My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for December 2016
Dear Rabbi Zahavy,
My friend’s son got married recently to another man. I never knew that her son was gay. I was surprised when I heard about this from a mutual friend. When I met my friend shortly after learning about the wedding, I congratulated her, and then, after a bit of hesitation, I wished her a mazal tov.
A bit later I wondered if I did the right thing. What do you think?
Circumspect Congratulator in Old Tappan
Yes, you acted properly in extending your best wishes. I don’t think you are asking me if you were right to hesitate at first. If that would be your question, my answer would be that today by American values, there is no basis for hesitation. Gay marriage is sanctioned and legal and it is celebrated by the couple with their family and friends.
That said, on the other hand, in many Orthodox Jewish circles gay relations of any sort are not acceptable. If that is the source of your hesitation, I understand it, though I do not applaud it.
Based on the less-than-enthusiastic acceptance of gay marriage in traditional Jewish life, I’m guessing you wonder if a traditional Jewish formula of congratulations was in order. Let’s be clear. Mazal tov means good luck, or more specifically, “good sign” since the word mazal originally denoted an astrological sign.