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How tolerant should a person be of a son-in-law’s desire to keep
his own minhagim at his (the father-in-law’s) Yom Tov table?


Rabbi Zev Leff

In general, one should conform to the minhagim of the place where one is so as not to cause machlokes. However, if the minhag is one that involves a prohibition – for instance, eating kitniyos on Pesach for an Ashkenazi in the home of a Sefardi, or gebruchts for a chassid in the home of a Litvak – the minhag of the guest should be respected and accommodated.

Concerning other minhagim: If the father-in-law is not makpid, the son-in-law can observe his different minhag. But if the father-in-law feels that accommodating different minhagim will confuse the family, especially children, or disrupt the unity of the family Yom Tov experience, then he rightfully should demand conformity to the minhag of the home.

— Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu,
popular lecturer and educator

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Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

Minhagim are extremely important. “Minhag Yisrael Torah hi.” To readily abandon them, therefore, or to be made to do so, is no small matter.

Needless to say, when there is conflict between two different minhagim in the same setting, the highest common denominator acceptable to all should be upheld. Assuming, for example, that the son-in-law is Sephardi and the father-in-law is Ashkenazi, it goes without saying that no rice should be served if they’re eating a Pesach meal together. The father-in-law is upholding his standards while the son-in-law is not compromising on his.

But when a minhag doesn’t affect another’s standards, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be tolerated. If the son-in-law, for example, has a minhag to dance around the table with the marror, it should be tolerated even if the father-in-law doesn’t like it.

One should always remember that tolerating a son-in-law extends beyond him. It is essentially showing respect to one’s own daughter as well. And doing so goes a long way toward maintaining family harmony, which trumps all.

— Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer,
rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue

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Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

Assuming that these minhagim do not impose on anyone else, I would suggest that the father-in-law do everything in his power to make his son-in-law feel at home and honored at the Yom Tov table.

I also tend to think that most of the time when people are makpid on these kind of things, it has more to do with the fact that there’s a certain approach that “This is my way, the only way, the right way, and everything else is to be discredited.”

If, in fact, the minhagim are legitimate, I don’t see any reason why the father-in-law would be uncomfortable with his son-in-law keeping the mesorah that he has from his father and grandfather.

— Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz

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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

It is always desirable for a person to behave with good manners. It is especially important for a religiously-observant person to be a model of excellent behavior, thoughtfulness, and respect for others. Derech eretz kadmah l’Torah.

Among the Jewish people, many minhagim have developed over the centuries. When people with different minhagim sit at the same table for a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal, it is important for all to conduct themselves in a spirit of harmony.

As a general rule, it is proper for guests to follow the custom of the host. “Wherever you are, follow the local customs” (Shemot Rabba 47:5). Rabbi Eliezer Papo, in his classic Pele Yo’etz, advises: “Do not sit when everyone else is standing or stand while everyone is sitting. The main principle is to do what others are doing as long as this does not transgress a prohibition.”

A son-in-law at his father-in-law’s table should follow the father-in-law’s minhagim unless there is a strong halachic reason that prevents such an accommodation. For example, an Ashkenazic son-in-law should not eat kitniyot on Pesach at his Sephardic father-in-law’s table. But neither should a Sephardic father-in-law serve kitniyot to an Ashkenazic son-in-law. Mutual respect is vital.

If father-in-law and son-in-law foresee possible conflicts in minhagim, they should speak well before Shabbat or Yom Tov and come to a satisfactory accommodation so that there is no ill-will at the Shabbat or Yom Tov table. Gadol ha’shalom.

— Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

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Rabbi Yosef Blau

There is no clear minhag hamakom in the United States or Israel, and Jews from different countries and backgrounds are marrying each other, leading to awkward situations when a young couple goes to one of their parents for Yom Tov.

Common courtesy dictates that the customs of the father-in-law should be adopted, but there is no clear halacha that requires it. In some cases, the son-in-law is more learned and has a strong basis for maintaining his traditions.

Mutual respect and the specific family dynamics play a significant role in determining the effect of observing different minhagim at a family meal. Obstinacy on either side can disrupt family harmony. There is no single solution for an issue that is so contingent on family dynamics and the characters of the people involved.

— Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at YU’s
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary