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Let's say one has an emotionally abusive parent. When the parent visits someone, she is emotionally abusive to her son and daughter in law. The abuse is so harsh that it affects Shalom Bayit in the home.

After the son has made numerous attempts to explain to his mother that she cannot be abusive while visiting them and that his wife is hurt, she continues to do so. The wife tells her husband that his mom's visits affect her and the children in a negative way and are affecting the children's behavior as they are starting to speak fresh to the parents. She gives her husband an ultimatum that his mom can no longer visit them.

The above is one example of other scenarios where a mother's actions can affect Shalom Bayit. The abuse could occur via phone conversations, or when the son and his wife visit her.

If the obligation to show respect to a parent conflicts with Shalom Bayit, which would have priority? Should the son override her wife's ultimatum and risk impinging on Shalom Bayit, or vice versa?

I am asking for halachic sources that discuss this priority, not advice on how to handle such situations. Undoubtedly, a number of us have had such conflicts on some level.

  • I'm pretty sure these are explicit halachos in Yoreh Deah in Hilchos Kibbud Av V'Em. – TrustMeI'mARabbi Aug 11 '16 at 17:39
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    In all likelihood if one has an emotionally abusive parent one need not suffer their presence, regardless of the sentiments of one's family. – mevaqesh Aug 11 '16 at 17:46
  • @mevaqesh So if your parent literally uses you as a step stool you're not required to allow them to do so? That's one of the cases of the Gemara for which one is required to honor their parents! Why is one case different than the other? (In terms of personal abuse; I agree you can't prove from there to the OP's question, in which the parent a used the entire family.) – DonielF Aug 12 '16 at 6:22
  • @DonielF You misrepresent, or at least oversimplify the Gemara in several ways. First of all, the case on the Gemara was apparently a great tanna volunteering for this task; unlike the case of the OP, no one was forcing anything on anyone. Second of all, (related) even if this would be obligatory if one's mother requested it, that does not necessarily mean that one must allow it to come to that by inviting her into his home. It is generally accepted that one may live away from his parents, and only if he encounters them, is he then obligated to help them. – mevaqesh Aug 12 '16 at 6:37
  • @DonielF I hope that people don't confuse us just by our ID's :-) Please tell me (us) which Gemarah you are referring to? I'd like to view this, even if I shouldn't be looking at it tomorrow afternoon or Sunday :-) – DanF Aug 12 '16 at 14:16
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+50

Per request, I will attempt to bring some sources, and discover which priority exists.

There are two facets to this question.

1)The status this parent/in law has to the child and spouse. And what responsibilities fall on the child towards the parent.

2)Responsibilities that fall on the husband (in this instance, but may differ if it was the opposite) towards his, that must be upheld.

First, some sources: Generally speaking, these are locations where הלכות כבוד אב ואם can be found:

1 Tur: Even HaEzer, Hilchos Kibud Av Ve'Em 240-241

2 Shulchan Aruch: Even HaEzer, Hilchos Kibud Av Ve'Em 240-241

3 Aruch HaShulchan: Even HaEzer, Hilchos Kibud Av Ve'Em 240-241

4 Rambam: Sefer Shoftim: Hilchos Memarim, Chapters 5 & 6

Another aspect at play here, is that which a man is responsible towards his wife. Among the sources:

1 Shulchan Aruch: Even HaEzer, Hilchos Kesubos 69

2 Rambam: Sefer Nashim, Hilchos Ishus Chapter 12

Now for addressing this question.

To me, it seems certain foundations of your question may not be correct. You are bringing a couple factors of seeming blatant contradiction. I believe that may not be the case. On the most stringent level, דאורייתא, a person has to 'honor' the parent, and a man must provide for his wife.

Aruch HaShulchan סימן רמ סעיף א:

כיבוד אב ואם ומוראם המה מצות עשה, שנאמר: "כבד את אביך ואת אמך", ונאמר: "איש אמו ואביו תיראו".

