Moderated by Rachel Stein | rachels83@gmail.com

The following are the second set of responses to the Aug. 5 Shared Spirit column, “Bowing Out of My Sister’s Wedding,” in which a young man, with his rabbi’s advice, decided he could not attend the wedding of his sister to a non-Jew. The first responses ran Aug. 19.

Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein

Remember that Shared Spirit is a place where columnist Rachel Stein shares problems submitted by community member and collects replies from readers.

Family Comfort

In my synagogue community, many have become more observant. Our rabbi has counseled, “When a member of a family becomes more observant, it is hisher obligation to make the family comfortable, not the family’s obligation to make himher comfortable.”

My advice is to go to the wedding with a full and happy heart to support your sister and honor your parents. Why? Your analysis is myopic, focusing on only one mitzvah and only one day:

  • The mitzvah not to intermarry is only one of 613 mitzvot in the Torah. It speaks to the person to be married and hisher parents; a brother is not mentioned. Among the other 612 mitzvot is the fifth commandment of honoring your mother and father. This one does apply directly to you. Although seemingly aimed at your relationship with your parents, it is included in the first five commandments that relate to our relationship with G-d. Its placement demonstrates the importance of our relationship with our parents. Yet you gloss over it as if it is trumped by concerns about intermarriage. Your parents did not create this situation, and they raised you to be a Jew. They do not deserve the punishment of public dishonor. You are not excused from fulfilling this mitzvah.
  • You are concerned that your attendance will constitute tacit approval of your sister’s marriage. This concern is unfounded. First, your approval, if so perceived, is unimportant and irrelevant. Who are you to pass this judgment? Second, your attendance would show love for your sister and support for her life choices. What has she done to deserve losing your support? Third, I take it your parents do not maintain a kitchen with your desired level of kashrut, yet you will still go visit your parents in their home. Does your visit there display a tacit approval of nonkosher food? While you will not drive a car or watch TV on Shabbat, your parents likely do. Does your continued association with them in their home indicate your approval of their activities?
  • There are practical implications of your not attending the wedding. You won’t get a second chance. If you ever regret your decision, you will not have the opportunity to do it again. Your sister will not have another wedding for you to attend. You will have to live with this action for the rest of your life. Your relationship with your family will be irrevocably hurt. Did you anticipate having a good relationship with your future brother-in-law? Don’t count on him to include you in family activities.

If you attend without this controversy, you and your sister may live another 50 years, sharing many happy occasions together. Your children and hers will be cousins, and all of you will be able to share birthdays, weddings and other joyous occasions. Are you willing to give all that up? Your sister’s wedding ceremony is important, but it is only one day: There is a long life after the wedding to enjoy your family or suffer the loneliness caused by a public slight that your family will never understand or forgive.

I urge you to attend with enthusiastic joy for your sister and her groom. If you are concerned about the kosher menu, take an apple.

Your absence would be noticeable and would detract from the event. If you go, you can politely and inconspicuously navigate your way through the wedding and the reception. The wedding will be, as it should be, your sister’s big day, not yours.

— Kevin King

Peace at Home

Your rabbi erred in insisting that you not attend the wedding. My Orthodox brother was told by his rabbi that he should attend my wedding (to another woman) for the sake of shalom bayit (peace at home). It preserved our sibling relationship and kept the door open for future occasions.

Grandstanding to prove his devotion to one interpretation of Judaism would have done permanent damage to our extended family, and he might not have been as welcome by my side years later when my young adult son was dying of cancer. Life has enough heartbreak; breaking up families over ideology should not be one of them.

— Margot Stein

All 613 Mitzvot

What makes a Jew Jewish? Thousands of years ago, our people, a nation of millions, stood at Mount Sinai and unequivocally accepted the 613 mitzvot in the Torah. We promised to give allegiance to G-d for all eternity. If we renege on our commitment, what does that say about our Judaism?

We have a G-d-mandated religion; it is not our choice to decide that one commandment takes precedence over another. Respect, yes. Love, of course. But to stand idly by and accept a family member trampling on our sacred religion?

Listen to your rabbi. And pray. Pray that your family’s hearts will be open to understanding your commitment and loyalty to G-d.

Every morning and evening, we Jews proclaim, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one.” We are bound to show loyalty and love to the One who gave us life and embraced us eternally as His people.

— H.R. Ostro