Halacha for Thursday 14 Kislev 5780 December 12 2019

Honoring One’s Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law

The Yalkut Shimoni states: “David told Shaul, ‘My father, you shall surely see the corner of your coat in my hand’” (which means that David called Shaul his father). Our Sages derived from here that one is obligated to honor one’s father-in-law just as one is obligated honor one’s father, for the verse equates one’s father-in-law to one’s father. The reason for this is because one’s wife is considered an actual part of one’s self and just as one’s wife is obligated to honor her father, the husband is obligated to honor her father as well. The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 240) rule accordingly that one is indeed obligated to honor one’s father-in-law.

Likewise, one must certainly honor one’s mother-in-law. The Mishnah in Masechet Sotah (49b) states that one of the signs of the period immediately prior to the arrival of the Mashiach is that daughters-in-law will rise up against their mother-in-law and others have a different version in the Mishnah that sons-in-law will rise up against their fathers-in-law. Based on this, nowadays when it is common for brazen words to be exchanged between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law or between son-in-law and father-in-law, this is indeed a sign that the end of our exile is near. Although the parents of the husband or wife may sometimes not treat their son-in-law or daughter-in-law properly, it is nevertheless forbidden to act audaciously towards them and one must always treat them respectfully. If the relationship with one’s in-laws causes strife or aggravation, the couple should consult an outstanding Torah scholar who has experience with these issues regarding how to proceed.

Indeed, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yaakov Emdin writes a powerful lesson (in his Responsa She’elat Ya’abetz, Chapter 32) that the common hatred between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law usually exists when they both live in the same house, for this naturally causes strife. However, if they are not so near one another, it is possible that they will live with peace and harmony.    

The following are the words of the Tur: “One is obligated to honor one’s older brother just as one is obligated to honor one’s father.” The Tur then continues, “One is also obligated to honor one’s father-in-law, as the verse states, ‘My father, you shall surely see.’” The Bayit Chadash infers from the fact that regarding the honor of one’s older brother, the Tur writes that one should honor him like one honors one’s father whereas regarding the honor one affords one’s father-in-law, the Tur only writes that one must honor him, that the obligation to honor one’s father-in-law is not as great and one need not honor him exactly as one honors one’s father; rather, one only needs to rise before him and honor him the way one would honor an elderly person.

Thus, halachically speaking, although one is obligated to honor one’s father-in-law by not calling him by his first name, rising before him, and the like, nevertheless, one is not obligated to honor him exactly as one would honor his parents by providing them with all of their needs (as we have discussed by the laws of honoring one’s parents) and honoring him minimally, as one would elderly people, is sufficient.

Summary: One is obligated to honor one’s father-in-law by rising before him when he enters one’s four Amot (approximately a six-foot radius) just as one would honor elders. However, one is not obligated to honor him exactly as one is obligated to honor his father. Maran zt”l writes that some customarily kiss the hands of their father-in-law as a show of respect and honor and this is indeed a worthy custom. This is especially true if one’s father-in-law is a Torah scholar and performs praiseworthy deeds. Similarly, one must also honor one’s mother-in-law appropriately. Likewise, a woman should honor her father-in-law and mother-in-law to the best of her ability.

One may not call one’s father-in-law or mother-in-law by their first names; rather, one should call them “Abba” and “Ima” respectively as some customarily do or one should add on a respectful title to their names such as “Rabbi” and the like. Alternatively, one can avoid addressing them directly altogether.

8 Halachot Most Popular

Matanot La’Evyonim

In the previous Halacha we briefly discussed the Mitzvah of “Matanot La’Evyonim” on Purim day which is the distribution of two monetary gifts, one to each pauper. What Must One Give? In order to fulfill this Mitzvah, one need not give actual gifts; rather, it is permissible to ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Mishloach Manot

The Mitzvah of Mishloach Manot The verse in the Megillat Esther (9, 22) states: “In order to mark them as days of feasting and merriment and sending portions (Mishloach Manot) to one another as well as giving gifts to the poor (Matanot La’Evyonim).” The Gemara in Masechet Megillah......

Read Halacha

The “Mechaye Ha’Metim” Blessing

In the previous Halacha we have explained that one who sees a truly dear friend or relative after thirty days f not seeing him and is happy to see him recites the “Shehecheyanu” blessing upon seeing him. The Gemara (Berachot 58b) states: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who se......

Read Halacha

Question: When should “Baruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” be recited?

Answer: Moshe Rabbeinu exclaimed, “When I call upon the name of Hashem, exalt our G-d.” Onkelos translates this verse to mean that Moshe Rabbeinu meant to say that when I mention Hashem’s name in prayer, give praise to Hashem our G-d. Based on this, the Tur (Chapter 124) writes tha......

Read Halacha


Question: Must one answer “Baruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” upon hearing the name of Hashem recited during Kiddush and Havdala?

Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained the primary reason for answering “Baruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” after hearing Hashem’s name, for this was indeed the custom of the Rosh who would answer “Baruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” every time he heard Hashem&rsquo......

Read Halacha

Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing Upon Seeing a Dear Friend or Loved One

Question: If one travels overseas, returns home more than thirty days later, and is happy to see his wife or a dear friend when he returns, must one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing? Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 58b) states: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who sees his frie......

Read Halacha

Disassembling Doors and Windows on Shabbat

Question: May one remove a door from its hinges or a window from its frame on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that one of the works forbidden on Shabbat is building. However, just as it is forbidden to build something or add anything to a standing edifice on Shabbat, it......

Read Halacha

Giving Birth on Shabbat

Question: If a pregnant woman knows that there is a reasonable chance that she will be giving birth on Shabbat (for instance, if her due date is on Shabbat) and as a result, if she begins experiencing contractions on Shabbat, Shabbat will have to be desecrated on her behalf by travelling to the hosp......

Read Halacha