"Honoring one's parents and fearing them is a positive commandment"

Rambam Hilchus Ishus 12:

כְּשֶׁנּוֹשֵׂא אָדָם אִשָּׁה בֵּין בְּתוּלָה בֵּין בְּעוּלָה בֵּין גְּדוֹלָה בֵּין קְטַנָּה אַחַת בַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאַחַת הַגִּיֹּרֶת אוֹ הַמְשֻׁחְרֶרֶת יִתְחַיֵּב לָהּ בַּעֲשָׂרָה דְּבָרִים וְיִזְכֶּה בְּאַרְבָּעָה דְּבָרִים: וְהָעֲשָׂרָה שְׁלֹשָׁה מֵהֶן מִן הַתּוֹרָה וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. (שמות כא י)

"שְׁאֵרָהּ. כְּסוּתָהּ. וְעוֹנָתָהּ"

"A man is obligated to give his wife three things from the Torah, as it says 'her sustenance, her clothing, her marital duty'."

The precept of fearing and honoring ones parents is very strict indeed it says (Aruch Hashulchan סימן רמ סעיף טז)

עד היכן מוראם? היה הבן לבוש חמודות ויושב בראש הקהל, ובאו אביו ואמו וקרעו בגדיו, והכוהו על ראשו וירקו בפניו – לא יכלים אותם, אלא ישתוק, ויירא ממלך מלכי המלכים שצוהו בכך. שאילו מלך בשר ודם היה גוזר עליו – לא היה לו לפרכס בדבר. קל וחומר ממלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא. מיהו מותר לתובעו בדין על מה שקרע בגדיו

--If one is in a high-up public position, and his parent came up to him and ripped his clothes [in public], or spit on him, he should not humiliate them, rather remain silent. Because the King Of All Kings has commanded him thusly, and if a human king were to decree such a decree, he would not be able to get out of it. קל וחומר ממלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא

As a side note, it also says: (Aruch HaShulchan סימן רמ סעיף מד)

חייב אדם לכבד חמיו וחמותו, שהרי דוד קרא לשאול "אבי" דכתיב (שמואל א כד יא): "אבי ראה גם ראה". כן כתבו הטור והשולחן ערוך סעיף כ"ד. ---

וכתבו שאין הכוונה שחייב בכיבוד כבן, אלא לכבדו כשאר זקנים חשובים (ב"ח וש"ך סעיף קטן כ"ב), ועיין מה שכתבתי בסעיף ל"ה.

--A person is is obligated to honor his father and mother in-law. But they wrote this is an honor like that which a person displays towards any elderly person, not child-like honor.

In similar fashion to your question's situation, the Aruch HaShulchan (סימן רמ סעיף לב) says if his parents has gone mad (נטרפה דעת) he should try to reason with them as per their current state, as to calm them down so they won't act so sporadical.

מי שנטרפה דעת אביו או אמו – משתדל לנהוג עמהם כפי דעתם עד שירוחם עליהם, כלומר שתתיישב דעתם. ואם אי אפשר לו לעמוד מפני שנשתנו ביותר, כתב הרמב"ם שילך לו ויניחם, ויצוה לאחרים לנהגם כראוי. והשיג הראב"ד דאם הוא ילך ויניחם, למי יצוה לשמרם? עד כאן לשונו.

This may be related to what you describe as 'emotionally abusive'. Certainly, all the sources discuss this concept, and that it must be dealt with in the prescribed matter. And that one is not off the hook if it [נטרפה דעת] occurs, in one way or another.

Getting back now to this concept of 'Shalom Bayis', it is indeed a nice concept. However, as regards a Biblical commandment, I would inject that only the three mentioned above (food, clothes, marital relations) are Biblically Shalom Bayis. As far as what is Rabbinical Shalom Bayis, that could be another discussion , especially because it seems the term is thrown around so very loosely. Should a Jewish couple not strive to follow the Torah? Meaning to say, certain things may precede others. Concerning precedence, which you seek, based on the information presented, I would personally conclude honoring and fearing the parents of authority here.

