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In-Laws and Shabbat Law

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Topic: Family and Shabbat, Travelling by Car

Name@Withheld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I live in Netanya. I work 12 hours every day. My wife works. I visit my in-laws in Tel Aviv occasionally. The kids are small. Ages 4 & 8. They cannot be up late. The in-laws are old. They cannot be up late. We cannot stay there over the weekend. No room and no patience! I drive to Tel Aviv once a month on Saturday for my wife to see her parents and for my kids to see her side of the family. I see no other way. Saturday is the only day when it is possible to travel to Tel Aviv. I have no intention to live in Tel Aviv. I think I am acting morally and ethically. What can I do?

Dear Name@Withheld

You are a hard working man and I admire you for that. And I admire your intentions: You want to observe Shabbat and you also want to respect your wife's parents.

And your argument is very convincing; so convincing, in fact, that the Torah devotes an entire verse to refute it: The verse says "A person must respect his mother and his father and must observe My Sabbaths, I am the L-rd your G-d." (Leviticus 19:3). Our Sages explain the verse as follows: If your parent tells you to break the Sabbath, you must not listen. Why not? Because "I am the L-rd, your G-d" - i.e., your father has no right to command you to break G-d's commandments.

So even if your own parents demand that you visit them on Shabbat, you aren't allowed to violate Shabbat to do so. The same goes for your wife's parents.

Therefore, you must find another solution to your problem. Have you ever tried explaining your dilemma to your employers? Maybe they will give you one day off per month. Or perhaps half a day is enough. Why not consider moving? Maybe you will find a better job in Tel Aviv.

If you sincerely try to keep Shabbat without any excuses or rationalizations, I promise you that you will experience an extra measure of Divine assistance in your efforts to do so.

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