Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wife does intimate tasks for husband for endearment

A wife is obligated to do certain tasks for her husband for the sake of endearment. These tasks include pouring his cup, washing his face, hands and feet, making his bed, standing before him to attend to his wishes such as getting a drink and anoint him with oil.  There is a dispute as to whether these tasks are obligatory or optional. The Yerushalmi Kesubos (5:6) clearly holds they are obligatory for the wife to do them. Rashi (Kesubos 61a) and others hold that they are optional - simply advice that our Sages gave to increase the husbands liking of his wife. Simple question is what happened to these tasks. I have never seen a wife do these tasks for her husband. Even according to Rashi who says they are optional - but they are recommended in order to endear the wife to the husband. Furthermore if we say that according to the Rambam that when our Sages recommended something it becomes a command - then how can there be a dispute here whether these recommended tasks are obligatory?

Of greater importance why are these halachos not relevant. If this is a rabbinic decree as the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch seem to imply - then even if the reason for the decree are not relevant anymore - but the takanos are still active. In short you can't throw out halacha that way or ignore it. "kashrus is because of sanitation so it is not relevant" "Two day of Yom Tov because we didn't have accurate knowledge so it is not relevant today." "Divorce depending solely on husband's wishes is irrelevant to today" "Extra marital sex & incest is only for fear of having a baby whose father's identity is unknown or is a mamzer - not relvant today with birth control" "Mamzer is unfair and therefore not applicable today"  

There is really three issues here. 1) how could these obligations simply disappear? 2) They are reflective of and determine the nature of the relationship. If the values they reflect are Torah values then if we don't establish these values in the way described in Shulchan Aruch then how are they established? 3) If they are no longer considered Jewish values - what are the values in marriage and family relations?
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Kesubos (61a): If she has four slaves - she may lounge in an easy chair. Rav Huna said that even though they said she can lounge in an easy chair but she fills his cup and makes his bed and washes his hands and feet. Furthermore Rav Huna said that all the work that a wife does for her husband she also does it when she is a niddah – except for filling his cup, making his bed and washing his hands and his feet and making his bed. Rava said this restriction for a wife who is a nida is only if she does the work in his presence but he is not there then there is no problem.

Rashi (Kesubos 61a): But she fills his cup and makes his bed – to spread the sheet something which is not strenuous – since it an act of endearment in order that she be more beloved to him. Therefore it is not comparable to the making of the bed mentioned in the Mishna which involves considerable physical effort and she can be forced to do it. She is not forced to do these works of endearment but the Sages merely suggested them as good advice as to how Jewish wives should behave. Except for pouring his cup -  when she is a Nida then all activities which draw them closer and increase endearment are to be avoided because they can lead to prohibited sexual activity.

Yerushalmi Kesubos (5:6): Rav Huna said that even if he had 100 maidservants to do the housework, his wife would still be forced to do the intimate tasks for him. What are these intimate tasks that she must do? It is to anoint his body with oil, wash his feet, and pour his cup. Why should she be obligated to do these when they have so many servants? Is it because it is inappropriate for a maidservant to do these tasks for him or because she has to do them? The difference between these two views is if he has male slaves rather than maid servants then it would remove the concern that maid servants should do these tasks for him and if she still had to do them that would show that the reason is because it is a wife’s obligation to do these tasks...It seems more likely that in fact she must do them solely because it is her obligation to her husband. 

Rambam(Hilchos Ishus 21:3-4): 3) A husband who takes an oath to prohibit his wife not to do any work at all – is required to divorce her and give her the kesuba. That is because idleness causes immorality. Similarly every wife needs to wash her husbands face, hands, and feet as well as pour his cup and make his bed and to stand before him to serve him. Examples of her service are to give him water or a utensil or take things from him etc.,  However she does not stand and serve his father or his son. 4) These tasks need to be done by the wife herself – even if she has many servants – she alone is required to do them.
  
Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 80:4-5): 4) And similarly every woman is to wash her husband’s face, hands and feet and pour his cup and to make his bed. (Some say that she is obligated to make all the beds in the house). And she is to stand before him and serve him doing tasks such as giving him water or a utensil or taking things from him etc. However she does not stand and serve his his father or son (However some say that is only when she is not dependent for support from her husband). 5) These works need to be done by the wife herself – even if she has many servants – she alone is required to do them. (There is a dispute regarding making beds see E.H. 80:8).

102 comments:

  1. yachabibi! Is it dawning on you? Times change, judaism changes with them!

    I have never seen any godol approving of a man selling his under age daughter into slavery, in the last hundered years. Why might that be?

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    1. I am referring to post Shulchan Aruch.

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  2. The Shulchan Aruch above is the relevant Halacha L'maaisa for today.

