Halacha for Thursday 30 Cheshvan 5780 November 28 2019

The Honor of One’s Step-Mother Versus One’s Biological Mother
Our Sages (Ketubot 103a) derive from the seemingly extra words “Et” in the verse regarding honoring one’s parents (“Kabed Et Avicha Ve’et Imecha”) that the Torah means to include the honor of one’s step-father and step-mother. This means that if one’s father passes on and one’s mother marries another man, one must honor this man. Similarly, if one’s mother passes away and one’s father marries another woman, one must honor that woman. The above law applies if one’s parents divorce as well.

When One’s Mother Insists One Not Honor the Step-Mother
Let us now discuss a question that unfortunately arises somewhat often. If one’s parents divorce and one’s father remarries another woman, sometimes one’s mother will instruct him not to honor one’s father’s wife at all by either greeting her, visiting her, and certainly not taking care of her needs. In this scenario, whose honor takes precedence: one’s biological mother or one’s step-mother?

The Honor of One’s Mother vs. that of One’s Step-Mother
Let us give an example of where the above question can have another serious implication as a result of this clash. For instance, if one’s mother and one’s step-mother each ask one to help them go shopping at the same time. Whose honor take’s precedence? Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue (in his Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 11, Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 20) and rules that clearly, the honor of one’s biological mother takes precedence over that of one’s step-mother, for one is obligated to honor one’s mother forever while one is only obligated to honor one’s step-mother during her lifetime.

When One’s Biological Mother Forbids One to Honor His Step-Mother
Regarding the aforementioned question, Maran zt”l writes that if one’s mother instructs one not to honor his step-mother, this is tantamount to one’s mother commanding one to transgress Torah law. For instance, if one’s mother commands one to desecrate Shabbat, one may certainly not obey, as our Sages teach us in several places (among them Baba Metzia 32a). Since one is obligated to honor one’s step-mother, although the honor of one’s biological mother takes precedence over that of the step-mother since one is obligated to honor her forever, the mother can nevertheless not prevent her son from performing any Mitzvah, including that of honoring one’s step-mother.

Summary: In general, the honor of one’s biological takes precedence over that of one’s step-mother. Nevertheless, if one’s mother instructs him not to honor one’s step-mother, one need not obey her since she does not have the authority to tell her son to transgress Torah law. On the other hand, Maran zt”l writes that the son should behave with sensitivity so as not to cause his mother unnecessary pain and use judgment to be able to show honor to everyone.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Motza’ei Tisha Be’av and the Tenth of Av

----------------------------- By Popular Request: According to the Sephardic custom, it is permissible to shave, take a haircut, and do laundry immediately at the conclusion of the fast tonight. Ashkenazim customarily rule leniently in this regard. However, this year (5780), when the Tenth of Av fa......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av. The Sephardic Custom Nevertheless, the Sephardic c......

Read Halacha


“One Who Finds a Wife Has Found Good”

The Gemara (Berachot 8a) states regarding the verse in Tehillim, “For this let every pious individual pray to you in a time when you may be found”: “Rabbi Chanina said: “In a time when you may be found” refers to one’s wife, as the verse in Mishlei states, ‘......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

This coming Tuesday night and Wednesday will mark Rosh Chodesh Av. May Hashem soon switch it to a month of joy and celebration. The Jewish Nation’s Fortune During the Month of Av Although we customarily implement some mourning customs during the entire “Three Weeks” as we have......

Read Halacha

Tu Be’av

Today marks Tu Be’av, the Fifteenth of Av. The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) states: “Rabban Shimon ben Gamilel said: There were no better days for the Jewish nation than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, for on the Fifteenth of Av the young women of Jerusalem would go out we......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Erev Tisha Be’av

The Sefer Ha’Minhagim, authored by Rabbeinu Eizik Tirna, states that one should not leisurely stroll around on Erev Tisha Be’av. The Rama, some great Acharonim, and seemingly Maran Ha’Chida as well, rule accordingly. On Erev Tisha Be’av during the “Seuda Ha’Maf......

Read Halacha