Something else to consider, that a parent cannot command a child to transgress any law, even Rabbinical, because one cannot divert from the words of Torah Sages (Aruch HaShulchan סימן רמ סעיף לד).

דבר פשוט הוא שכיבוד אב ואם אינו דוחה שום מצוה. ולא מיבעיא אם אביו יצוה לו לעבור על דברי תורה ב"קום ועשה" או ב"שב ואל תעשה", דאסור לשמוע לו. כדתניא (בבא מציעא לב א): הרי שאמר לו אביו "הטמא למת" והוא כהן, או אל תחזיר אבידה – יכול ישמע לו? תלמוד לומר: "איש אמו ואביו תראו... אני ה' אלקיכם" – כולכם חייבים בכבודי. ואפילו יצוה לו לעבור על מצוה דרבנן אפילו ב"שב ואל תעשה", כגון שלא להדליק נר חנוכה וכיוצא בזה, דאסור לשמוע לו.

ולא נחתינן בזה ל"עשה דוחה לא תעשה", או על כל פנים לדחות איסור דרבנן מפני מצות עשה דכיבוד, דכיון דהתורה גילתה דכל שהוא נגד התורה – אין לאביו רשות לצוות לבנו על זה. וממילא דגם באיסור דרבנן הוה נגד התורה, דהקדוש ברוך הוא צוה לבלי לסור מכל אשר חכמים יגידו.

Therefore, concerning the concern raised for this couple's children and negative effects being had on them should be a nonstarter. For, anything going against proper etiquette i.e. teachings of the Torah, the parent and thus certainly the child would not have to listen. And this is noted, that if the parent follows the Torah, the children will follow after. Meaning, this is not a guarantee, and one must work at it, but if the parent does not abide by the standard he yearns for his child, he is at fault, not his parent. Indeed it says: וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ׃

To summarize, in the above scenario, the man is not transgressing any serious prohibitions in regards to his marriage. If he were to give in to his wife, however, he may very well be. And, as mentioned above, the husband and wife should strive to follow the Torah כהלכתה.

  • You've presented a lot of good material, but I'm uncertain if I can draw any conclusions to a definitive answer from this. I have to re-read this to know what else to ask you. I see that you put in a "related". There may be material there that will assist. – DanF May 3 '18 at 14:47
  • Try rereading it. I think I did put a definitive answer. Let me know – Dr. Shmuel May 3 '18 at 16:03
  • I may have worded some thinks a little too trickely but it’s all there – Dr. Shmuel May 3 '18 at 16:07
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    This is an incredible answer. Thank you for bringing this up. – DonielF May 15 '18 at 17:48
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Well the way I see it if your mother is causing your wife and yourself tzar that's a issur. And you dont have to listen to your parents if they tell you to do a issur. And so they're telling you to do a aveirah (not stopping them from doing a aveirah). So you shouldn't have to invite your parents over since that would be a aveirah which kibbud av does not extend to. I'm good at loopholes😁. Also would kibbud av really go so far that you must suffer? According to this http://halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Kibud_Av_V%27Em you don't have to suffer financially. EDIT What I mean is that just as you don't have to suffer financially you might not have to suffer emotionally. You'd have to look at the yalkut yosef for that. This is all just my own reasoning. CYLOR for a actual psak.

  • while i do agree with you that causing your daughter-in-law distress can constitute a violation of Onaat Dvarim I do not agree with your statement "would kibbud av really go..." – Ibber Chochem May 3 '18 at 23:18
  • @Ibber Chochem you're right that the connection between financial and emotional pain is weak. As I now point out in a edit, you'd have to look at the yalkut yosef to see what his source/reason for the exception from financial pain and see if it can extend to emotional pain. BTW Why do you specify the daughter in law? Does Onaat dvarim ( which I hadn't heard of before thanks) not apply to your children ie the son? – Orion May 4 '18 at 3:00

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