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    1. On the general topic of the Shulchan Aruch, why has the entire Shulchan Aruch never been translated to English (whether by itself with Rema or with commentaries?) Every Jewish man should be studying it as part of fulfilling the mitzvah of Torah study, but many don't have the mastery of Hebrew to read the original. The widely available translated summaries such as the Kitzur and Shaarei Halacha are helpful but they leave out so much.

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  3. Daas Torah" you know very well these HALOCHOS are not relevant at all today,could you imagine a husband forcing his wife to wash his feet every night,he would be either arrested for wife abuse,or better yet, commited to an insane asylum,therefore whats your point?
    in YIDISH they say VOZ HACKSTU IN TCHAINIK

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    1. Browswer - what is the mechanism that these halachos are not relevant. If this is a rabbinic decree as the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch seem to imply - then even if the reason for the decree are not relevant anymore - but the takanos are still active.

      In short you can't throw out halacha that way or ignore it. "kashrus is because of sanitation so it is not relevant" "Two day of Yom Tov because we didn't have accurate knowledge so it is not relevant today." "Divorce depending solely on husband's wishes is irrelevant to today" "Extra marital sex & incest is only for fear of having a baby whose father's identity is unknown or is a mamzer - not relvant today with birth control" "Mamzer is unfair and therefore not applicable today"

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    2. Rabbi Eidenson,are you serious???????,please tell me no.are you comparing the HALACHa of KASHRUS,TAHARAS HAMISHPACHA,two days YOM-TOV,extra marital sex and incest,to a custom from a thousand year ago,where a wife used to wash her husband feet and face,pppplease
      give us a brake,you might be an expert in the four SHULCHAN ARUCH'S,but on the fifth one you still might have to brush up

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    3. browser:

      SHULCHAN ARUCH is not 1000 years ago. And it IS the relevant and applicable and enforceable JEWISH LAW of TODAY.

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    4. I don't think so, though.November 1, 2012 at 12:57 AM

      "And it IS the relevant and applicable and enforceable JEWISH LAW of TODAY."

      Maybe that's where you're wrong? ("enforceable?" That's an interesting word choice). The fact is, We don't follow everything in Shulchan Aruch in common practice today!

      And it was never some "legislation" from on high that came as a follow-up to the sealing of the Talmud, which every Jew must follow to the last word as ordained by Rav Yosef Karo - it was a compilation of halachot and customs in a particular time and place. And he himself said it was a guide, not "every ruling in here must be followed by every Jew." Read his intro. Later authorities have given it a great deal of weight. So it became a de facto guideline, but it doesn't mean we follow every single thing in it or that God legislated we must. The Rema commentary itself already indicates this.

      If times and practices don't change, then why did they need to be compiled in Shulchan Aruch in the first place?

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    5. The law in Judaism is that we continue following Halachas even if the reason the law was instituted no longer applies.

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  4. "Even according to Rashi who says they are optional - but they are recommended in order to endear the wife to the husband."

    Do you really think any normal husband would find it endearing to have his wife wash his face or his feet nowadays? It would be considered degrading to both parties. Do you think even the queen of England has someone else wash her face? Onah is a requirement that isn't waivable; sh'er and c'sut are subject to the agrteement of the parties.

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    1. What if he did find it endearing and he insisted on it - what would you tell him? What about the requirement that she stand before him to serve him and to fulfill his most trivial needs - like getting him a drink?

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    2. As i said: it would completely depend on the Rabbi you ask, the answer would be arbitrary. Either he says she has to do it because it is written in the shulhan aruch, or he says that she has not to do it because it is not customary any more.

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    3. A man who found having his wife wash his face endearing would be a candidate for psychiatric treatment. Is there any society with indoor plumbing where healthy adults don't wash themselves? The context has completely changed. Washing is very different than it used to be.

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    4. In all normal families I know of, the wife serves the husband his food and drinks, makes his bed and helps him when he requests her to do things for him.

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  5. Careful DT. Women today believe that a husband is her ezer. Or that they are 'equal partners'. And many congregational rabbis reinforce this in their talks, flattering the women at the expense of the men. All in the name of 'Shalom Bayis'. Frightened /confulsed orthodox men go along. Feminism seeps into our holy community.

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    1. "Women today believe that a husband is her ezer. Or that they are 'equal partners'."

      Do you think this is wrong?

      Even hareidi speakers like to emphasize that husband and wife are "equal, but different", that respect has to be mutual. Are they wrong? What is the right answer, according to you?

      Is a community where husbands are allowed to oppress their wives holier than one that promotes mutual respect?
      Which means of oppression are allowed? Are there means that are not allowed?

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    2. Yes, Remark, that false thought is wrong. A husband is greater than his wife. His wife is obligated to serve him. This is pure and current Jewish law.

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    3. What a sorry person you are when you need a wife to "serve" you in order to agrandise yourself...

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    4. Umm, I am a wife.

