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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Should you meddle in your siblings' parenting decisions?

Daf Yomi Nazir 29


Shayna was in a quandary over her sister’s decision.  Rachel and Max had decided to pull their kids out of Jewish day-school and put them in public school.   Shayna was totally distraught at the thought of her niece and nephew missing out on a good Jewish education and being exposed at such a tender age to the crazy, big wide world out there.  But was it her place to say anything?  Maybe she should just mind her own business!  To mix in or not to mix in? 

Mishna: A father may initiate his son into nazirism, but a mother cannot initiate her son into nazirism.  If the boy cut his hair or his relatives cut his hair, or he protested the nazirism or his relatives protested, he is not a nazir.
The Gemara asks: The father can, but the mother cannot, why? 
Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Chanina answers in the name of Reish Lakish: Since the father has a duty to educate his son in mitzvos.
The Gemara asks: But the Mishna stated, ‘If he protested the nazirism or his relatives protested.’  Do the relatives then have the power to say to the father, ‘Do not teach him mitzvos?’
The Gemara answers: An educational decision that the relatives do not approve of is a bad idea. 

Aunts and uncles share the responsibility for their nieces’ and nephews’ education.  If you feel that your sibling is making a poor choice concerning their children’s education, you have every right to interfere.  It’s not a matter of minding your own business; the Gemara makes it very clear that their education is your business.

Why is it your business?  Why do you get an opinion when it comes to the education of your nieces and nephews?  It’s not because they’re your siblings’ children.  For that relationship alone, you would have no say.  No, it’s because they are the grandchildren of your parents.

Every parent wants the best for their offspring, physically, materially, emotionally, and spiritually.  When you work to ensure the spiritual and educational success of your nieces and nephews you are honouring your parents.   And so your involvement in their educational choices is every bit your business.  You have an obligation to honour your parents; part of that honour is achieving the best for their grandchildren.

So you certainly have the right to an opinion regarding your siblings’ decisions.  But with rights come responsibilities.  It’s all well and good to criticize their decision to pull their kids’ out of Jewish school and place them in public school.  But if their response to your criticism is that the decision was financial, are you prepared to step up and do your best to assist monetarily?   Doing so is not tzedakah to your sibling – they might not even care.  Rather you are helping your nieces and nephews in an effort to honour your parents.  In other words, this expenditure is part and parcel of the mitzvah of kibud av v’em, the Fifth Commandment.


Are your nieces and nephews getting a good Jewish education?  How about your great-nieces and great-nephews?  If not, you have a duty to help their parents make the right decisions.  May your parents merit children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are committed Jews and may you do your part to help them succeed in that accomplishment!