Every year it gets harder to deal with my mother-in-law. Even without our differences in religious levels, she always wants things her way, or she gets angry.

For many years, Thanksgiving dinner has been a particularly sticky issue with my mother-in-law, who does not adhere to the kosher dietary laws. So this year, I took the initiative and invited them over to my home for the meal. Instead of accepting, she said that we should all eat at her home, and that she is willing to go through the process of making her kitchen kosher.

What should I do?


It’s important to remember that Judaism does not mandate only the Sabbath and dietary laws; it also places great importance on loving every individual unconditionally—even your mother-in-law. According to Jewish law you even need to honor her as you would a parent.1 She needs to see that concomitant with becoming more outwardly, obviously observant, you are also becoming a nicer, more respectful, more thoughtful daughter-in-law and human being.

Keep on reassuring her that, in spite of your differences, you still love and respect her very much. Tell her that you love her son very much, and that your relationship with his mother is of utmost importance to you.

Sometimes, these difficulties in relationships can be part of an unhealthy pattern that has developed over the years. So here’s a suggestion. Try to stop the vicious cycle right now. Bring it to a complete halt. A new year is upon us; see if you can start up a new, positive relationship.

Start by focusing on the positive in your mother-in-law. Sit yourself down and write seven (yes, seven) positive things about her. They don’t have to be huge, amazing things. They could be things like: her delicious chicken soup, the elegant way she always dresses, how kind/respectful/loving/helpful she is to her father/aunt/next door neighbor, has a nice singing voice, has an extensive vocabulary, is good at math, is knowledgeable about current events, gives good advice, sets a lovely table, etc.

And, the next time you see her, try to start with a clean slate. Make an effort to smile at her and sincerely give at least one or two compliments. Bend over backwards to find the positive in her. Compliment her about what a wonderful son she raised.

I know it’s not easy to focus on the positive when a negative pattern of relating is in full swing, but I hope you will be able to start fresh in your family relationships. It will be good for you, good for your husband and good for everyone.

As far as the immediate situation regarding Thanksgiving dinner is concerned, it is hard to see how your mother-in-law would be able to kosher her kitchen and prepare a kosher meal for your family on her own.

Thank her profusely for offering to make such an effort to cook a kosher meal for you. (That really was quite generous.) Tell her how much you appreciate her generosity, thoughtfulness, and willingness to work together with you on making her kitchen kosher.

Tell her that you won’t hear of her doing it by herself, that you want to come over and help her (and pick up some cooking pointers, perhaps).

This way, you can make sure that the meal is kosher, while at the same time earning brownie points for being a good daughter-in-law! You can also insist that you’ll bring over cake and pies for dessert for everyone, thereby contributing to the meal preparations.

The bottom line is that being involved with Judaism should mean being a better daughter-in-law, a better person and an overall mentch.

See My Husband Does Not Want a Kosher Kitchen.