Improvised Mechitza: Shabbos Issues

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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?

Dear Tzippy
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

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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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