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Monday, 1 September 2014

FAMILY = Father And Mother In Law, Yikes!

Daf Yomi Moed Katan 20

In a small shtetl (village) in Der Heim (Eastern Europe), two families arrange with a prominent yeshiva to have two bochurim (yeshiva boys) matched as husbands for their daughters.  Tragically, however, en route to the shtetl, their wagon is attacked by Cossacks, and one of the men is killed. When the survivor finally arrives in the town, a fight breaks out between the mothers of the two girls, each claiming that the young man is the intended groom for her daughter. The man himself is flummoxed and so the case is brought before the local rabbi.
The rabbi pours over the pages of the Torah and Talmud and finally arrives at the solution. 
“Chop the boy in half,” he announces.
“Heaven forbid!” responds the first mother, “My daughter will give up her claim.”
“Go ahead and chop,” the other mother says.
The rabbi stands up and points to the second woman. “This one is the true mother-in-law!”

Mar Ukva’s brother-in-law died and he wanted to sit shivah and observe shloshim for him. 
Rabbi Huna went up to find him and said, “Do you so badly want to eat a mourner’s meal?  Our Sages only instructed one to honour his wife by mourning for his parents-in-law.”
Similarly, the Beraisa teaches: Our Sages only instructed one to honour his wife by mourning solely for his parents-in-law.

The tension that naturally exists between a child-in-law and parent-in-law has given rise to a host of jokes over the centuries.  After all, laughter is often the best medicine.  But the tension is real and normal and must be dealt with in a proper manner.

When you got married, you chose your husband or wife.  But along with them came an entire package including their parents.   You might think, ‘Well, I didn’t choose to marry her family.  I’m not required to have a relationship with them.’ 

But that’s not Judaism’s perspective.  The Talmud teaches that not only must we have a good relationship with our in-laws; we are obligated to honour them.  And if one is required to honour one’s in-laws by mourning for them after their passing, how much more so must one honour them during their lifetimes!  

Honouring your in-laws has two facets.  You are honouring them but at the same time you are also giving honour to your spouse.  Dishonouring your in-laws is not only an insult to them, but it’s disrespectful to your wife or husband, as well.

No, it’s not always easy.  Family relationships, especially those that have been foisted upon us, may be fraught with tension.  But the Torah insists that you bite your tongue and make the effort.  After all, you are lucky to have your spouse today because two individuals put a lot of time, money and effort into making who s/he is today!  Don’t you think they deserve a little respect?

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