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Beit Midrash Family and Society Marriage and Relationships

The Role of Parents in Marriage

Today, parents can fulfill the commandment of marrying off their children by providing them with a good education at prestigious schools, supporting them so that they be able to learn a profession, and clothing them in attractive attire.
Dedicated to the memory of
Hana Bat Haim
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1. The Parents’ Obligation to Marry Off Their Children
2. Money Matters
3. Parental Involvement in Choosing a Mate

The Parents’ Obligation to Marry Off Their Children
The Sages teach (Kiddushin 30b) that Jewish parents are commanded to marry off their children, i.e., to provide assistance in the marriage of their immediate offspring, as it is written (Jeremiah 29:6): "Take wives and bear sons and daughters, and take for your sons wives, and give your daughters to men so that they bear sons and daughters."
In other words, the Torah precept to reproduce does not come to an end with the bearing of children Rather, it continues to be in effect even later, when it comes to the turn of the next generation. At that point the parents must help the children to marry, and, by so doing, become active participants in the continuation of the generations. And just how do the parents help? To begin with, they aid by providing encouragement and advice. But that is not all. They must also help financially by paying the expenses of the wedding. This is what is written in the Talmud - the father should give his daughter money and possessions in order to increase the number of potential grooms; by so doing, he fulfills the commandment to marry off his children.

In our generation, when the majority of young men and women choose their partner independently according to personality and overall character, and the question of "how much will the parents give" is not so central, parents can fulfill the commandment of marrying off their children by providing them with a good education at prestigious schools, supporting them so that they be able to learn a profession, and clothing them in attractive attire. This will make it easier for them to find a partner. In addition to all this, once the son or daughter has decided to get married, the parents are obligated to help with the expenses of the wedding.
And the obvious question that arises is: Just how much are the parents expected to help?
Regarding the aid which must be provided for a daughter, the Talmud states that the parents are obligated by the Torah to clothe her in attractive attire according to their social status, and it is also appropriate for the parents take part in the purchase of a home and furniture for the couple (Ketubot 52). For this, parents ought to be willing to pay up to a tenth of their assets.
It indeed appears that in the past this had been the accepted custom in Jewish communities.

In practice, though, it is clear that things have changed. Today, property does not always reflect the financial capacity of the parents. In addition, there is another central factor to consider - monthly income. At any rate, the Talmud provides us with a general direction: If the parents are capable, they must provide as much aid as possible toward the weddings of their children.

It is also advisable for the parents to try to marry their daughter to a Torah scholar. The Sages of the Talmud teach (Pesachim 49a): "A man must be prepared to sell all of his possessions in order to marry the daughter of a Torah scholar, and to marry off his daughter to a Torah scholar." The commentators explain that this is not to be understood literally, in the sense that one must actually sell all of his belongings, for one must hold on to his possessions in order to sustain himself and earn a living. Rather, the intention is that a father must make a great effort to marry off his daughter to a Torah scholar. And there are those who write that one must be prepared to invest up to a fifth of his assets to this end (Hitorerut Teshuvah vol. 3, ch. 13 and 5 according to Rema; Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 656:1).


Money Matters
The Talmud (Kiddushin 70a) teaches: Rabba bar Rav Adda said: "Whoever marries a woman for her money will end up with contemptible children."
The reason for this is that marriage must be founded upon the mutual affection of the partners and not upon any other external factor. Therefore, a marriage which came about as the result of a desire for wealth will not flourish, and, naturally, the children which are born of such a union will be contemptible.

Similarly, Rabbi Moshe Isserles ("Rema") writes that the groom must not quarrel with the family of the bride over money, and one who does quarrel with the family of the bride because of money, will lack success, and his marriage will not thrive (Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 2:1). The reason for this is that if the groom chooses to behave in such a manner, the money which he receives with his wife is not honest money, and one who does this is referred to as "Noseh Isha Leshem Mamon" ("one who marries for money").
Rather, the son-in-law should receive gratefully whatever his in-laws are willing to give, and by following such a path he will surely succeed.

Question: Is it permissible to force the parents to assist in financing the wedding of the children?
Answer: Though we have said that there is a Torah commandment which obligates the parents to marry off their children (and this obligation of course includes financial involvement), still, the obligation remains the parents’ alone - they are responsible, and neither the bride nor the groom are permitted to force them in this matter. Even a religious court cannot obligate the parents to assist in the wedding of their son, no matter how wealthy they might be. But when it comes to the daughter, the court can force the parents to assist (if the parents are capable) in providing a minimal sum for a modest wedding. Hence, regarding assistance in marrying off the daughter, Rema writes (Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 70:1): "Even though one is commanded to give his daughter a proper wedding gift, we do not force him in this matter; rather, whatever he wants to give, he gives."

In other words, the court does not get involved in family disputes between the parents and the daughter. Therefore, even though the parents are commanded to assist their children according to their financial standing, the court does not force them. When, though, it comes to the wedding of the daughter, the court pressures parents to give at least a minimal amount in order that she be able to marry (Chelkat Mechokek 162, Shulchan Arukh, Even Haezer 58).
So, in summary, it is proper that the parents contribute toward the wedding of their children, and if they do not offer of their own accord it is permissible for the children to speak to them and request their help. But they must not enter into an argument on this issue. And even if the parents do not provide financial assistance, the groom should go ahead and marry his bride and rest assured that God will assist the two of them in their endeavors.

It is also worth pointing out that, according to one important authority, the parents need not go into debt in order to marry off their children (Az Nidbaru vol. 9, 51).
In addition, it is perhaps worth mentioning that though the son or daughter is about to marry, they are still obligated to honor their parents, and, of course, they are obligated to make things as easy as possible for the parents. If, as a result of the wedding, the parents’ standard of living will suffer, it is certainly the responsibility of the children to make sure that the parents not end up investing too much money in the wedding. It is all the more so forbidden for the children to pressure the parents to resort to taking out loans which will cause them hardship.

Parental Involvement in Choosing a Mate
The role of the parents is not always an easy one. On the one hand, the mother and father have to concern themselves and assist in the marrying off of their children; on the other hand, the actual choice of partner is not up to them.
Indeed, it often happens that serious disagreements arise over the son’s choice of bride. The son chooses his partner and believes that her character suits his character and his aspirations, and the bride feels the same - yet the parents disagree. They believe that the choice is not a fitting one. Sometimes the parents are adamant in their position and even threaten to cut off ties with the son or daughter.
The question arises: What should the son or daughter do in such a situation? Should they follow the advice of their parents and forfeit their heart’s desire? Or need they not listen to their parents regarding this matter?

The bottom line, from a Halakhic perspective, is that the children do not have to heed to their parents’ desire on this question. And despite the fact that the parents may have the very best intentions, every individual has the freedom to make choices regarding his own future. The obligation to honor parents includes all that is connected to relations between parents and children; it does not mean that the children must give up on their own path in life. True, such questions often result in family tragedies, but one must understand that children are not the private property of their parents; they are independent individuals who possess the right to make decisions regarding their future. Certainly they must listen to, and seek the advice of, their parents, and they must understand that their parents mean well, but, in the end, the decision belongs to the couple (Rema, Yoreh Deah 240:25).


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