      And I happily serve my husband.

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    5. Well, then it's a different perspective. As I said: mutual respect is key, if you want to respect him and he respects you, this is certainly a good receipe for a happy marriage.

      this is totally different than if you are the husband and demand those things of your wife.

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    6. A husband shouldn't have to demand it. A wife should automatically do it, as it is her duty.

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  6. Husbands nowadays forgo these duties, if they are duties.

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    1. Perhaps you forgo it.

      I don't.

      And my wife does these things for me.

      Very happily, I might add.

      And for almost 30 years already.

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    2. She washes your face for you? And you admit it?
      So sure that she's happy?

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    3. She serves me my food and drinks, makes my bed and serves me with whatever requests I make.

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  7. Recipients and PublicityOctober 31, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Maybe this explains why when men do not get the basic treatment as outlined in these sources, and it's really not a big deal for a loving wife to do most of this stuff, not in a rote manner but when she is available when not tending to the children or her other duties at home, that when men are denied this from their wives, they gladly pay a masseuse or mistress or "favorite secretary" or geisha girl to do for them what the wives feel is "beneath their dignity"?

    How hard is it for a wife to serve her husband? Doesn't she want to cook for him and set the table for him and keep him company while he eats? So why should pouring him a cup of water make any difference -- it's the culmination of her culinary service in any case. Pouring him a drink is a lot more chushuv than peeling potatoes for the cholent he will eat! People go to restaurants and pay big money so that a waiter or waitress pour them a glass of water before anything even happens so it must mean something.

    Included in washing his face could be making sure the washroom or bathroom is available, that he has clean towels and that there is warm water when he needs to wash up. Maybe if he got the royal treatment from his wife he wouldn't have to seek solace in booze!

    Today people wear nice footwear and live and work in temperature controlled environments, but not so long ago people lived without nice shoes. In the Middle East people wore sandals and feet got dirty easily. Didn't Rivka offer Eliezer water for himself and his camels, no doubt to drink and probably to wash himself off. Her kind help of asking and giving water was enough, she didn't have to do the task of wiping him herself.

    Come to think of it, why are there so many stories of men who go to immoral females to do such things, and lots more, perhaps they are reacting to their wives hardline? Who shares the blame for frustrating men if not their wives who have no clue what makes men tick?

    There is a lot of sechel in these recommendations from the sages, even if most people haven't heard of them.

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    1. Good point! similarly what happened to the halacha of kibud av v'em. In most of the Orthodox households - do childen stand when their parents enter the room? Do they serve them first? etc etc.

      There is really three issues here. 1) how could these obligations simply disappear? 2) They are reflective of and determine the nature of the relationship. If the values they reflect are Torah values then if we don't establish these values in the way described in Shulchan Aruch then how are they established? 3) If they are no longer considered Jewish values - what are the values in marriage and family relations?

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    2. Why would you bring geisha girls as a raaya? Torah Jews do not emulate Chinese culture! The Chinese have a long history of abuse towards women. The "lucky" daughters who weren't murdered at birth, had their feet bound until their toes fell off because men found the way these crippled women walked attractive. The purpose of geishas was not to keep men from sin or to provide children, but rather to indulge the selfish fantasies of those men who would pay to have women slavishly treat them like gods. What terrible midot! Let men who are not Bnei Torah visit geishas. We have higher standards and goals.

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    3. 1) how could these obligations simply disappear?

      How could a streimel or black suit appear as a "jewish garment"? how could slavery disappear? how could death penalty appear? Jewish values have evolved due to galut, due to surrounding cultures - but they would also have evolved over 2000 years within a jewish state. The eternity of the commandments is an illusion. In reality, halacha subtely evolves, though it might sometimes be on the slow side.

      2) They are reflective of and determine the nature of the relationship. If the values they reflect are Torah values then if we don't establish these values in the way described in Shulchan Aruch then how are they established?

      Good point! It is, to some extent, arbitrary.


      3) If they are no longer considered Jewish values - what are the values in marriage and family relations?

      Nobody knows, there are many diverging opinions.

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    4. Recipients and PublicityOctober 31, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      "Daas Torah said...1) how could these obligations simply disappear?"

      RaP: That should be no wonder. While among the frum it may not be assimilation, it is surely acculturation and adapting to the norms of surrounding goyish society. It's not so hard to see even in one or two generations. German Jews are very polite and orderly like their gentile compatriots, while Jews from Middle Eastern countries are more boisterous and noisy like the style of an Arab shuk. Then you have 90% of Jews assimilating and over 50% intermarried and becoming indistinguishable to the surrounding gentiles, and here is where that "klal" kicks in "azoy vi es kristelt zich, azoy yideld zich" meaning the way goyish society acts that's how Jewish society becomes as well. And we all know that in Western goyish society women have been hoisted into pro-active Feminism in all its forms and men have been seriously downgraded. They say that the "Berenstein Bears" series of children's books teach kids that daddy is a dope and a dumbo, and that's only at the start. What you are trying to do is to roll back the tide, a very hard job. In classical frum society women did everything they could to please their husbands and there was sholom bayis, as these halachos you have brought mention.

