When I first was engaged everyone told me I was getting a wonderful mother-in-law, one of the nicest women in the world. I knew they were lying. Mothers-in-law were not nice. They were mean and did everything they could to make their daughters-in-law’s lives miserable.For the first few years of our marriage we lived in Phoenix while my husband’s parents were in Chicago. I assumed that during the short visits we had with each other my mother-in-law was able to keep all her evilness hidden. Then she and my father-in-law moved to Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix,and I discovered that what everyone had said about her was true. She was one of the nicest women in the world.
My father-in-law was somewhat more domineering and opinionated that my mother-in-law. Still, he was a very generous, giving person, especially to me. Among all the gifts he and my mother-in-law gave, the biggest was their support when we decided to move to Israel. Our dream meant taking their grandchildren halfway around the world but that did not stop them from giving us help every step of the way.
We learn in the Torah portion, Yitro, that Tzipporah, Moshe’s wife, along with their two sons and her father, came to join the Jewish people in the wilderness. In Chapter 18, verses 7, we read that Moshe went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed before him and kissed him, giving him tremendous honor. Just as it is a commandment to honor one’s parents, it is a commandment to honor one’s parents-in-law. According to some rabbis honor is not enough. One should appreciate all the time and effort one’s in-laws put into raising his or her spouse.
Some in-laws make this commandment harder than others. I was blessed with in-laws who made it easy for me. Nineteen years ago, on the first night of Chanukah, we received the bitter news that my father-in-law had died. We were comforted by the fact that my husband had visited just a couple of weeks earlier. Ten years later, on the first night of Chanukah, my mother-in-law followed her husband of over fifty years. Our memories of them are bond up with our Chanukah observances giving them a special flavor. Their memories are indeed a blessing for me, the daughter-in-law, as much as for the rest of the family.