Thursday, February 4, 2010

Parshas Yisro 5770

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Yisro

21 Shevat 5770/February 5, 2010

Before proceeding to read this week’s musings, the reader must be familiar with some rudimentary Yiddish: “Shvigger” means mother-in-law (it is important to realize that the word ‘shvigger’ has many overtones and symbolisms, not the least of which are the myriad ‘shvigger jokes’); “Shver” means father-in-law. It also means difficult or complicated (not that there’s any connection between the two meanings…)

Last week, our friends, Rabbi Yisroel and Rivka Bodkins, married off their oldest daughter. The morning after the wedding I texted R’ Yisroel, “So what’s it like to be married to a shvigger?” His witty one word response was great, “Shver!”

Parshas Yisro is often referred to as a ‘shverer parsha’. Yisro, the father-in-law of Moshe joins Klal Yisroel and is overjoyed by the salvations and accomplishments that the nation has merited under his son-in-law’s leadership. [A friend of mine often wondered why we are never introduced to Moshe’s mother-in-law….]

Although many commentators struggle to understand why the Torah’s account about Yisro giving advice to Moshe is written just prior to the Torahs’ description of the giving of the Torah at Sinai, my father-in-law does not think it’s strange at all. In fact, he feels it’s extremely apropos.

At my afruf the Shabbos before our wedding, Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer shlita (the then Rabbi of Kehillas Bais Avrohom) noted to my (future) father-in-law that a choson (groom) and kallah (bride) officially are only granted that title from their wedding until the conclusion of the week of Sheva Berachos. [Although people refer to an engaged couple as choson and kallah, as far as halacha is concerned their exalted status is limited to that week.] However, there is one exception. In regards to one’s in laws one always remains a choson and kallah, for in Biblical vernacular a son-in-law is called a choson, and a daughter-in-law a kallah.

Perhaps this can be best understood in light of the following beautiful thought from Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch (Bereishis 19:12): “The Jewish bridegroom loves his bride, the kallah so dearly because in her he is bringing to his parental home a worthy beloved daughter, the “crown” of the parental home. The Jewish bride loves her bridegroom, the choson, so dearly because she finds in him the spirit of her parental home, and knows her parents’ satisfaction with his outlook on life and his aims. Thus, the harmonious agreement between the two families is dependent on the parents. They are the rocklike foundation on which their children rest, their guarantee that the parents will find their own loving life repeated in that of their children.”

The noted badchan, Rabbi Yankel Miller, quips that he was always taught that one must always show more respect to his wife than to himself. He cited the following example to demonstrate how he is careful to adhere to this cardinal obligation: “I make sure to show more respect to my wife’s shver and shvigger than to my own shver and shvigger.”

When writing about such a topic I must share a personal sentiment. From the day I entered his family, my father-in-law always told me that he wanted to be a father to me, not a father-in-law. Although no one can ever reach the level of love and closeness that a child has for his parents (except parents themselves), I have been blessed with in-laws that have come as close as possible.

And no that line is not from a Hallmark card!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum