Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A wife is told to serve her husband to increase intimacy and endearment - why only the wife?

We find in the Talmud (and this is also the halacha in Shulchan Aruch) that the wife is told to provide certain personal service for her husband to promote intimacy and endearment.. I have not found a comparable statement that the husband should do things for his wife to increase intimacy - why not?

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.

Rambam(Hilchos Issurei Bi’ah 21:5): It is prohibited to use the personal services of a woman at all – whether she is an adult or a child whether she is a maid servant or a freed women. That is because perhaps it will cause him to have hirhur (sexual fantasies) about her. What type of personal services are we talking about? It is the washing of his face, hands, feets, making his bed in his presence, pouring his cup. That is because these personal services are to only be done by his wife. In addition one should not greet a woman at all – even through an intermediary.

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).

37 comments :

  1. The husband has other duties, notably being the breadwinner and financially supporting the wife and family. The wife has the above mentioned (Gemorah, S"A, Rambam, etc.) duties.

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  2. Rav Avigdor Miller (Awake My Glory): There cannot be two kings. The marriage relationship is two-fold. 1) The wife is submissive. This is not only Jewish but natural. There can be no harmony when there are two commanders. Without this indispensable condition, the home is disordered. "Arrogance is unbecoming a woman" - Megillah 14B. For a man it is not an ornament, but for a woman it is as if she wore a mustache. 2) The second, but equally essential foundation: a man must always demonstrate respect for his wife. This is "the way of Jewish men that... honor and support their wives in truth" as stated in the Jewish marriage contract. "He honors her more than his own body" - Yevamos 62B, Bava Metzia 59A. He is the captain, but she is the First Mate whose counsel is respected. She cannot be made a doormat, she need not beg for money, she deserves some assistance in the house chores, and the husband sides with her against his kin. He must express frequent appreciation and give words of encouragement, and he should remember his wife from time to time with gifts, big or little. Husband and wife should always say "Please" and "Thank You" and never forget to be always polite to each other.

    Before marriage it is imperative to ascertain the young woman's attitude toward feminism and "women's rights" and careerism. It is out of the question to build a Jewish home, or any home whatsoever, if the prospective wife has been tainted with these anti-natural and anti-social preachings. The woman's career and happiness are in her home: absolutely and entirely. Her husband, her children and her home are the expressions of her personality and her Free Will, and they are her chief forms of serving G-d. The modern orthodox "Rebbetzin" with a college degree and a job in secular professions is a misfit even in a non-Jewish home. The ideas of revolt against a husband's authority and the unrealistic dream of equal leadership in the family, lead only to unhappiness and failure, and very frequently to divorce. A Beis Yaakov girl should be wed soon after or before graduation. Every day after she leaves the Beis Yaakov marks another step away from idealism, for the street and the office and the secular school have an unfailing effect which increases from day to day. It is never a simple matter to achieve harmony in the home; effort and wisdom and fear of G-d are required. But with the additional burden of feminism, all problems become aggravated; and like all the unnatural and anti-social affectations of the libertarians this leads only to failure and unhappiness.

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  3. Here is my 2cents ...... Just like with the mitzvah of chinuch , the woman being in the home is the natural provider of chinuch and common sense dictates this role, she does not need a commandment. So where providing intimacy is the man's role , the woman needs a commandment to define her role. Another reason is that in the work place a man's secretary would be providing endearment by making him his coffee, serving him etc so when he comes home and his wife does not try to endear him, his thoughts are in his office.

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  4. @ Moe but Rashi notes that the tasks for endearment are not obligatory but are strongly recommended. It seems reasonable that something similar should be recommended for the husband. Why does the wife need to endear herself to her husband but the husband does not have to endear himself to his wife? There are other duties which the wife is required to do - just as the husband has duties he must do. I am simply focusing on actions to bring about endearment - why not suggestion to the husband only to the wife?

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  5. טז אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר, הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ--בְּעֶצֶב, תֵּלְדִי בָנִים; וְאֶל-אִישֵׁךְ, תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ, וְהוּא, יִמְשָׁל-בָּךְ.

    Bereishis 3:16 “...your craving shall be for your husband.”

    Perhaps a wife is naturally endeared to her husband whereas a husband needs the added incentives from his wife to create an endearment to her.

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  6. @ Moe - I'll tell you a secret - it is not so.

