Ask the rabbi: Honoring parents

Vol XXIV: I know the 10 Comandments say Honor your Mother and Father but what if your spouse tells you to stop talking to your Mother or else. My spouse is doing just so and I don't know what to do. After all she is my mother but I am stuck between a rock and hard place. is happy to announce the launch of its newest Ask the Expert column -- Ask the Rabbi, in cooperation with Rabbi Chaim Brovender, president of the ATID Foundation ( and Rosh Yeshiva of Web Yeshiva.
To read more about Rabbi Brovender, click here for Jerusalem Post columnist Barbara Sofer's June 22, 2007 article titled, "The Human Spirit: Synthesizing past and present," in which she details the Rabbi's achievements.
Or click here for the recent "In Jerusalem" profile.
Send us your questions and please leave your comments on the Q&A below.
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Q: I know the 10 Comandments say Honor your Mother and Father but what if your spouse tells you to stop talking to your Mother or else. My spouse is doing just so and I don't know what to do. After all she is my mother but I am stuck between a rock and hard place.
A: The question has halachic and non-halachic aspects. A married woman is obliged to give honor to her husband and to his parents. However, the husband is not specifically directed to honor the wife's parents. On the other hand civility is always demanded and in place. The question makes it sound like there is a more serious personal problem and perhaps councelling would be in order.
Q: How are we to understand that in the Torah, the first borns so frequently becomes not worthy of their birth right?
A: I am not sure that I have a particular answer for the question. It was known that the first born would assume special responsibilities in the family and the community. There was no selection base on aptitude but the first born would receive the mantel. This is often a good system. The children of the leaders make good leaders; just as the children of the shoemakers make good shoemakers. Sometimes the system breaks down and the next generation is not able to assume the responsibilities properly and cause various disasters. This happened with the first born who participated in making the golden calf.
Q: A close friend of many years has told me he wants to leave me a large part of his estate. He has no immediate family. He has told me this for years, but has not got around to updating his will. He has been showing increased signs of dementia and I am concerned he should update his will before it becomes a problem. How do I do this without offending him?
A: I think you have to approach a lawyer who will write a new will or a codicil and then when your friend seems to be in a positive mood try to get him to sign (with witnesses). You have to remember that you may be wrong and that he says things that he doesn't mean. If there are other relatives, they may contest the new will. A difficult situation.
Q: My nephew from Israel is working in London and I asked him to move in with us to save him the cost of rent. We are strictly Orthodox, like my parents, but it turns out that my nephew is quite different. He eats pork in public, but not in our home, and works on Yom Kippur, although born and raised in Israel. I love him as my brother's son, but I also feel uncomfortable, especially after he tried to take my daughter to a non-kosher restaurant. How do I deal with this situation?
A: You have to make the rules clear and then all will be well. Israelis often don't understand what the rules are. The reasons for accepting him into your home are that first, he is a close relative, and second, that he might benefit from living with a religious family. If there is no opposition from other members then it might be worth the effort. Good Luck
Q: I lost my mother last year and I am now clearing out her house. My husband said I should give her clothes, but not shoes, to charity in her memory. I feel unhappy about parting with her things. What is the correct thing to do?
A: What would happen if you didn't part with her things? Surely, using her things for charity would be a blessing for the departed.
Q: My father died almost 10 years ago and was cremated as per his wishes. He was not at all observant. He was a very good father and I want to observe Yahrzeit [anniversary] for him but feel uncomfortable because he was cremated. What do you recommend?
A: People make many mistakes in their lifetime. Your father made a mistake allowing cremation when he died. I don't think that that is a reason to forget him and to deny his memory. He was a father and I imagine that he did many good things. Celebrate the Yahrzeit. Of course, if it comes up, you have to stress that you don't think he did the right thing by opting for cremation.
Q: If it is not permitted for food to be cooked by a non-Jew why do many restaurants allow Arabs workers to cook food in Israel?
A: Food cannot be cooked by a non-Jew if the cooking is done exclusively by a non-Jewish cook for example. However, if the cooking is started by a Jew or if in some case the main part of the cooking is done by a Jew then it may be continued by a non-Jew. We consider that the one who began the cooking, even if he only lights the fire in the oven is doing the main part of the cooking itself.
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