      "2) They are reflective of and determine the nature of the relationship. If the values they reflect are Torah values then if we don't establish these values in the way described in Shulchan Aruch then how are they established?"

      RaP: In two ways, as Rav Yisroel Salanter pointed out, through mussar and instructing in middos tovos, because of the yerida of the doros we are dealing with damage control. The other is good chinuch in the bais yaakovs and Torah homes. Otherwise, the world at large is going from bad to worse all the time.

      "3) If they are no longer considered Jewish values - what are the values in marriage and family relations?"

      RaP: They are Jewish values, but perhaps they need to be seen as part of a call for greater care that a wife should give her husband. Like everything else, the points these chazals say are just part of a whole set of actions. Not only should a wife serve a husband a drink, she must take care that the glass is clean, that it is what he likes to drink, that it is healthy, that she make sure that the environment is calm and happy and he can enjoy his drink and meal etc. Likewise with "washing feet" if the husband doesn't need that because in the past before running water someone had to pour the water and the husband would wash, or the other way around, but it is hard to pour and wash water on aching feet. Therefore the wife needs to see to it that her husband's bathing needs are met. She should make sure he has toothpaste, shampoo, soap, wash-cloth, clean bath-tub, hot water in the tank (no laundry done when he is showering) all things that are part of modern living but would also be part of "washing his feet and wiping his face" and such like.

      Bottom line, there is no "formula" to teach eidelkeit and to be mechanech girls that when they take care of a husband like this, they are not being "chambermaids" but good wives. After all, ishto gefu works both ways and the problem is that too many spouses do not see their other halves as extensions of themselves, but as "outsiders" and in many cases girls are so immature, needy and selfish that they have no clue what they need to do to make a husband truly happy. There is no easy solution, but you have turned some light on these halachos that we can all learn from.

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    5. In a previous post, Rav DT you wrote:

      "The gemora is making a general rule - but there clearly are exceptions and in modern times when women are at least as educated as men in halahca and hashkofa and often know more about the outside world - then the advice would not necessarily apply as it did in the time of the gemora. The gemora says not to teach Torah to women - but times have changed etc etc."

      like you said: times have changed.

      you can go through page after page in the gemara and find things which simply don't apply anymore. the gemara says not to pray before or after a trip. today there are minyanim on airplanes. there was no thing as a kashrut mashgiach in rabbi akiva's day.

      you can't just point at a gemara or even a line in the shulchan aruch and go aha!

      when talking about times a changin, one of my local rabbanim likes to give as an example the following: the rama rules (in IE) that it is permitted to go to a bathhouse where non-jewish women give sponge baths to men (full body). nothing erotic about it. so nu, how would that go down if i tried to open a place like that in har nof?

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    6. Why do you feel that men were downgraded?

      It used to be a division of tasks, man works and brings home money, wife does the work at home.

      Nowadays, the hareidim amply promote the wife earning the family income. So really the work became less for the husband and more for the wife. The wife was demoted from being patur of generating an income, now every beith yaakov (supposedly very frum) teaches that the wife must generate income and do all the housework plus the education of the children.

      Jewish law itself says that if the wife is ready to take upon herself to feed herself (not her children, this is still the father's responsibility) she may also decide what she does with the money.

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    7. I don't think so, though.November 1, 2012 at 1:03 AM

      The rabbi wrote: "There is really three issues here. 1) how could these obligations simply disappear? 2) They are reflective of and determine the nature of the relationship. If the values they reflect are Torah values then if we don't establish these values in the way described in Shulchan Aruch then how are they established? 3) If they are no longer considered Jewish values - what are the values in marriage and family relations?"

      This is the pertinent discussion, Rabbi.
      It makes very little sense to insist upon "if it's in Shulchan Aruch then she must do it, and that's that." and then have arguments about why a woman does or does not have to wash my feet nowadays due to what is written in a certain text. I'm happy to see you have enunciated the important issues here for the readers who (based on some of the responses I've read) I'm not so sure are able to interpret them implicitly from your original post.

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  8. I totally get why a man would want his wife to make his bed and fetch him drinks (though I can't imagine why any healthy grown up male would not find it humiliating to have another human wash his face for him), but I wonder if a wife is exempt from these obligations if she works full time outside of the house (and then comes home to childcare and housekeeping - no four servants for her!)

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    1. No, that certainly does not exempt her.

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    2. I wasn't aware that you were a posek.

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    3. It happens to be that I am, but what I said is a simple thing that most people with even a little learning background would usually know.

