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How to Change a Daughter-in-Law

How to Change a Daughter-in-Law

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Question:

My son just got engaged to a wonderful Jewish girl, thank G‑d. We love and adore her—she is so good to him. But there is one issue: She has zero interest in Judaism. She thinks it’s “mostly rubbish,” but I know this is out of ignorance. I go to classes at my synagogue and ask her if she wants to join, but she never does. She eats ham and cheese sandwiches! How can I show her, involve her, embrace her, without being the revolting jam-it-down-your-throat type? I want to explain to her how easy keeping kosher is, how wonderful it is to keep a Jewish home, how it adds to your life and does not detract, etc. What do you think I can say to turn her around?

Answer:

Here is the best thing you can say to her: nothing.

Don’t mention Judaism. Don’t tell her about the great Jewish book you have been reading. Don’t explain to her why you braid the challah. Don’t invite her to come to classes with you, and don’t give her a rundown afterwards of what she missed.

Just do your thing. Be an example of a Jewish woman whose life is enriched by Torah. Be good to her, nice to her, accepting of her. Embrace her as she is right now. This will speak louder than any lecture you could give.

If one day she asks you a question about Judaism, give her an honest and meaningful answer. But wait for the interest to arise from within her.

In time she may come to it herself, in her own way. You have to let her travel her own path. This may not come naturally to you, but it will be better in the end. Pushing her will only push her away, from Judaism and from you.

Many people turn to religion when they witness an open miracle. Well, you can perform a miracle right now. When she sees her passionate and outspoken mother-in-law letting her be, she will have to concede that indeed there must be a G‑d.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Ellen Miriam Pedersen Valby, Denmark December 4, 2017

Exactly. [Say] nothing ... do your thing. I was reminded of the Anglican bishop who told Jewish Book Week (London) how he was brought to tears witnessing his rabbi friend bless his children on Shabbes Eve. Show, don't tell, in the home as well as in your writing. Reply

Mel Commerce Twp May 30, 2017

This is the best advice I've ever seen: Just do your thing. Be an example of a Jewish woman whose life is enriched by Torah. Be good to her, nice to her, accepting of her. Embrace her as she is right now. This will speak louder than any lecture you could give.

I wonder why the Rabbi doesn't give this advice when the daughter in law is a gentile? Reply

Carlos Kozela miami June 4, 2017
in response to Mel:

your mother should know the answer should be the same on both cases. 100%

Judaism cannot be injected. it has to be transmitted ( as defined as a mitzvah in Shema's 1st paragraph) in the way it can be captured by the recipient, sometimes by spoken words, sometimes by written words, but the supreme way is doing it by example, with the skin in the game.

all you need is love, let it be, free as a bird, lucy in the sky with diamonds, your mother should know !!! Reply

Doris Jaffe San Diego, CA July 27, 2016

Don't try to change your daughter-in-law. If you can't accept her as she is you need to change your attitude. Your son loves her as she is. You can set an example of what a good and beautiful Jewish home is but please rid yourself of the resentment you harbor because she has not attained your level of religiosity. Your main concern should be that your son and daughter-in-law build a home filled with love, mutual respect, and shalom bayis. Reply

Anonymous July 6, 2016

time is the master once children come, their education starts to matter much more. that is the time she might start to ask relevant questions.

meantime, and i agree with the reply, do your thing and be an example without demanding anything from her. Reply

Anonymous tampa, fl via chabadoftampabay.com August 8, 2015

Great answer I am a Jewish woman who married a Jewish man who unfortunately has the same viewpoint of Judaism as the daughter-in-law in this story. We have two children, my older child attends hebrew school, the younger one is 2 and will attend when she is of age. I try to show my family the beauty found within Judaism, how spiritual it can be to light the shabbos candles, how wonderful it is to be surrounded by family at holidays and other times throughout the year, and how to be a good moral person with Jewish values. My husband is slowly coming around to see how wonderful Judaism can be, but it has taken a long time and a lot of hard work and patience. My hope is that one day he will willingly go to services and not grimace while there, and willingly engage in Jewish topics of conversation and gain a sense of fulfillment from it. He is very good about not expressing these views in front of our children and for that I am grateful. I do believe I have made strides in helping him see the light. Reply

