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.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Lighting the Chanukah Candles

The Mitzvah of Lighting Chanukah Candles There is a Mitzvah to light Chanukah candles throughout all eight nights of Chanukah (beginning from next Thursday night). The Sephardic custom is to light one set of Chanukah candles per house. The Ashkenazi custom, however, is that every member of the hous......

Read Halacha

Melaveh Malka

Question: Is one obligated to eat bread on Motza’ei Shabbat for the fourth Shabbat meal which is also referred to as “Melaveh Malka” (meal escorting out the Shabbat Queen)? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (119b) tells us that one should always set one’s table nicely......

Read Halacha

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Women Regarding the “Melaveh Malka” Meal

In the previous Halacha we have explained that one should put forth an effort to eat The fourth Shabbat meal, which is also known as the “Melaveh Malka” meal, which is held on Motza’ei Shabbat to escort out the Shabbat Queen and to retain blessing for the rest of the meals of the w......

Read Halacha


Moving an Electric Blanket or Fan on Shabbat

Question: May one use an electric blanket (heating pad) on Shabbat or is it prohibited to be moved due to the prohibition of Muktzeh? Similarly, may one turn a fan to another direction on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have discussed several laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which are obje......

Read Halacha

A Tool Used for Work Prohibited on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the basic laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which is that there are certain objects our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. Utensils or tools which are used for types of work that are permitted on Shabbat may be moved for any purpose. Thus, one may move forks, kn......

Read Halacha

“Muktzeh Due to Monetary Loss”

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed several laws regarding Muktzeh which are certain objects that our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. As of yet, we have discussed three types of Muktzeh: “Utensils used for work permitted on Shabbat”, such as forks, knives, and the like, wh......

Read Halacha

Moving Books and Newspapers on Shabbat

Question: Is one permitted to move or read medical books or phonebooks on Shabbat? What is the law regarding reading newspapers on Shabbat? The Opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch Regarding Reading Books on Mundane and Forbidden Topics Answer: Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 307, S......

Read Halacha