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    4. A posek who signs his name "A"? Fishy...

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    5. If what you said is "a simple thing that most people with even a little learning background would usually know" then why are so many learned posters on this site (including DT) who sign their posts with their names, debating the issue? A true posek would look at all the facts, not robotically claim "not exempt!" when there is a change in the situtation. If a wife can "not take and not give", ie parnassa, then it could equally apply to tasks. Perhaps a man forfeits his right to have his wife "stand before him" and "anoint him with oil" when she comes home after he had sent her out to do his work.

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  9. a post like this is a chillul hashem and very embarassing shuold any normal gentile people come across it

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    1. i agree with you 1000%,these idiotic and embarrasing articles,are a big CHILLUL HASHEM,
      Rabbi Eidensohn,you need to get a life,you must be very bored,go get a job or sit down and learn,don't waste your life on idiotic nonsense like this

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    2. Berachos (62a): It has been taught: R. Akiba said: Once I went in after R. Joshua to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not sit east and west but north and south; I learnt that one evacuates not standing but sitting; and I learnt that it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said Ben Azzai to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. It has been taught: Ben ‘Azzai said: Once I went in after R. Akiba to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not evacuate east and west but north and south. I also learnt that one evacuates sitting and not standing. I also learnt it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said R. Judah to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? — He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. R. Kahana once went in and hid under Rab's bed. He heard him chatting [with his wife] and joking and doing what he required. He said to him: One would think that Abba's mouth had never sipped the dish before! He said to him: Kahana, are you here? Go out, because it is rude.1 He replied: It is a matter of Torah, and I require to learn.

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    3. It would be a chillul Hashem to NOT post it. Posting this Torah is a Kiddush Hashem. Denying it is a chillul.

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    4. i take it back, posting this is not a chillul hashem, rather the fact that people believe it and defend it is a chillul hashem.

      i am ashamed of my community and the religion

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    5. I don't think so, though.November 1, 2012 at 1:06 AM

      Perhaps you do not realize that Rabbi Eidensohn's purpose is to provoke DISCUSSION of otherwise neglected/ignored subjects? Either than or I'm completely off base about what he is doing. But I'm pretty sure that's it. Why should we never think about these matters and how to relate to seeming contradictions in belief and behavior?

      Seems to me it's a worthwhile discussion although it requires thoughtful participants who can get beyond the "I Demand You to Wash My Feet Even if it Makes Zero Sense Culturally and I get no Benefit from It - because halacha says so" aspect.

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  10. You raise some very important questions in this post. You found a point where chareidi society seems to agree that the precepts of earlier times are not followed any more.

    I suppose, that such ruptures of tradition occured a few times in the context of Gittin. "torah values" for gittin are not determined, and different rabbanim come to different results, although they all decide according to their best knowledge of the sources and the relavant factors. Therefore, I think that there is no reason to denigrate the opposing party, as it was often done on this blog. There are often good reasons to accept an approach and its contrary, both are rooted in the torah and its interpretation over the centuries. Hareidim seem to think that they own the interpretation of the torah. That's not true.

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  11. "Come to think of it, why are there so many stories of men who go to immoral females to do such things, and lots more, perhaps they are reacting to their wives hardline?"

    come to think, polygamy existed before women's lib, and is still prevalent in societies where wives are very submissive...

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    1. Sephardim are still permitted to have more than one wife.

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    2. You are proving my point: marital infidelity of the husband has nothing to do with the submissiveness of his wife. On the contrary: the more submissive the wife, the more he allows himself, the more he disregards her feelings...

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    3. A wife who is not submissive, is an evil woman.

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    4. So he shoud divroce her... But he won't, because she brings home the $$$$ and he is a lazy bum. So he will milk her ad ha sof and even try to get part of her heritage in exchange of the get.

      that's how I see many jewish men.

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    5. What heritage? All money a wife earns while married immediately belongs to her husband. (The only exception is if she explicitly beforehand made an agreement with him that he shouldn't support her.)

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    6. She can say at any time "I don't take from you and I don't give to you" or "now I take and give". She could change this 12 times per year, if she wishes...

      And no, he is not entitled to the heritage she gets from her family, only to the usufruit, and this only if he feeds her.

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  12. To answer R' Eidensohn's question about what is the mechanism through which these halachos are not relevant, here are some thoughts. Perhaps some things made it into the Shulchan Aruch but they were never really the halacha (but rather simply advice)? (Perhaps this is the case with the thankfully neglected halacha from Rambam of deviously killing heretics by taking away their ladder while they're in pits -- though I'm not sure that made it into the Shulchan Aruch, hopefully not.)