    In fact the verse is saying that the wife has a natural desire for her husband - but if he doesn't acknowledge her and pay attention he is in big trouble.

    Elementary general rule of psychology - women need to feel loved and men need to feel competent. Or as the Steipler once put it - a yeshiva bachur needs to understand that his closest relationship has been with this shtender - and that he needs to know that his wife is not a shtender.

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  7. טב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו

    I can't tell you if that is still applicable in today's world but undoubtedly Chazal were working with the assumption that for a woman, just having a man to provide for her was the fulfillment of her desires.

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  8. I would conjecture that A: this can only be discussed in the sociological context of the times when Chazal were alive, and B: This may have to do with what is currently labeled as the five ways of expressing love. These are the recommendations that Chazal gave to women to express their love to their husbands. It may be that in those days, the husband fulfilling his requirements as mandated by the kesuba had the same general effect on the wife.

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  9. @Yehoshua - I think there is a simpler explanation. In the time of Chazal - a man could divorce his wife quite easily. Thus the burden was on the wife to constantly please him. there was no mechanism for her to get rid of him - so even if he was unpleasant or didn't care about her feelings - she was stuck with him

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  10. I don't think there is any basis for that assumption. Notwithstanding the machlokes under what circumstance one had the legal right to divorce his wife, there has been a mitzva of ve'ahavta le'rei'acha kamocha for a very long time, even before Chazal. For someone to cause a woman the humiliation and difficulties that accompany a divorce was probably deeply discouraged back then as well. We see that Chazal required a kesuba so that a man would not easily divorce his wife. I don't think that women then walked around in fear that they may have a get thrown into their courtyard at any moment.

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  11. @Yehoshua - that is an amazing chidush - a man could not divorce his wife or at least you claim he was strongly discouraged - because he would be violating the mitzva of ve'ahata.

    Please show me a single source that states that that was the reality in the time of Chazal.

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  12. @Yehoshua - what is your argument - moral compass or financial penalty.

    why does it say the mizbeach cried and it doesn't say not to divorce her because she is a human being and should not be mistreated?

    Why is there a statement that women should endear themselves to their husband - but there is no corresponding statement that he should endear himself to her?

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  13. 1: The financial penalty was a way of avoiding a man divorcing his wife "quite easily." The reason why Chazal did not want this is for moral reasons. What other peshat in שלא תהא קלה בעיניו להוציאה is there?
    2: The statement about the mizbe'ach is indicative of Chazal's sadness at divorce qua divorce. This does not mean that divorce should never occur, but it is clear that if they felt that it is such a tragedy when it occurs, they would not approve of it being done "quite easily."
    3: I think I saw that question somewhere before. Oh yeah, that is what this post is about! Maybe the statement that one should love his wife as much as he loves himself and honor her even more than he honors himself does not appear in your shas, but I found it in the Vilna edition, Yevamos 62b. Why there are more directives in this matter to women then men is perhaps an interesting thing to think about. I gave a suggestion earlier, and would be happy to hear others.

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  14. It is only an amazing chiddush for someone without any moral compass. Do you think that it acceptable bein adam lechaveiro behavior to come home one day and toss a woman out of her home because you feel like it? Again, I showed you a source that chazal instituted the requirement that a woman always have a kesuba precisely in order to prevent the type of feeling that, according to you, intimidated women in those days to toe the line and always please their husbands. Chazal say that when a man divorces his wife, the mizbe'ach itself cries. Do you think that it there was rabbinic sanction for divorcing one's wife "quite easily"?

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  15. @Yehoshua - you are simply ignoring the obvious meaning of the text in order to read your values into the words. The issue of making divorce harder is not necessarily for moral reasons but simply to stablie the community and provide stabile families to raise children.
    2 according to your understanding of Chazal's sadness qua divorce - why idoes the mizbeach only cry for the first marriage but not the second?