Beverly Margolis Texas August 7, 2015

Thank you, Judy Resnick, for your suggestions. I formerly attended a wonderful Chabad house in Arlington, TX but driving there is no longer an option because I've been disabled by osteoarthritis. Even the most powerful pain pills do not function as they should.
That said, it annoys me that kosher meat from Texas is shipped to New York and then is shipped back to here. That makes kosher meats too expensive to buy. I make less than $20,000 a year. The high temperature today was 107, so my power bill last month was $345.00!
I eat as close to a vegetarian diet as my doctors will permit but due to my physical problems (five heart attacks, massive stroke, etc.) I need meat.
I'd love to be able to do what you suggest but it simply isn't possible. My will is to do so but my income says otherwise.
I drive a decrepit 17 year-old van and can only afford half a tank at a time. This part of Texas is NOT Brooklyn. Reply

Anonymous August 6, 2015


It is true that's the most powerful mode of teaching and learning.
Those kind of "teachers" were the most influential in my life too.
" the revolting jam-it-down-your-throat type" are the least influential because we have the tendency to ignore them on principle. Reply

Judy Resnick Far Rockaway, NY August 6, 2015

Beverly, there are many Orthodox Jews currently living in the Lone Star State, which also boasts a number of thriving Chabad centers. Use this website to locate the Chabad center closest to you. Call the Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin and ask about obtaining kosher beef, chicken and other food products. Quite possibly you could be added onto a grocery or butcher order once or twice a month. You could also set up a tabletop microwave oven and two-burner electric hot plate, with specially marked pots and pans, in a locked cabinet, for your personal use, so that you can prepare Kosher food even in your non kosher kitchen. There are a lot of potential solutions: like the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way. Regarding kosher milk, many Jews will only drink milk if the milking has been supervised by a Jew (because on small farms in Europe, pig or horse milk could have been added to the cow milk). Talk to your local Chabad rabbi about this. You're a Texan! Texans can do anything! Reply

Beverly Margolis Texas August 5, 2015

Wish it were so Living as I do in Texas, the only kosher food is canned or frozen. But purchasing fresh meat or fowl simply is not possible in these parts of the world.
There is no such thing as kosher milk, however bovine milk is kosher, how can it not? We buy ONLY grass fed organic beef and chicken.
I live with non-Jewish family members, so how could I afford a truly kosher kitchen? Brooklyn, NY is flush with the things that make eating only kosher food. Here in the middle of the boondocks, nothing.
So your comment about eating kosher is not always possible. Reply

Roni Silverberg San Francisco August 4, 2015

What a beautiful answer. I never would have thought that Chabad would take such a position. And you're right. Be yourself, set an example, let her see how beautiful your practices and you are. Reply

J. Rivkah The Holy Land August 4, 2015

Excellent answer. Totally spot on. But one more thing...daven that she will do tzchuva. Don't tell her, of course. Never let her know you did. It's a private conversation between you and hashem. Reply

Marcia Naomi Berger San Rafael, CA August 3, 2015

I love how you end this piece! The open miracle of letting another be, even a daughter-in-law; or rather especially a daughter-in-law is a fabulous concept. Thank you! Reply

Alan S. Long Island, NY August 3, 2015

Nice, but... I certainly do not have a good answer to this age old question about how to kindle someone's interest in learning about religion. Leading by example may spark interest, but that is only if someone has a basic desire to learn. Thinking that it is "mostly rubbish" sadly does not bode well for this person. There really may not be a true answer. As was said, it may take a miracle for a miracle to happen in such a person. Reply

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