Kibud Av vs. cranky father in law

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    So a frum Yid should never embarrass their father or father in law in public. I know with Kibud Av V’eim, we choose our religion over parents if our parents ask us to violate a fundamental mitzvah. So here’s my shtick:

    My father in law has become increasingly difficult to be around. He’s not religious, and lately he makes statements at my Shabbos table to the effect of:

    “There are too many Torah scholars in the world. Your kids should get a job. All those rabbi’s are on the take from the government.”


    “C’mon, you don’t think all that Torah stuff is meant to be true, do you? I thought you were smarter than that.”

    I try to never argue with him in public and simply diffuse the situation when he drops one of these bombs. But now my wife wants to un-invite my in laws from our Shabbos table permanently. I have not really tried setting boundaries, but I fear any boundaries will be viewed as threats. My wife says we’re “past setting boundaries, and it won’t work anyways.”

    Where do I go from here (in addition to asking my LOR)?


    If he believes that what is in the Torah is not meant to be taken literally, then you should not be nice to him. He is biting the hand that feeds him.


    Tell him to go get a job and pay for his Saturday meal;)


    When people get older they can get cranky in general

    And remember he IS at your table, if he was really so anti-religious he wouldnt come to your house for shabbos

    Think first

    Respecfully explain to him why you can’t have him anymore and, if in the future he feels he can restrain himself from saying such things he can let you know and he’ll be invited once again. As much as he doesn’t agree with you he will understand that its important for you and your children more importantly not to hear such things.


    Have you tried killing him with kindness? Maybe the natural reaction when you feel yourself under attack is to either fight back or to become defensive, but it probably isn’t helping the situation. Try “I know this isn’t how you usually spend the day – we really appreciate the time you spend with us” Ask some questions about his childhood, and what he learned growing up. Practice, rehearse. I have seem parents who truly believe their children are deluded in their new beliefs, but that may be only part of the story. Your father in law may feel that whatever he has been doing is not good enough for you, and he may be on the defensive.


    farrockgrandma, I wonder if your last statement is right on the head. He’s watched his daughter (and me) go from unreligious to raising our 5 kids FFB over the last 15 years. My in laws attend a “learner’s service” every Shabbos morning at an Orthodox shul, but they refuse to take on kashrus, Shabbos, etc. My wife and I, on the other hand, try to make every decision in life under the cloak of Torah. Perhaps he’s had “enough.”

    We used to have this long standing game in our family to pretend to treat him with disrespect, which was actually meant (and taken) as a sign of respect. When he turned 70, I instructed my kids that game was over, and it was time to give him real kavod. Things have gone downhill ever since.

    I have passed up numerous job promotions that would have forced the my family to move, in order to stay close to the grandparents (both sides are in town, B’H”). But now my wife is wondering what kind of role models the grandparents will be for the kids as they get older. They have a TV – we don’t. They eat treif – we don’t. They drive on Shabbos, etc,, you get the point.

    At what point do you have to limit your kids exposure to your parents who not only eat teif, but davka celebrate it!


    I have found that having a talk sometimes helps. I make the tone pleasant and tell them all the time and effort I have put into living my life in a way that means everything to me.

    I go on to explain that I can understand people see things differently, and add there is no way I can show you all the steps that lead me up to my beliefs today.

    I finish by saying it upsets me to hear these generalized comments and that, in turn, I hope I am not saying or doing things which offend your beliefs.

    Usually, this helps. People dont want to be mean face to face. They just end up politicking and fall into a role.

    Hatzlacha Rabbah!!!!

    bobbys cow

    this is a very serious issue and i wish u much hatzlacha.

    i just want to take issue with the first sentence in the thread, where u state that a frum yid should never embarrass his father in law or father in public, and i just wanted to point out that a frum yid should never embarrass anyone in public except to prevent chillul hashem.


    When dealing with non frum relatives, you must have boundaries. But you must know that wherever you draw those lines, there will be pressure against them. They will never be happy with them. So you might as well draw those lines where you are comfortable. No sense both of you being miserable about it.

