A Question of Priorities
Question: Does a terminally ill father with no one to care for him except his engaged daughter have a right to ask her to postpone her wedding in order to care for him in what may be his last year?
Answer: Such a case actually came before Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, rav of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak, and he recorded his experience in his very popular Aleinu Leshabeiach volume of Sefer Bereishet.
While his own inclination, based on halachic considerations, was to rule that the daughter had an obligation to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring her father, Rabbi Zilberstein decided to consult his venerable brother-in-law Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. This Torah giant concurred with the halachic considerations but presented a surprising consideration for going through with the wedding on schedule for the greater benefit of the ailing father.
In the Talmud we find that the mother of the kohen gadol would bring treats of food to those Jews confined to the cities of refuge because they were guilty of unintentional manslaughter. Since these people could return to their homes only upon the death of the kohen gadol there was fear that they might pray that he would soon perish. The gifts brought by his mother were intended to bribe them against such an appeal to Heaven.
If the young man engaged to the daughter feels that his wedding is being delayed by her father, concluded Rabbi Kanievsky, it can be assumed that deep down in his heart he will be praying for this obstacle to be removed. It is therefore in the father’s greater interest that the wedding take place as scheduled.
Upon hearing this sage advice, Rabbi Zilberstein went to see the father. In diplomatic fashion he omitted mention of the suspicion that there might be prayers for his death, but rather stressed that if the wedding was held on schedule his new son-in-law would join the rest of the family in praying for his good health.
The happy ending was that the father gave in and the wedding took place on time.