Email 38

My wife and I are committed members of the Messianic movement. My mother, however, practices her Judaism at a Conservative synagogue, and my new found beliefs have been hard for her to accept.
We have a 2 year old daughter whom we wish to raise in a manner consistent with scripture. The problem is my mother has a committed relationship with a man with whom she has lived for the past 6 years. My wife and I believe it would be improper to bring our daughter into their home as it would be a bad and immoral example for our little girl. This has caused some estrangement between my mother and I, as well as my brothers and myself. I am feeling very sad and conflicted about this situation, as I love my mother and brothers very much.
My question is should I relent and bring my daughter into my mother’s home in which a couple resides without the benefit of marriage, or should I risk total alienation from my family?
Please, I need your advice.

May I say that I truly feel for you in this situation. We must try to derive an appropriate answer from Torah. First, we are to honor our parents even when they are living against YHVH’s Torah. If we can;t remedy the first cause, we are then faced with the dilemma of how do we do this and still teach our children G-dly values. Much would depend on the age of the children and their understanding.

As Messianics, we do not accept the situation you described as living in the Will of G-d. However, in traditional Judaism cohabitation often equals marriage. This may be the case in your mother’s Conservative Temple. Even in some states now it constitutes a legal marriage if it is of any enduring space of time. Much depends on the rabbi as to the ruling on an individual case. Some would condone such a union and some would not.

Perhaps you need to understand how does your mother sees it? If she is an observant Jew she must have some qualms about her situation unless her rabbi set her mind at ease on the matter. As I said some rabbis would counsel her that the union is sanctioned by G-d since it is a lasting relationship and it is not necessary to have a religious or civil ceremony. This is not the question you presented, but it may help provide some understanding. You said, committed and lasting relationship. What is the reason they never legally validated the union? You don’t have to answer to me that question, but the answer might help you make a final decision. Some elderly people don’t marry for economic reasons. What do we do there? I’m not being facetious but am encouraging looking at the situation from all perspectives.

The second consideration is this and I know you have thought about it from your letter. But I think you have looked at it from a positon of either/or. There might be another solution that incorporates a compromise within Torah. The proposition seems to be :Is it more important to instill biblically sound moral values in your daughter or compromise your own beliefs for the sake of family harmony? You can look at this two ways. One “kal v’ khomer ” from the lesser to the greater. Yahshua used this form of argument in most of His disputes with the religious authorities of His day. One, we have to honor our parents. How do we do that and protect our children from a parent’s unlawful (sinful) ways? If the child is old enough we might explain the situation to them. If very young the explanation can come later. Children are more capable of grasping a situation then most of us give them credit. You might also take it as an opportunity to instill Torah in a child i.g., we are to love and respect our parents although they have faults (sins), and we obey G-d’s commandment to us. Parents are not perfect, neither is or were we. Yahshua loved and loves us, lived with us, and died for us even though we are sinful. He calls us His brothers and sisters. Therefore, we love them without approving of their sins or being influenced by them. Our Torah observant lives may even be the agency whereby they are influenced to repent. Two. Cut them off and we destroy the opportunity to influence them to a more Torah observant life. To a life in the will of G-d.

My best counsel is that if you decide to ostracize your mother it will create more conflict, and eventually your daughter will question why this estrangement exists. She may even blame you for her not having the benefit of a grandmother. The only solution I see is the above. Honor your mother, but explain now or later to your daughter the situation, and your thoughts on it as informed by Torah. I believe your daughter will come to understand the great love you have for her and how you mother’s relationship caused such a conflict for you because of the love you have for her. It should also demonstrate the love and honor we must give to our parents. If she is too young now, some day she will see the wisdom in the decision you make. If you close the door on a relationship there is no opportunity to influence it. By following this course, you are not dishonoring YHVH’s Torah, but in fact are honoring it. Your daughter will eventually be exposed to all sorts of sin around her, and this example and how you handle it shoud serve as guide in how she handles society and sin, be they family, friend or acquaintances.

I pray that this will help you or give you pause to think of a G-dly solution.

Shalom v’Brachas, Rabbi Davis (R. Milchamah b. David)