Hi, I had a quick question. Is there somewhere where the halachah discusses the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in law? I was just wondering to what extent the law of "honor you parents" holds true in this case.


You're right in assuming that there is an obligation to honor the in-laws, and that it may differ from the honor we must show parents.

The obligation to honor parents comes straight from the Torah—it's one of the Ten Commandments. But are your spouse's parents also considered your parents?

It seems that King David thought so. And his father-in-law, King Saul, wasn't exactly the easiest customer. In fact, Saul was out to kill David. When Saul walked into a cave where David was hiding, David had the opportunity to kill him first. Instead, he simply cut off a piece of Saul's skirt. When Saul left the cave, David ran after him. He presented the piece of cloth as evidence that he could have killed him but refrained from doing so and said, "See, my father, see again…"1

That's the verse from which we learn that a father-in-law is also a father. The law is codified in the Code of Jewish Law, therefore, that father-in-laws are to be honored.2 It logically follows that a mother-in-law is also a mother so that she too must be honored.3

But are they exactly the same as parents, or only sort of the same?

Rabbi Yoel Sirkes contends that David meant "my father" as an honorific title. He points out that elsewhere in the Torah the title "father" is used to address one's master or teacher and concludes that while one must honor his in-laws, the degree of honor due to them is not the same as the honor due to parents. He also points out that this appears to be the contention of the Code of Jewish Law.4

Hopefully, your mother-in-law is kinder to you than Saul was to David. Yet David taught us that no matter what the case, she deserves at least the sort of respect that is due to a wise teacher or an elderly person.