A woman had gone through a bitter divorce. Her former husband gave neither her nor their daughter any financial support. The woman eventually found a wonderful second husband who took a warm interest in the child.
The stepfather treated his wife nicely and paid for the education and other needs of his stepdaughter. The young lady blossomed and was sought after by shadchanim. They suggested the top shidduchim and she became engaged to a wonderful and erliche talmid chacham.
A few days before the wedding, there was a loud knock on the door. The biological father was at the door with the invitation in hand. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded to know of his daughter. He pointed to the fact that his name did not appear at the bottom of the invitation. “Do you not have a father? Is your mother’s husband now your father?”
The father demanded that they reprint the invitation at once. The young lady posed the question to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, shlita, who consulted with Rav Nissim Karelitz on the matter.
The response was that the obligations of honoring one’s father and mother are indeed very great and far-reaching. However, even these obligations do not permit one to lie. The wording of the invitation gives the implication that those listed are parents who have made the effort to raise the bride and have provided for her needs. The true father in this case is the stepfather.
The daughter came back to her biological father with the response of the gedolim. The father was shocked and taken aback. He responded that he was willing to take on the financial responsibility of the entire wedding.
When the young woman returned again with the father’s offer, the gedolei Torah responded that this is not enough to be considered “marrying off the kallah.” If he contributed to all the other expenses, including the purchase of a place to live, they would consider permitting his name to be included on the invitation. Rav Nissim Karelitz, zt’l, emphasized that only in such circumstances can the biological father be considered as “marrying off his daughter.”
It was a sad story and one that could have been very different had the father looked at things a little differently. He should have been more involved with his child. He should have taken pride in the knowledge that he was contributing to the support of his child.
Divorce is not easy on parents or children. As of 2008, 27 states offered parenting classes for divorcing couples. Such classes can help both parents see things more clearly. Our Torah organizations might consider developing a similar type of class for the sake of children of divorced parents in our communities.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.