    In terms of what is the true Torah marital relationship today, I think to answer that question we have to look at contemporary Orthodox rabbis and see what they advocate. All of them cite sources but come to different conclusions. So there are different legitimate views. It is an empirical question which works better, even if it is difficult to measure scientifically. I would think it is best to rely on the frum shalom bayis philosophies that have the best track record of success -- Hashem gave us our faculties of reason and observation for a reason.

    We shouldn't rely alone on verbatim advice of the Sages -- they were influenced in part at least by the culture of their time. We have to listen to rabbonim from now who understand our culture and mindset, and who have benefited from reflecting on the advice of various rabbis throughout the ages.

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    1. Shulchan Aruch is Jewish LAW, not advice.

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    2. Yes, but it's possible that some individual rulings of the Shulchan Aruch/Rema are no longer the halacha today, because poskim since then have ruled otherwise, or because some things in there were actually never the halacha but were mistakenly included in the Shulchan Aruch anyway. Many parts of the Shulchan Aruch are not normative practice today -- perhaps this (that is, the idea that it was never the halacha) is the explanation.

      There is no absolute rule the Shulchan Aruch is always right, and that it is somehow the eternal last word in halacha. It's just the most authoritative code we have (along with its commentaries). Contemporary poskim can potentially rule differently, based on the original sources in the Gemara and elsewhere, and on the application of halacha to novel factual contexts.

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    3. The Gedolim in the days of the Shulchan Aruch and shortly thereafter have agreed to accept the psakim of the mechaber and the Rema as authoritative. The Shach writes that one cannot even claim "kim li" against a psak of the Shulchan Aruch. This is akin to accepting someone as your "Rebbi", where you follow his psakim. This is the same thing that happened when, let's say, Klal Yisroel decided that the period of Chazal has ended after the 7th generraiton of Amorayim (Mar Zutra, Mar bar Rav Ashi, etc), and nobody from here on in can add to the Gemora. There was no "halachah lmoshe misinai" that told us that the Gemora was sealed; it was the accepted reality told to us by our Gedolim. The same thing applies to accepting the Shulchan Aruch and Rema.

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    4. I don't think so, though.November 1, 2012 at 1:08 AM

      The Gaonim did add minor things to the Gemara. And the Saboraim before them added even more material for organizing and elaborating the Shakla VeTaria. They were all after the 7th generation of Amoraim.

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    5. Sam, I don't know if that's a perfect analogy. For example, the Gra and his student Reb Chaim of Volozhin were both committed to deriving practical halacha from the primary sources rather than relying on the Shulchan Aruch (this is discussed at some length in R' Itke's book on R' Salanter, for example).

      In any case, I'm not sure it's possible for a small handful of rabbis in the 16th century to make meta-halachic pronouncements that permanently restrict the halachic process.

      Even if there is such a rule (that we follow the Shulchan Aruch no matter what), that might be a general rule with exceptions, such that we follow the vast majority of the Shulchan Aruch, but not individual halachos that are interpreted differently by later authorities or widely neglected on a practical level by the masses.

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    6. "Even if there is such a rule (that we follow the Shulchan Aruch no matter what),"

      there is no such rule. if there was, we would have to ignore the taz, magen avraham, the shach and others every time that they disagree with the SA. there are ein sof examples of piskei halacha given by the SA and Rema which we don't follow, both to the chumra and to the kula.

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    7. The Shach writes that one cannot even claim "kim li" against a psak of the Shulchan Aruch. The Shach itself says we must accept the Shulchan Aruch as authoritative.

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    8. So when the shach disagrees with the SA, should be ignore the shach?

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    9. i don't know the context of what the shach is saying so the following is speculative. the shach wasn't trying to say that the halachic process stops with the SA and the Rema (btw the fact that there is a Rema shows that things don't stop with the Beit Yosef). i would guess that the shach is saying "don't bring a rambam or a ron or a rashba against the psak of the SA. we have to accept the SA".

      and even that statement is problematic as the achronim regularly overturned piskei halacha of the SA based on other rishonim.

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    10. Ben:

      Before we ever even consider going against a b'feirush Shulchan Aruch (including the one above translated in the body of this posting by RDE), you need a big posek to explain his logic and disagreement with the Shulchan Aruch.

      In this particular case, at least, I don't believe there are any poskim who have published a teshuva against the Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 80:4-5) above. And it stands.

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    11. i also don't know of a posek who has written a tshuva on this subject. on the other hand, i'd like to hear about the wife of any contemporary posek who washes her husbands feet. and i'd like to hear about the posek who demanded that his wife do such an act.

      no greater psak than that.

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    12. Forger washing his feet. You are missing the point. The only reason that isn't done is because modern plumbing changed how we wash.

      But regarding the other things, pouring his drinks, making his bed, standing by him to serve him, etc., they all are still relevant and applicable. And no posek disagrees with Shulchan Aruch, Rambam and the Gemorah.

