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In a case of a Ger/Convert, what role can non-Jewish parents play at the wedding ceremony?

Halachically can the parents accompany their child down the aisle? Could they stand under the Chuppa?

Any sources on the topic would be much appreciated...


The Rema in Yoreh Deah שצא,ג discusses the concept of leading the groom down the aisle implying there is Halachic relevance to that part of the ceremony... וכן יוכל להכניס חתן כדרך ארצנו ששני אנשים מכניסין החתן תחת החופה

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    Is walking down an aisle or standing near something a Halakhically meaningful act? Who cares who walks wherever before a wedding? If you could give a reason Judaism might care about those things I might understand why there'd be discussion of a gentile's participation. – Double AA Apr 8 at 0:09
  • The Rema in Yoreh Deah in שצא:ג. discusses the concept of leading the groom down the aisle.... וכן יוכל להכניס חתן כדרך ארצנו ששני אנשים מכניסין החתן תחת החופה – El Shteiger Apr 8 at 0:50
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    @ElShteiger Always include relevant information in the post itself – DonielF Apr 8 at 2:40
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    Added. Others are welcome to edit to improve the OP – El Shteiger Apr 8 at 11:27
  • @ElS all it implies is there was a standard way of doing things in 16th century Poland. I see no indication of Halakhic significance. – Double AA Apr 8 at 12:17
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I was involved with someone who had the following situation (I don't know the sources involved in the decision, just the guidance that was given. HaRav Tzvi Berkowitz was the Rav being consulted):

The father of the groom was Jewish, but his mother was not, and the groom had converted. However, it was not publicly known that he had converted. The parents of the bride were divorced. Some consider it a bad siman for a divorced couple to walk the child to the chuppah, and therefore it was decided that the fathers would walk down the groom, and the mothers would walk down the bride. However, this left the bride being walked down to the aisle by a divorced woman and a non-Jew. Therefore, an older couple who were very close to the family of the bride walked a short distance behind the bride to escort her to the chuppah. The older couple veered off before the chuppah, and the groom and bride both had their parents with them under the chuppah.

I included all of the details so that I wouldn't be misrepresenting anything, but peeling away some of the complications, it does seem that a) if non-Jewish parents are walking a child down, it would be better to have another couple be co-escorts, which can be done by following behind, and b) a non-Jewish parent can stand under the chuppah with their child.

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As well as halachic answers, there is this point to consider:

It is a very important command, to honour ones parents, in most circumstances. To deny a person's fact of being a parent, at a pinnacle of parenthood (when ones child is themselves becoming married) would seem to be a height of disrespecting them as a parent.

Similarly one should also not place a child (or child's spouse) in the position of being expected/required/socially pressured to take or permit that act of disrespect to their parent. This would be not only a direct breach, but also a further breach of another commandment, not to place a "stumbling block" before "the blind".

Update: Also one is required by both positive and negative commands, and rabbinical law, to take all efforts to avoid singling out and humiliating a person in public, whether by deliberate act or omission - an act which is compared to killing them. Chesed (lovingkindness) is one of the highest virtues cited in Jewish law, which is full of positive examples where the strict letter of law is overridden by the demands of chesed. Singling out the parent, especially on a day like their child's fulfilment of such an important commandment as marriage, would seem to be a prime example of breaching that requirement also.

(It shouldn't need saying, but all of these apply to any people (not just family and community). That's not just because of natural justice and ethics or because it would be plainly abhorrent not to. It's also shown explicitly by rabbinic examples and anecdotes, which show the application of these same laws with regard to both jews and non-jews.)

Update 2:

I've been asked in the comment to add support for the obvious points, which is fair. I didn't expect some of them to be points for which support might be needed, being secondary points that are non-contentious, fairly well known, and with luck, extremely obvious. Here are a few - possibly not the best and surely not all that exists:

  • Honour due to ones' biological parent if non-jewish: (1) See the Talmudic story of Dama ben Nesinas (Kiddushin 30a), the non-jew who honoured his parents and was highly praised and, the next year, divinely rewarded, apparently for doing so. (website discussion) Striking that the principle to honor parents is illustrated by a story of a non-jew honouring his non-jewish parent. If it is praiseworthy for a non-jew with non-jewish parents to honour them, so much more is it for a jew with a non-jewish parent, lest it be thought that adopting any less respectful style is inherent in conversion, or the like.

    A related question is whether a convert should still honour their parents after conversion, discussed on Chabad. Same reason as above also applies, though this is hardly the "reason" to do it.
  • Honour due to parents-in-law: Widely cited verse Samuel 24:12. Even though "father" can be a term of respect or for an elder, it's generally accepted that this teaches us that a father in law is also to be treated to a great extent as a father. (And a mother in law therefore to a great extent as a mother). At least one website states this is also codified in Shulchan Aruch. The discussion does not seem to distinguish between parents-in-law that are jewish or not, or err or no; as a general principle, in deciding upon the existence of a requirement to honour them.
  • Comment on the two together: Apart from logically combining these to discover our duty of honour to a non-jewish parent-in-law, one can also discover further separate reasons. For example, let us suppose that we accepted that the biological child is directly required to honour the parent, for the reason above, but then consider whether their partner should reject the parent being treated this way, because the two above items can't (for any reason) be combined this way. But that would require the partner to demand their betrothed partner breaches their duty of respect to their own parent. That would probably be inconceivable, due to the same breaches which it would cause them to commit, including the nature of their conduct towards and harm done to their own spouse (and his/her relationship with his/her parents) in doing so, and Shalom Bayith both in their home and at the wedding. Also we would note that the biological child has an explicit duty to honour, while the other has no comparable explicit duty to forbid that honouring.

As an aside worth noting, the duty to "honour" ones parents, covers an intent and the steps needed, to make them feel honoured. That would be breached by excluding them. It is also a general rule that if there is doubt, one should err on the side of caution, lovingkindness, and more eagerness to fulfil the important commandment to honour ones parents (jewish or not, in-laws or biological), to seek peace and to not cause Hilul Hashem (as added in comments), and to not place a stumbling block.

But mainly, one should seek to "be holy" as many commandments flatly state, and one should consider what a truly godly person filled with divine chesed and compassion and love, would do.

Although a personal feeling and not a statement of law, I do feel that is all the reason a person and their family and community should really require, for the decision to welcome their in-laws warmly and with deep respect and love, to their wedding, and grant them all honours that are not explicitly forbidden on the highest authority of an explicit negative commandment to grant them, as befitting the most blessed biological (or indeed any other) parents of one of the marrying couple on that day. The rest (to paraphrase Hillel) seems to me, to just be explanation.

  • Thank you for your response. You say that there's explicit evidence that these same laws would apply to non-Jewish parents. Logically, it makes sense and there's an additional element of Hilul Hashem and Shalom Bayit, but do you have any explicit textual or anecdotal evidence? – El Shteiger Apr 8 at 11:26
  • Added. It seems these points shouldn't need citing, and distract from the deeper reasons why this would be correct. I've explained why that, as well. – Stilez Apr 8 at 20:55
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This depends on your LOR and / or Bet Din. The Lakewood Bes Din Meshorim permits non-Jewish parents to escort a Ger down the aisle. The London Bes Din does not.

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