Friday, June 29, 2012

Not to call wife by her name?

The following are sources which deal with the fact that a wife's name is often not used by her husband [ and also a husband's name is not used by the wife]. Various reasons are given from 1) the wife is the foundation of the home and thus it is a praise to refer to her as "my home" 2) A wife belongs in the home and not outside  so saying "my home" is a reminder of her place 3) It is a lack of modesty to for spouses to use first names - especially before others 4) It is a way of preventing the children from calling their parents by their first names. 5) Rav Yosse's wife was bad so he didn't want to mention that she was his wife. 6) Wife should not use husband's name out of respect for his authority while husband may use her name. 7) This is done to praise and motivate the wife to do her housework 8) this practice applied only to Rabbi Yosse because the wife was a yevama and he was establishing a house for his brother.
Shabbos(118b): R’ Yossi said, I have never called my wife “my wife” or my ox “my ox”, but rather I called my wife “my home” and my ox “ I called “my field.”

Rashi(Gittin 52a): I called my wife my home – that is because all the necessities of the home are done through her and thus she is the main entity of the home. Similarly the ox is the main part of the field.

Meiri(Shabbos 118b): A person should always  use refined language. An example is that one talmid chachom said, “I nevr call my wife “my wife” nor my ox “my ox”. Rather I call my wife “my home” and my ox “my field.”

Megila(13a): And with the death of her father and mother, Mordechai took her as his own daughter. A Tanna taught in the name of R’ Meir, Don’t read for a daughter (l’bas) but for a house (l’bayis). Similarly it says (Shmuel 2 12:3), And  the poor  man had nothing  except one lamb which he had bought and raised together with him and his children. From his own bread it ate and it drank out of his own cup and it lay in his bosom and it was like a daughter to him. But why did lying in his bosom make it like a daughter (bas) to him? Rather what is meant it was like a wife (bayis) so here also it means a wife (bayis).

Maharasha(Megila 13a): Don’t read it that Mordechai took Esther as a daughter but rather for his home... In other word he tooks her for his wife as they say in general (Shabbos 118b), “I  called my wife my home.”

Shabbos shel Mi(Shabbos 118b): I have never called my wife “my wife” or my ox “my ox” but I called by wife “my home” and my ox I called “my field.” Rashi explains that he was saying that, “even from my mundane talk one can learn wisdom.” The Maharal asks in Chidushei Agados, how can he rejoice and praise himself in the manner? He give an alternative explanation that he was attempting to motivate his wife and his slaves in doing their jobs.

Daf ahl Daf(Shabbos 118b): ... The reason why he always referred to his wife  as “my home” is because all the honor of the woman is to be inside (Tehilim 45) and it is not the manner for a woman to go out of the house. Therefore she is the principle member of the home and that is why he called her “my home.”

Daf ahl Daf(Berachos 27b): In Minhag Yisroel Torah (O.C. 240:1) he notes that the Minhagei Maharil states, “That when Mahari Segel spoke about his wife with other he would say in German, ‘Mein hoiz frau’ (my house wife) as we see in Shabbos (118b) that he never called his wife ‘my wife’ but rather said ‘my home’). Rashi there says it was because she was the principle member of the home. When he would call her he would say in German ‘hert ihr nit’, which is the accepted practice in the world that husband and wife don’t mention their spouses name.”  This that the  Maharil did not say “my wife” when speaking in the presence of others or use her name, see Magid Ta’aluma, “Regarding Berachos (27b) where R’ Eliezar ben Azarya said, ‘I will go and consult with the members of my household’ and he went and consulted with his wife. This informs us that it is not correct to mention his wife’s name before others and therefore he referred to as “my household” when he meant his wife.” However this that the Maharil was careful not to call his wife at all by her name, see Redak (Lech Lecha) who notes the change in description. For Avraham it says, Your name will no longer be called Avraham while for Sarah it says, “You should no longer call her name Sarai.” That is because a man calls his wife by her name but the wife doesn’t call her husband by his name but rather in a respectful manner that reflects authority. (See Toldos Kol Aryeh who brings many sources for this).

Daf ahl Daf(Gittin 52a): Maharam Shif explains that it was specifically R’ Yosse who did call his wife “my wife” because she was a bad woman as it mentioned  in Bereishis Rabba (17:3), I will make for him a help-mate  - If he merits she will be a helper and if not she will be against him. Rabbi Yehoshua said that if he merits to have a wife like the wife of Rabbi Chanina but if not he will have a wife like Rabbi Yosse. We thus see that Rabbi Yosse had a bad wife.
However the Netzutzei Ohr expresses surprise at his words since the one who says that he didn’t call his wife “my wife” was Rabbi Yosse bar Chalafta who is cited in Rus Rabba (2:8). However the Rabbi Yosse who had a bad wife was Rabbi Yosse haGalili. Therefore the Netzutzei Ohr gives a different explanation as to why Rabbi Yosse called his wife “my home.” This is based on Shabbos (118b), Rabbi Yosse said that he had sexual intercourse five times and he planted 5 cedars in Israel. He cites Tosfos in the name of the Yerushalmi that these were Yevamos and therefore he called them “my home” since with each one he established the house of his brother [and he only had intercourse once with each of them – Tosfos]


  1. gershon george wynschenkJune 29, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    it sounds very cold

  2. So drink a cup of hot tea. Your definition of coldness differs with the Torah's definition.

  3. Whats about calling your friend's wife by her first name or a co-worker etc?

  4. I don't see that these sources are saying not to call one's wife by her name (aside from the Daf al Daf, and I must admit my ignorance in not knowing who that is).

    And Sam, as for your comment, besides being unnecessarily curt, doesn't make much sense in human terms. People feel warmth and closeness in different ways. If a person doesn't mind not being called by name, that's fine. If someone feels that is cold and distant, that is his/her prerogative. The Torah does not command us how to feel and express love. That is a personal preference (or perhaps need).

    I think if a family wants to take on this approach, that is their prerogative. I regret that this surely leads to instances of families who DON'T like this approach but who are bound to it by community norms.

  5. R' Chaim Brisker wasn't concerned to sign the wedding invitations of his children with

    "Chaim and Lipshe Soloveitchik"

    He obviously wasn't as "frum" as those of us who sign ורעיתו

    1. That's not true. His wifes first name wasn't on the invitation.

    2. Rav Chayyim's wife's name DOES indeed appear on the wedding invitation for his son, Moshe's, wedding. A copy of the invitation can be seen in the photo section of The Soloveitchik Heritage, written by his granddaughter.


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