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    13. so how about this? instead of pulling out one halacha here and one there, we look at the breath of obligations that a wife has to her husband and a husband HAS (emphasis intended) to his wife. for example, in a ketubah the man obligates himself to a whole slew of things, including parnassa.

      you can't just pull out one halacha and raise it as a flag. the gemorrah and rambam and poskim have lots of piskei halacha on the subject. a blog post which just grabs one of them is doing a disservice to the halacha.

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    14. No one is doing any such thing. We are simply discussing a specific Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, Rambam and the Gemorah. There is nothing wrong with that. Of course a husband has obligations as well. That doesn't reduce the wife's obligations as discussed above.

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    15. Dovid Klein:

      You forget spinning and weaving!

      Why does no eshet chayl of our times spin and weave wool, although it is part of her fundamental obligations towards the husband?

      I mean: we still light shabbes candles, although electric light might be more adequate to fulfill the purpose of lighting a room.

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    16. "We are simply discussing a specific Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, Rambam and the Gemorah."

      IMO such a discussion only makes sense if put in the context of mutual obligations. Otherwise, and especially in the context of a blog, the discussion goes way out of control.

      If Rav DT believes that one doesn't always have to go by the SA on matters of male/female status, obligations, etc (and he doesn't, as shown in other posts) than he can't just pull this halacha out, contextless, and promote it as if it is halacha l'maaseh hayom.

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    17. So Dovid Klein, you are admitting that "modern plumbing" decided against the takana recorded in shulchan aruch? Can you explain your halachic rationale? And then afterwards explain to me why a basic technology like plumbing invalidates psak but widespread cultural changes that already took place don't render a hundreds-of-years-old ruling on custom irrelevant to current time and place. Thanks so much.

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    18. Ben Waxman - I am not claiming that this halacha is obligatory today - I am asking why it isn't? What is the mechanism for a takana of the gemora to which all poskim agree to - and thus must have been widely accepted by the people - to become inoperative. The rule is that a widely practised takana for which the reason is no longer applicable - is still on the books. why isn't this one?

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    19. It is obligatory today.

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    20. So how is it that the chiyuv of a man be mefarneiss the family (which a man also agrees to when he signs a ketubah)has been effectively canceled out today in many communities?

      your question can be and has been asked in a variety of forums. normally it is the MOs or professors who ask about the development of halacha with the chareidi community acting as if their minhagim are halacha m'sinai (exaggeration but not much).

      a friend took a class in grad school given by rav dr soliveitich. the topic was sitting in the sukkah on shemini atzerit, the development in halacha. that is the type of forum which is appropriate for this type of topic, not a blog in which people are allowed to insult each other. (sorry for telling the editor how to do his job)

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  13. Rabbi Eidenson,are you serious???????,please tell me no.are you comparing the HALACHa of KASHRUS,TAHARAS HAMISHPACHA,two days YOM-TOV,extra marital sex and incest,to a custom from a thousand year ago,where a wife used to wash her husband feet and face,pppplease
    give us a brake,you might be an expert in the four SHULCHAN ARUCH'S,but on the fifth one you still might have to brush up

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    1. Berachos (62a): It has been taught: R. Akiba said: Once I went in after R. Joshua to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not sit east and west but north and south; I learnt that one evacuates not standing but sitting; and I learnt that it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said Ben Azzai to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. It has been taught: Ben ‘Azzai said: Once I went in after R. Akiba to a privy, and I learnt from him three things. I learnt that one does not evacuate east and west but north and south. I also learnt that one evacuates sitting and not standing. I also learnt it is proper to wipe with the left hand and not with the right. Said R. Judah to him: Did you dare to take such liberties with your master? — He replied: It was a matter of Torah, and I required to learn. R. Kahana once went in and hid under Rab's bed. He heard him chatting [with his wife] and joking and doing what he required. He said to him: One would think that Abba's mouth had never sipped the dish before! He said to him: Kahana, are you here? Go out, because it is rude.1 He replied: It is a matter of Torah, and I require to learn.

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    2. Do people still wipe with the left hand?

      I suppose in oriental countries they do, they wipe with the left and eat with the right hand, but we westerners?

      I always wondered whether orientals who are disgusted when people take the food from the plat with the left hand, think of that aspect of the problem, since they cannot see us westerners wiping the tuches with the right hand...

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    3. it is brought down in various seforim that since we use tissues or toilet paper - it is not necessary to wipe w the left hand

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    4. I believe that wiping with the left hand is normative halacha and appears in the Shulchan Aruch -- please correct me if I am wrong. Wiping with the left takes some practice if you're not used to it. But it's the halacha and not that hard, so why not follow the halacha?

