Jewish LawMarriage

The Jewish Husband and Wife, Building their Eternity Together

Before G-d gave the Torah to Israel, He told Moses: “So shall you say to the House of Jacob – referring to the women – and speak to Israel – referring to the men – and you will be cherished unto Me more than of the nations” (Shemot 19:3 and 5). The Torat Chaim says, “G-d deliberately instructed Moses to speak specifically to the women in their (softer) language besides speaking to the men, in order to teach us that the reward of one’s mitzvoth is shared equally by husband and wife, for both are in essence one entity” (volume 1 chapter 8). In addition, when the Jews were encamped opposite Har Sinai, Rashi describes the nation as one man with one heart (see Shemot 19:2)

The Talmud (Yevamot 62a) states, “A man must treat his wife with the greatest respect, ‘honoring her more than himself’ (Rambam, Hilchot Ishut 15:19) and a woman is obligated to honor her husband (Ibid. 15:20) because he studies Torah” (Kiddushin 31a). Furthermore, “A person should honor his wife and children (Chullin 84b) by purchasing fine clothing for them (see Artscroll Chullin 84b, note 12 and Artscroll Pesachim 109a, note 11). Rashi goes further and says that one honors his wife by giving her jewelry (see Kitzur Halachos Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed by Rabbi Zev Hofstedter, pages 7-8).

When it comes to household affairs one should be led by his wife’s advice (see ArtScroll Bava Metzia 59a, note 17). Regarding religious matters, one should not be led totally by his wife’s advice (Ibid. note 18) though he should not reject her advice either. Rather his opinions in these matters carry more weight.

What makes a successful marriage? The Steipler Gaon Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky says that appreciation is a primary component of a successful marriage and it fosters true love. Rabbi Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz says, “Therefore, a husband should show appreciation to his wife and a wife should show appreciation to her husband.”

What is the definition of appreciation? Rabbi Yisroel Reisman says, “Appreciation is to feel gratitude by recognizing the good that someone has done for you… The level of appreciation one feels should be in proportion to the magnitude of the kindness rendered” (Let There Be Rain, page 318). As the Medrash states, “Proper behavior comes before the Torah” (Vayikra Rabbah 9:3). Appreciation is not about who did more for whom. It is about honestly acknowledging what others have done on our behalf. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler says, “The basis of true love of G-d is appreciation” (Strive for Truth, volume 1). In addition, our sages say: “There is nothing worse before G-d than to be an ingrate” (Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer chapter 7).

Why did the Torah impose a set of legal mutual duties between a husband and his wife?
Rabbi Yehudah Cahn says that the requirement to exert oneself on behalf of a spouse causes a person to feel a greater attachment to that spouse and to develop greater feelings of love and concern for him or her.

Rebbe Eliezer rules that even if a woman has a hundred servants, she must perform certain household chores for him. Otherwise, she will become idle. Idleness decreases that love and may, therefore, cause a husband or wife to lose interest in each other (Understanding Emunah, page 174).

This will be explained next week…


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