The Mishna (Nedarim 11:8) quoted in today’s daf (Nedarim 88a) addresses the topic of strained relationships between parents-in-law and a son-in-law. Specifically, we are taught that: ‘if a parent-in-law makes a vow that their son-in-law may not derive any benefit from them, but nevertheless wishes to give some money to their daughter, they should proclaim to their daughter that, “this money is hereby given to you as a gift, provided that your husband has no rights to it…”’.
As should be obvious, if things have gotten to the situation that the in-laws have made a vow prohibiting their son-in-law to benefit from them, it means that their relationship with the son-in-law is – by this point – nothing more than a technical one by virtue of his marriage to their daughter. Given this, they’ve had to find creative ways to by-pass their son-in-law in their attempt to provide financial and emotional support to their daughter who, it would seem, is now in a marriage which has isolated her from her parents.
Though such situations can and do sadly occur – and at times with devastating outcomes, the technologies available to us today both in terms of communications (cellphones) and money transfer apps means that it is nowadays much easier to maintain contact with a son or daughter in a way that is independent of their spouse. Similarly, it is much easier to provide funds to them in a direct manner (eg. paybox) that may not necessarily fall onto the radar, or be at risk of intervention, of their spouse.
At the same time, while parents can and must be in regular contact with their parents, and vice versa, and while the harnessing of stealth interventions such as these can be lifesaving, in far less extreme situations they can, in fact, contribute to greater strain in a marital relationship. In short, some in-law interventions can help control a dangerous fire, but other in-law interventions can actually add fuel to that fire.
Naturally, whenever there is even the smallest amount of doubt that someone, especially one’s beloved child, is at any form of risk, a parent should and must do whatever they can for the sake of the welfare of their child. Still, when that is not the case, thoughtfulness is necessary to avoid being a cause of future problems. Of course, one can never necessarily know what the future will bring – and this is why we pray each day in the Amidah that God grant us wisdom so that when we do what we do, we ultimately make a positive impact and not, God forbid, become an unintentional contributor to further problems.