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Ask the Rabbi #17

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April 16, 1994; Issue #17

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  • Stepparents in the Torah
  • The lack of repetition of the Amidah in Ma'ariv
  • Why the paragraph "Y'hi Ratzon" after the Amidah is in small print?
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  • Stepparents in the Torah

    Robert A. Fink, M.D., of Berkeley, California says:

    I got your Internet address after reading an issue of Torah Weekly in the Religion Forum on CompuServe. My wife is doing a dissertation on stepmothers and stepfamilies, and one of her research sources is the Bible. The story of Batya, Pharoah's daughter (who cared for the infant Moses) comes to mind, although Batya was more of a foster mother than she was a stepmother...but there appear to be other instances of stepmothers in the Bible. Do you have any source of information on this subject?

    I am new to computers and the internet and I find it wonderful to be able to communicate with Israel in this way. Many thanks for your help.

    Dear Robert,

    There are a number of references to foster/stepmothers in the Bible. The Talmud in Tractate Megillah informs us that a verse in the Book of Chronicles, "...his Jewish wife who gave birth to Yered..." is referring to Batya who "gave birth" to Moshe (Moses). The Talmud explains that she is credited with having given birth to him because she raised him. "One who raises a male or female orphan in his [her] home, is credited as if he [she] they gave birth to him [her]."

    The verse in the Scroll of Esther states that when Esther's parents died, Mordechai "adopted" her-she is referred to as his daughter. Once again the reason being that he was the one who raised her. The Talmud states that according to Rabbi Meir what indeed occurred is that Mordechai married Esther when she was orphaned.

    Another example is found in Tractate Sanhedrin regarding Michal, the daughter of Shaul and wife of David. One verse says [according to one interpretation] that she never had children-yet in another verse we learn that she was the mother of five!

    The Talmud resolves this apparent contradiction by stating that although the biological mother was her sister Meirav, Michal is credited as their "mother" because she raised them.

    Tractate Sanhedrin also teaches the case of Naomi being called the "mother" of Ruth's son-because Naomi played a significant role in his rearing.

    Being a foster parent or a stepparent does not make the person the child's real parent. There seem to be no Halachic ramifications- e.g. the person does not fulfill the Mitzvah of "Be fruitful and multiply" by raising someone else's biological child. However, it is clear from the above sources that the metaphysical significance of raising any child in the correct manner is not to be underestimated.

    I have found no indication of a difference between a stepparent and a foster parent. The key point is: "Who raised the child?" If the stepparent was involved in the child's development, this is equivalent to the status of a foster parent and in both cases the rule is that she [he] is credited with having "given birth to the child."


    • Tractate Megillah, page 13a.
    • Tractate Sanhedrin, page 19b.

    The lack of repetition of the Amidah in Ma'ariv

    Why the paragraph "Y'hi Ratzon" after the Amidah is in small print?

    Professor David Mitchell of S.M.U. asks:

    Why is it that the Chazzan does not repeat the Amidah at Ma'ariv? Why is it that all sidurim I've seen have the paragraph "Y'hiyu l'Ratzon" at the end of the Amidah in small print?

    Dear David,

    The Chazzan does not repeat the Amidah during Ma'ariv because originally the Ma'ariv service, unlike Shacharit and Mincha, began as a voluntary service. Today it is obligatory, but since the custom was originally not to obligate Ma'ariv, our Sages decided not to institute the repetition of the Amidah at Ma'ariv so as not to burden the congregation.

    The Y'hi Ratzon is printed in smaller type because it is not an actual part of the Amidah-rather an additional supplication. The blessings and prayers prior to this have their source in the Talmud; this short final paragraph, in which we emphasize our desire for the Temple to be rebuilt, stems from post-Talmudic custom.


    • Shulchan Aruch, section 237.
    • Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagen - Mishna Brura, section 237, note 1.
    • Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein - Aruch Hashulchan, 237:3.
    • Shulchan Aruch, section 123.

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