Thursday, May 25, 2017


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bamidbar (45th day of Omer)
1 Sivan 5777/ May 26, 2017 - Avos Perek 6
Rosh Chodesh Sivan

·         “Before I got married, I was taught that I have to have more respect to my wife than for myself. So, I make sure to always treat my wife’s in-laws with more respect than my own in-laws.”
-badchan R’ Yankel Miller
·         “The rule in life is, either fix yourself, or your mother-in-law will.”
-Rabbi Berel Wein 

What’s with all the in-law jokes? Why is dealing with in-laws so potentially contentious?
One of the most important components of a healthy and satisfying marriage is the ability to view matters from someone else’s vantage point and perspective.
Often strife is the result of either becoming so emotionally entrenched in one’s own opinion, that he is unable to understand another perspective. Or, it is the result of a bruised ego that seeks validation and reassurance.
It’s been suggested that if couples could follow this one piece of advice, it would eliminate more than half of all marital strife: Whenever there is a disagreement about any matter, after mentioning their opinion, each side should then repeat their spouse’s opinion and the reasons why he/she feels that way. It is not easy to extricate one’s self emotionally, in order to understand another perspective[1].
I was once at a Shabbos table of a friend, when his irreligious aunt asked what a ‘mechutan’ is[2]. My friend’s father immediately replied, “the opposition leader.”     
When I was nine-years old, I was at a family Chanukah get-together for my father’s family. It was shortly after the passing of my Zaydei – my mother’s father. My Sabbah and Sava, my father’s parents, were sitting together and I asked them if they cried when they heard my Zaydei had died. They immediately replied, “of course we did”. 
At that point in my life, I was first beginning to comprehend that, although they were all my grandparents, they weren’t related to each other. [In the immortal words of American philosopher Lou Costello, “My father married my mother, and my uncle married my aunt. So why should I marry a total stranger?”]
Part of the challenge of dealing with in-laws, stems from the feeling that they are “in-laws”, and not parents. There is undoubtedly truth to the fact that in-laws must be very cautious when asserting and suggesting things to their married children. However, just as one is more patient with his/her own parents, there must be a realization that one’s in-laws are their spouse’s parents.
It is quite remarkable that in Tanach there are two instances which are connected to in-laws, and both are inextricably connected to Shavuos and Kabbolas HaTorah.
The story of Yisro, the father-in-law of Moshe, and his joining Klal Yisroel, directly precedes the Torah’s narrative of Kabbolas HaTorah. In fact, the parsha which contains Kabbolas HaTorah is called Parshas Yisro. The Torah records how after Yisro arrived, he surveyed the situation, and strongly rebuked Moshe with the words, “It is not good the matter which you are doing.” The Torah relates that Moshe “listened to the voice of his father-in-law.”
The other story is that of Rus, who sacrificed a life of aristocracy and nobility to accompany her mother-in-law back to Eretz Yisroel, knowing that a life of poverty and embarrassment awaited them, at least initially. Regarding Rus too, the pasuk states that she did whatever her mother-in-law commanded her.[3]  
The word Shavuos literally means weeks. The Yom Tov of Kabbolas HaTorah is so called, because our acceptance of Torah is based on the preparation we invested during the seven weeks prior – the weeks of Sefiras HaOmer.
The time of Sefirah is also the period of mourning for the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students, who died because they did not adequately respect each other. Preparation for Kabbolas HaTorah entails seeing beyond ourselves and being able to view things from the perspective of others.[4]
Perhaps that is part of the reason both of the most significant stories of in-laws in Tanach are connected to Kabbolas HaTorah. To respect one’s in-laws one must relate to them not merely as in-laws, but also as significant components of one’s marriage. To grow in Torah one must be able to understand that there are other perspectives and understanding besides mine. Not only must one accept that, but one must be able to respect that as well.
They stood at Sinai like one man with one heart - a perspective and feeling that transcended themselves.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
Freilichen Yom Tov & Chag Sameiach,
             R’ Dani and Chani Staum

[1] This week, my mother sent the following quote: “Never laugh at your spouse’s choices. You were one of them!”
[2] The families of a bride and groom are ‘mechutanim’ with each other.
[3] It is noteworthy that Yisro and Rus were both converts as well. Although they married (or in Yisro’s case, he allowed his daughter to marry) into a Torah observant family, they both had the personal option whether to join or not.
[4] It’s an important component of Torah study as well as Torah living.