Dear Rabbi Simon,
We are making a minyan in a marquee for Jonathan’s bar mitzvah. The caterer (who I believe has experience but is not a halachic authority) has suggested that we can use potted plants to comprise the mechitza [partition to separate the men’s and women’s seating]. Is this acceptable and can we allow the caterer to instruct his staff (who are not Jewish) to move the plants out of the way once the prayers are finished?
Although the potted plants are muktzeh [forbidden to be moved on Shabbos by a Jewish person], you may use them in a passive role as a mechitza at the bar mitzvah. Once they are no longer required there is no prohibition in allowing the staff to move them away so that there is room for the kiddush. WRT their suitability as a mechitza, just be sure that the trees provide sufficient “coverage” to serve as a partition. They do not need to completely obstruct the view, but they need to be noticeable enough that they cannot be ignored or effortlessly overlooked.
Mazal tov on the upcoming great event
Rabbi Rashi Simon