    I think kids can handle that grandma and grandpa don’t keep Shabbos. That is common enough (nebach) nowadays. But the dei’os kozvos, the wrong ideas coming out of their mouths, might sink into their heads softly, after hearing it enough times. They’ll go on and begin to wonder themselves later on. As Goebbals, ym’s, said many times, repeat a lie often anough, and they’ll start to believe it.


    In Kedushin 31b, there is a story about Rav Assi and his mother. When his mother got old, she asked Rav Assi to find her a “husband that looks handsome like you”.

    Rav Assi left her in Bavel and went to E”Y. When Rav Assi heard that his mother was also coming to E”Y, he asked if he could leave E”Y and go to Bavel.


    “But now my wife wants to un-invite my in laws from our Shabbos table permanently.”

    I agree with her. And she should do the un-inviting as it’s her parents.

    Avraham Avinu left his father (see Rashi at the end of Noah) and his father eventually did teshuva (Rashi later on). You might need to do this.

    You really should ask your LOR about this. IMHO, there is not a Mitsvah of Kivud Av in this situation. AFAIK, you are obligated to avoid any outright disrespect, but you don’t have to invite them, cater to them, or feel obligated to live near them.

    BTW, you will need those promotions more in the future as your chinuch bills get bigger.


    Listen to your wife, I think.


    I wanted to chime in on the point about the parents being defensive when it comes to the changes we make in our lives. I did the same as you and completely changed my life. Actually all of the siblings in my family did (I am 1 of 3 girls). It was pretty amazing that we all became shomer Shabbos/kashrus. I did, however, go farther than my sisters and decided to move away and live in EY (where I felt I had the best chance to raise my children in the way I felt was the best). I missed seeing my parents, but being in EY made it worthwhile. My mother, a”h, would probably have wanted to become shomer Shabbos as well, but she and my father were pretty old by the time I jumped on the bandwagon (actually for different reasons than my sisters), and the change was too hard for them to do. On the other hand, my father had some bad experiences in his youth with supposedly religious family members and he harbored a lot of resentment towards “religious” people. He could not understand for the life of him what it was all about and basically decided that it was just craziness and held no intrinsic meaning.

    It was easier for me to deal with him if I kept remembering that he was probably also angry about the fact that all three of his children rejected the lifestyle he chose and went off in a direction he did not agree with. I tried to keep in mind that this state of mind would only affect him in this world and that he would obviously enjoy the fruits of our labors when he would get to the olam above (which is where he is now).

    If you try to talk to them and find that they are not willing to speak less antagonistically than they do at present, then you will be forced to separate more from them, so perhaps moving with one of your promotions would be the easiest option.


    I have a semi similar situation and I often feel at odds with what to do. I grew up pretty modern, always keeping shabbos and kashrus but you know, wearing pants and going to a coed yeshiva high school. When I becameore frum over the course of a few years my mother was thrilled and so proud, ( even though she still wears pants and does her own thing, she actually got a sheital for my wedding). Anyway my father, who btw learns everyday and never ever misses a minyan, is very (anti) charedi. I always say thank goodness I’m the girl because my father woul never have bought a sheital for my wife. My husband always tries to show respect for my father, they have a great relationship. But at times they are at odds, usually over shabbos table discussions and lately my husband finds it hard to bite his tongue. My father thinks that it is crazy the way bochurim and or charedim hold the gedolim to such a high level and that it is cult like. My husband gets very offended and has to literally cover his mouth so as not to speak out. They have wildly different views on israel. My father says it is better to not keep shabbos but to live in israel, then to live here and be charedi. Obviously my father would never break shabbos but you get my point. Sometimes I find myself arguing with my father and I know I am being distespectful but I just can’t handle it. I am trying though. I find that when I change the subject or leave the room for a minute all settles down. I would like to find a better solution.


    What you are saying is so sad. My in-laws were not frum, but they were so respectful of us, and so proud of their son for becoming religiously observant and marrying a frum girl.

    I think you should try to sit down and have a “family” conference type talk with them. Your wife should not have to have her yom tov or Shabbos farshterred because of mean-spirited or simply ignorant comments, no matter WHO is making them. But this should be done in as respectful a manner as possible. Maybe it would help to write the FIL a letter.

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