mother told me he was autistic, but he didn’t appear visibly handicapped. He actually seemed very smart and gregarious and he liked me a lot. In fact I liked him so much, if I were closer to his age, I’d be interested in marrying him. But I’m 52 and divorced with a grown son and I obviously couldn’t marry him.

The wedding was a very worthwhile experience. His mother was a very nice lady, around my age, and I feel I found a new friend in her. Unlike most guests there, who were dressed formally, she was wearing a plaid top and jean skirt. This made me feel comfortable around her, as I wasn’t so well dressed up myself in a turtleneck and khaki skirt. And she just seemed so relaxed and not overbearing. I exchanged contact info with her, and we plan to get together more in the future when we have more time. She, like me, is a divorcee, close to my age.

I asked her out of curiosity why her son was sitting in the women’s section. She said he was “patar mitzvos” and he wanted badly to be with his mother, and my co-worker’s parents honored this request. What does that term mean? And I am curious why that would allow him to sit with the women.

3 weeks

Answers

  1. Firstly, I am happy that you found a potential friend at the wedding! Aside from the happiness of the wedding itself, hopefully, the wedding will also be the source of a meaningful friendship.

    The term Patur Mitzvos means that a person is “exempt” from keeping all of, or some of, the Commandments. How can one be exempt from keeping the Commandments? Well, for example, if a person has a medical condition that precludes their fasting on Yom Kippur they are considered to be exempt from the command to fast. That would not exempt them from keeping all the other details of Yom Kippur but it does exempt them from not eating. That is why the young man who you met did not have to sit on the men’s side because, being autistic, he has different needs than those who are not autistic. Presumably one of his requirements is that he be with someone he knows well so as not to cause him unnecessary anxiety – hence he was sitting together with his mother.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team