Dear Rabbi,

Although my wife and I are blessed with loving and caring parents, they are not as religious as my wife and I. Both sets of parents are wonderful, considerate people and always go out of their way to accommodate us – such as dipping their kitchens, buying certain foods, observing Shabbat and Yom Tob halachot while we visit, etc.

However, the one problem that my wife and I do not know how to address is what to do when we are invited to a wedding of one of our parent’srelatives. We have tried skipping some of these weddings – but that leads to resentment and disapproval from our parents. They feel embarrassed when
we do not go to a wedding of one of their close relatives.

We have tried explaining to them the reasons wedo not feel comfortable attending these weddings – the issue of mixed dancing, inappropriate music, and the immodest attire. But for some reason, our parents do not think these reasons are “good enough.” Especially since our absence is causing people’s feelings to get hurt.

Next month my father’s nephew is getting married. My father is insisting that my wife and I need to be there. He does not want to hear any excuses, and has already warned us that he will be very hurt if we do not attend.

I’m at a lossabout what to do. The last thing we want to do is insult or embarrass our parents – but I don’t see how we can come up with a compromise. My wife and I feel that attending these types of weddings is by no means a mitzvah – and perhaps it’s even sinful forus to participate.

What should we do?

Wedding Blues

Dear Wedding Blues,

I really cannot commend you enough for the combination of respect and concern you exhibit on behalf of your parents’ feelings while not losing sight of your obligation towards Torah and missvot.Much too often an individual becomes engrossed and subsequently carried away by a Torah ideal or missvah, and ends up losing sight of our ultimate obligation – our loyalty to Hashem.

I am definitely familiar with parties and even “Seudot Missvah,” at which the dress code would be considered anywhere between somewhat inappropriate tototally unacceptable.

Without knowing much about the weddings which you are referring to, I can’t give a clear cut reply. We do have an explicit halacha stating that where an actual Torah prohibition will be transgressed, one may not comply with the parents’ wishes (Rambam Hilchot Mamrim6:14). On the other hand, a respectful approach should still be sought out. Even more so, if a compromised option could be worked out where the parents’ wishes could be satisfied without having to engage in any Torah transgression, then by all means, that option would be preferable.

You’re confronted with a dilemma, in which you’re struggling to decide between yourparents’ request of you to partake in the family weddings while not transgressing the halacha. Firstly, we must acknowledge the difference between partaking in a wedding, and wanting to enjoy it “since I’m already there.” Many people attend an affair, yetthe vast majority of them are not in attendance from the pre-beginning until the after-end. One clever choice would be to attend what’s really important, and to socialize during that time with all of the family members which you and your parents would like you to have come in contact with. You can’t tell yourself, “If I’m not going to enjoy the meal or the dancing, then it’s not worth the whole schlep.” On the contrary, your focus in this case is not “a party,” rather it’s to spend time with your parents and family. The huppafor example, is very different than the dancing, as it is a religious ceremony with an understood level of sanctity. And even at the lower end of the spectrum, the huppausually constitutes a greater level of respect for Torah guidelines. In the event that the huppais also conducted with mixed seating, you and your wife could find a side area where you won’t be engulfed in the mix.

You must keep in mind as well, that if you push your point heavily, you can expect more pressure in return. When your parents want you be part of the gathering, their real concern has to do with your seeing the family members, not the personal acquaintances of the hattanand kalla. Find the proper time and place where you might be able to focus on seeing theimportant family members. Do this even if it will leave you devoid of a luscious shmorg and a most superior dinner. This way you present yourselves as being sensitive to that particular need (for seeing family members important to your parents), which leaves your parents feeling understood and accommodated.

Part of a proper presentation involves not pointing out anything undesirable. If your parents can be satisfied with your partial participation, then don’t advertise the part which you did not attend. All relationships benefit from expressing the positive, and leaving the less desirable off focus.

You’ll need to be guided by a Rabbi as to just what would be considered a Torah transgression and what can be worked around, as situations differ. If you put your mind to it and use a bit of creativity, Hashem will help you find a peaceful solution. And as long as your parents see a sincere effort on your behalf to be accommodating, as much as they’ll bargain for more, they’ll never feel that you’re being disrespectful or betraying them.

With warm wishes and Torah blessings,
Rabbi Yechiel Elbaz