The Deadbeat Dad and Hagaon HaRav Nissim Karelitz zt”l


(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

A woman had gone through a bitter divorce. Subsequently, the husband had neither given her nor their daughter any financial support. The woman had found a wonderful second husband who took a warm interest in the child.

The step-father treated his wife nicely and had paid for the educational and needs of his step-daughter.  The young lady blossomed and was sought after by shadchanim.  They suggested the top shidduchim and eventually, she became engaged to a wonderful and erliche Talmid Chochom.

A few days before the wedding, there was a loud knock on the door.  The biological father was at the door with the invitation in hand.  “What is the meaning of this?!,” he demanded to know of his daughter.  He pointed to the fact that his name did not appear at the bottom of the invitation.

“Do you not have a father?”

“Is your mother’s husband – now your father?”

The father demanded that they reprint the invitation at once.  The young lady posed the question to Rav Yitzchok ZIlberstein shlita who consulted with Rav Nissim Karelitz on the matter. [The story happened in Eretz Yisroel, but could have happened anywhere.]

The response was that the obligations of honoring one’s father and mother are indeed very great and far-reaching.  However, even these obligations do not permit one to lie.  The wording and implication of the invitation is made by those who have entered the arena as a parent, who have made the effort to raise the bride, who have provided for her needs.   The true father in this case is the step-father.

The daughter came back to her biological father with the response of the Gedolim.  The father was shocked and taken aback.  He responded that he was willing to take on the financial responsibility of the entire wedding.

When the young woman returned again with the father’s offer, the Gedolei Torah responded that this is not enough to be called “marrying off the kallah.”  If he contributes to all the other expenses – including the purchase of a place to live – will they consider to permit his name to be included in the invitation.  Rav Nissim Karelitz zt”l emphasized that only in such circumstances can the biological father be considered “marrying off his daughter.”

The story is found in Vavei HaAmudim #74 page 101.  It was a sad story and one that could have been very different had the father looked at things a little differently.  He should have been more involved with his children.  He should have taken pride in the knowledge that he was contributing to the support of his children.

Divorce is not easy on the parents or the children.  It is not uncommon for one parent to disparage the other and alienate the other.  It is also not uncommon for one parent to avoid contributing to the support of their child.

The State of Florida has something called mandated divorced parenting classes.  It is highly effective in getting both parents to see things more clearly.  Indeed, it has such positive results that 17 states in the United States have signed on board.  They are:  Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  New York is not one of them.

Our Torah organizations might consider developing a similar type of class for the growing problem of divorces in our communities.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


  1. This article all too conveniently omits to state, how easily the mother let {or hindered} the Biological Father have his parenting time with the daughter.
    This could throw a strong monkey wrench into this entire saga. Maybe the schools conveniently were not given the Biological Father’s contact information, nor was the Biological Father given the schools’ contact info.

  2. Rabbi Hoffman,

    “Our Torah organizations might consider developing a similar type of class for the growing problem of divorces in our communities.”

    Your proposal is an excellent one. In fact a few years ago I took the course materials on co-parenting offered by the State of NJ (Titled Trans-parenting) and shared it with some of the local schools in my hometown of Lakewood,NJ. I suggested to them as well as Torah U’mesorah that the Charedei Tzibur develop a similar program.

    The concept was well received, however it was deemed impractical as our mosdos H’torah cannot and should not involve themselves in divorce. Their primary purpose is to teach Torah H’kdoshah and that must be their focus.

    I have been a strong advocate of mediation and hope you will join me in promoting its use.

    Continued Hatzlocah