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  14. Gershom Scholem says that even the concept of interpreting the torah on 4 levels (pshat, drash, remez and sod) come from medieval christianity and was taken up by jewish mystics in the middle ages... (not to forget the dividing of the torah into chapterrs... this also comes from the christians and was later established as a jewish tradition)

    It is an illusion to believe that the torah is independent of surrounding cultures, or that the jewish perception of morality can be decoupled from the world around it.

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    1. Gershom Scholem is long known to have been an apikorus gomur.

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    2. That's just a historic fact...

      Truth remains true even if said by someone you consider an apikores...

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    3. Scholem is a liar who is known to have made up material.

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  15. aren't these the items that a wife is forbidden to do for her husband when she is a Nidah (even today). so these things at least some of them do show endearment -

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  16. You can pose the same question asking why we no longer "lean" (in the true original way that we know Jews leaned at the seder similar to Roman style eating) at the seder table. It became culturally irrelevant. Certain rishonim of ashkenaz dismiss it altogether since no one eats like that anymore!

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    1. We DO "lean" at the Seder table today.

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    2. The "leaning" of today is NOT how Jews of the Talmudic (2nd Temple through Gaonic) period reclined, friend. They didn't even have the same type of chairs and tables like we do.

      Look up the "Roman Triclinium" for more information. What people do today is actually absurd and has nothing to do with eating as royalty do.

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  17. I got home today and showed my wife that she's required to anoint me with oil, so she sprayed me in the face with PAM.

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    1. You should of smacked her.

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    2. Schmendrick,
      You better make a joke, or you will cry. Ha Ha. Your wife does not consider you someone she wants to serve. She will commit domestic abuse on you if you even suggest such a thing. Its only a joke, right?

      Schmendrick, why do you call yourself such a humiliating name?

      One of the pillars of the relationship between husband and wife, al pi Torah, is not acceptable to our so called Torah observent commentators on this thread. The Torah didn't really mean ezer, right? What does G-d know - right? We modern women and pathetic male enablers know different.

      Schmendrick indeed.


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    3. Schmendrick, please ignore the above response. You seem to be a pleasant fellow who lightens a tense situation with a joke. I thought it was very funny. Some other posters need to ask themselves why they respond so emotionally.

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  18. RDE:

    I think you'll like this image better to illustrate this posting. You can replace your current image above with this one:

    http://cache2.allpostersimages.com/p/LRG/56/5641/79JMG00Z/posters/george-marks-wife-serving-husband-dinner.jpg

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    1. I agree it is much nicer and to the point - but it also is commercial art which I don't like using.

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  19. "The Torah didn't really mean ezer, right?"

    ezer doesn't mean servant.

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    1. And? The Halacha (as posted above) tells us a wife is obligated to serve her husband.

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  20. whatever the halacha is, the word ezer in that pasuk is not the source of said halacha.

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  21. I emailed Chardali posek R' Shlomo Aviner, through his assistant, and asked him if this ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (requiring a wife to wash her husband's face, etc.) is still binding today. The reply was that it is binding but not "davka" -- that is to say, there are obligations between husband and wife, as mentioned in the ketubah for example, but the wife does not necessarily have the precise obligations mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch.

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    1. Very interesting answer. But honestly, I do not understand what it means tachles...

      However it might be exactly the answer the blog author was looking for...

      Does it mean that she has to if he wants her to, but not if he forgoes it? Would it imply that he can take her refusal to do so when he asks her as grounds for divorce without ketuba? Would this be true for spinning and weaving too? Or are all these tasks obsolete today and not "enforcable"? What about divorcing a wife without ketuba when she burns a meal (just one time), as the rambam is quoted saying?

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    2. Thw Halacha is that he is allowed to divorce her if she burns his dinner, BUT he MUST pay her the Kesuba -- according to all shittos.

      As far as this halacha, it clearly says she must do it for him even if he forgoes it. The Halacha specifically states that even if she has many servants and he forgoes forcing her to do it and allows the servants to do it for him, the Halacha is that she still must do it for him.

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  22. First of all, the purpose is for endearment. Most wives who want their husbands love serve them in all types of ways. The Shalom Bayis Seforim stress that a husband should never demand these things. If he does then it for sure won't promote love. There are wives who make sure they look good for their husband when he comes home, meet their husbands coming home from shul, or stand outside and greet them with a cheerful smile. Giving a massage could take the place of annointing, and most wives (I would assume) prepare food for their husband and serve it with joy (if they have a good relationship). One of Rav Avigdor Millers ten commandment is that a wife should never go on strike, and a husband should never refuse his wifes efforts. (You can hear it on Kol Halashon).

    Shulchan Aruch also says that a Nida has to wear white garments during shiv'a nekiyim, and Rav Moshe says that these days a white underwear is enough.

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    1. The Shalom Bayis seforim do NOT stress, at all, that a husband should not demand these things. In fact, he is entitled to expect them. And the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch say he can take his wife to Beis Din if she is not performing these tasks for him so they can force her to.

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