    (7) שו"ע אבן העזר - סימן קיט
    (ג) לא יגרש אדם אשתו ראשונה, אלא אם כן מצא בה ערות דבר: הגה - אבל בלאו הכי אמרינן כל המגרש אשתו ראשונה מזבח מוריד עליו דמעות (טור). ודוקא בימיהם שהיו מגרשין בעל כרחה, אבל אם מגרשה מדעתה, מותר (אגודה פ' המגרש וכ"כ הר"ן). ואין ראוי לו למהר לשלח אשתו ראשונה; אבל שניה, אם שנאה, ישלחנה:

    3. Interesting that you claim that your shas has the answer to my question - but you are simply misreading the text.

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  16. I am not sure i understand the problem raised in this post - unless I have myself misunderstood certain other statements in the Talmud and SA (which is entirely possible!).
    You ask " I have not found a comparable statement that the husband should do things for his wife to increase intimacy - why not?"
    Doesn't the halacha say that a man must fulfill a wife's physical and material needs, including marital, failing which she is allowed to divorce him? Why then, is your post revealing any sort of problem?

    Secondly, you touch on another related issues " In the time of Chazal - a man could divorce his wife quite easily. Thus
    the burden was on the wife to constantly please him. there was no
    mechanism for her to get rid of him". I find this interesting since you are agreeing that in the time of Chazal things were in a certain way. Now this chazaka came up in the discussions of the Rackman controversy on annulling a get. he claimed that this - or an allied chazaka - ie that a woman would rather have a bad marriage than none at all - was limited to a specific era, and that the world today has changed that fundamentally. i am not interested in getting into the whole annulment debate again, but RYSB ztl attacked this claim, and said chazakot of Chazal were everlasting and we cannot change them etc etc.

    So whether or not one agrees with the Rackman court, it seems his assertion about times having changed are at least true in themselves.

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  17. This isn't the source I was remembering, but I looked quickly and the Gemara itself says that Dovid was not permitted to divorce any of his wives (Sanhedrin 22a) and see Chidushei HaRan there.

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  18. The gemara in Sanhedrim discussing limits on royal wives mentions that Dovid Hamelech couldn't marry Avishag because he had his quota of 18. One of the prominent Acharonim (I seem to recall Chassam Sofer, but I may be misremembering as it has been several years) wonders why he just didn't divorce one, and points out that this is proof that, while a get takes effect without the da'at of the wife, it is an issur d'oraita to divorce one's wife against her will. According to this shita, Rabbeinu Gershom's cherem is to enforce an existing prohibition, not create a new one. I have forgotten how he dealt with the gemara about him being able to divorce even if just found someone better.

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  19. The fact that a husband is to take care of his wife's physical and material needs is not the question. I am asking where it says that the husband has to do things to promote endearment and intimacy with his wife in the same way she is encouraged to do so with him.





    There is a dispute regarding the chazaka of whether women always prefer marriage. However Rav Solveitchik had no problem saying other instances of chazaka have changed. I believe he relied on a statement by Rav Hirsch that regarding marriage it does not change. Rackman had other problems besides this question of chazaka which posuled his approach.

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  20. I generally agree with Moe's approach. To answer your question - does a man have some responsibility to endear himself to her - perhaps on example is the requirement to buy his wife new clothes for Yom Tov.

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  21. I see we have reached an impasse, as we do not have the same methods of reading comprehension. If your translation of "love his wife as himself" is "don't be nasty to her," I don't think we are speaking the same language. (By the way, there is a Gemara that says that an amora was punished with death for causing her momentary anguish).

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  22. Note that no jewish eshet chayil I know of wahses her husband's hand and feet, although it is written in the shulhan aruch. Similarly no jewish wife today does spinning or weaving, although the mishna notes that those are part of the seven indispensable mitzvoth of wives.

    So what do we learn from that? That some things do become obsolete, even when they are in shulhan aruch or even mishna. The times they are a-changing.

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  23. @Yehoshua - strange you give as an example of 'love his wife as himself" as not to cause anguish and yet you criticize me for saying it means not to be nasty! Please cite sources which says that "loving his wife as himself means endearment or intimacy and rather than being a warning not to be nasty. Please re read what you have written.

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  24. @The talmid - that is included under honoring her - that her material standard of living should be appropriate to his wealth - it is not an emotional issue. If you can find a source that says otherwise I would like to see it.

    My point is that the wife is encouraged to promote a positive close emotional relationship with the husband while the husband is told not to be nasty to her, not to cause her anguish, to buy her clothers, not to cause her too much fear of him etc etc.

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  25. My last try: A Jew is not allowed to "be nasty" to any other Jew, even his mother-in-law. When Chazal instruct/praise the behavior of one who loves his wife as himself, this is obviously stating that a husband should treat his wife in a manner beyond how he must treat other Jews.

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  26. @Yehoshua - your approach is simply to use it as a springboard for your preconceived ideas. If the words mean what you say than I am sure you can find a statement in Chazal, Rishonim, and Achronim that say such a thing.

    The gemora says if he loves his wife as himself he will have shalom bayis. Please tell me the parameters of this love. If you want to say it is the same as "loving others as yourself" then you simply have to show me sources that says that it means one should encourage a close emotional relationship with others.

    So far you have brought zero sources. In addition even your statement that he should treat his wife beyond how he treats others says nothing about endearment and intimacy.

    Thus contrary to your assertions - you have presented no sources to explain why there is a significant disparity in what the husband and wife are supposed to do regarding their relationship.

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  27. Isn't intimacy precisely what the husband has to deliver for his wife?

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  28. @Eddie - you need to be clearer. The wife is supposed to do acts everyday to promote a close relationship with her husband. Where does it say there the husband is supposed to act this way? Regarding sexual intercourse it says he is to placate her - which can be done by lying.

    But so far no one has shown that on a daily basis - outside of the bedroom - the husband is supposed to work on developing a close relationship with his wife.

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  29. The clear reason is that the Torah says והוא ימשול בך which means that a wife will naturally try to gain her husbands recognition and admiration.

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  30. "Regarding sexual intercourse it says he is to placate her - which can be done by lying."



    What do you mean by this?

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  31. @Shalom - if she naturally tries to endear herself to her husband then why does the gemora state it explicitly? Since the husband doesn't do this natturally - why is there no statement to do it? This is my question

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  32. Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 25:2): A man should not have sex with his wife unless she is willing. If she is not willing he should placate her until she is willing. …

    Eruvin (100b):R. Johanan observed: If the Torah had not been given we could have learnt modesty from the cat, honesty50 from the ant, chastity51 from the dove, and good manners from the cock who first coaxes and then mates. And how52 does he coax his mate? — Rab Judah citing Rab replied. He tells her this: ‘I will buy you a cloak that win reach to your feet’.53 After the event he tells her,54 ‘May the cat55 tear off my56 crest if I have57 any money and do not buy you one’.

    Netziv (Eiruvin 100b): Etiquette can be learned from a rooster – We learn the normal psychology that coaxing women is only with clothing as is stated in Pesachim (109a): “How are the women of Babylonia made happy? With colored clothing.” We also learn that it is permitted to deceive her and to promise orally but in his heart he knows he will not keep it. Similar to this is the words of our Sages that it is permitted to be falsely flatter ones wife. (Look at Orchos Tzadikim).

    Kesubos (17a): Our Rabbis taught: How does one dance before the bride? Beis Shammai said the bride should be praised according to what qualities she has. Beis Hillel said one should always say that she is a beautiful and graceful bride. Beis Shammai asked, “But if she is lame or blind, how could you say that she is a beautiful and graceful bride when Shemos (23:7) says not to lie?” Beis Hillel responded to Beis Shammai, “According to you words what if someone made a bad purchase in the market would you praise it or ridicule it. Surely you would praise his purchase.” From this our Sages said that a person should always be pleasant with other people.

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  33. @Quetch-on - is this something you just realized? Or are you trying to say that if there is change that means that anything can change?

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  34. I don't know if wives not doing the above is so much a change in law than it is a change in practice. The wives don't do it as a practical matter, and if their husband doesn't insist on it (as no modern husband does) she's not required to do it if her husband doesn't want it done. But the law itself didn't change in this regard and no halachic sources I know of indicate this law has been "repealed" or otherwise is inapplicable if the husband insisted on it.

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  35. Since it is her nature, the Gemara tells how she is supposed to do it to please him. A man is told how to respond to it and reciprocate. A woman is not told to make pleasure for the man, rather the man is told how to give the wife pleasure unlike an Am Haaretz who is דורס וכו, even though it is in the man's nature.
    Man's nature is to give and a woman's to recieve.

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  36. milhouse trabajoMarch 8, 2015 at 4:08 AM

    You are looking at old sources, that came at the relationship from the obvious perspective that women were in the weaker position with no alternative, so they better endear themselves (not necessarily a mitzvah (what would source be?) but an eitzah tovah). A man back in the day need not appease his wife, as her alternative was starvation or perhaps dangerous prostitution. But today of course we need to alter our approach, since single women can do so much better now, and it is an alternative.

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