Friday, February 1, 2013

Gittin (90a): What is pritzus for wife - Different views

Gittin (90a): It was taught: Rabbi Meir used to say, Just as there are different views regarding food so there are regarding treatment of their wives. For example there are men that if a fly fell into their cup there would remove the fly but not drink from it. This was the attitude of Papus ben Yehudah who used to lock his wife in the house before leaving it. There are other men that if a fly fell into their cup they would remove the fly and then drink from the cup. This is the normal attitude of most men who do not mind if their wife talks with her brothers and relatives. However there are men that if a fly fell in their soup would squash it and eat it. This is the conduct of an evil man [who is not bothered] when he sees his wife go out with her hair unfastened and weave cloth in public with her with her armpits uncovered and bathe with men. Does she literally bathe with men? [No!] Rather it means that she bathes in the same place as the men. If she acts in this manner then it is a mitzva from the Torah to divorce her as Devarim (24:1) says, And he found something disgusting about her (ervas davar) and he divorces her and sends her from his house and she marries another man.

Rashi (Gittin 90a): Just as there are different attitudes towards food - people have different attitudes in their sensitivity to food and drink. There are people who are delicate and are disgusted with their food because of some very minor issue and there are others who are not so delicate. There are also those who aren’t bothered by any disgusting thing that happens to their food. In a similar manner we find differences of attitudes towards the lack of modesty in one’s wife.. There are those who do not tolerate the slightest degree of immodesty (pritzus) and there are those who are not so strict while others are not concerned with her immodesty at all. Papus ben Yehuda, the husband of Miriam Magdela, when he left his house he would lock her in the house so that she would not speak to any man. This attitude is not acceptable as we see that it caused hatred between them and she ended up committing adultery.


  1. Is this Miriam Magdela the same as Jesus' disciple? What does the gemora say Miriam's punishment for adultery was - execution?

  2. Does anyone connect this Miriam Magdele with Jesus?

  3. It's nice to see a source acknowledging that there is such a thing as an unacceptable level of restrictions being placed on a woman for the sake of preventing pritzut.

  4. It is really not clear who the Mary Magdalene is. There is much speculation but nothing definitive. It also seems from the Talmudic literature there were two people who lived at different historical periods who were called Jesus.

  5. Rabbi E., could you please share with us your understanding about the applicability of this Gemara in modern times, to how an erlecheh husband should relate to his wife who goes "off the derech", Rachmana litzlan? I am personally in a situation in which my wife has declared she no longer believes and has stopped keeping Hilchos Tznius, Rachmana litzlan (along with Shabbos and kashrus).

    I am very, very distressed that my wife dresses not tznius. I have protested, but to no avail. I am trying to be mekareiv her and I am constantly davvening that she do Teshuvah, along with trying to improve myself, with Hashem's help. I still love her, and I don't want to lose her and destroy my family over it (we have three children, boruch Hashem).

    I have seen this quote from Chazal and others like it in other Gemaros and in sifrei Halacha. I have spoken to Rabbonim, and they certainly didn't respond in the spirit of this Gemara. This Gemara implies that if the husband does not divorce his wife, that necessarily means that he does not care about her behavior. Is that applicable in modern times?

    1. I am sorry to hear that you have a very unpleasant situtation. While a blog is not the best place to solve personal problem, I think this unfortunately is relevant to others and it would be worthwhile exploring the options and alternatives.

      Would you write up a guest post - obviously concealing identifying information - so that the principles and conflicts that you have experienced can be discussed? It would be helpful if you wife's viewpoint could be conveyed also

    2. Sruli: nowadays a husband is not able to divorce his wife against her will (which was not the case in the time of the gemara), so it would seem that there need not be any presumption of the husband's not caring.

  6. @Sruli,

    This is not legal advice and I'm not a lawyer, but I know the following from speaking to many divorced Jewish men.

    I suggest that you exercise extreme caution before initiating any divorce actions in civil courts.

    You should know that many of the family courts are heavily biased in favor of women. Many Orthodox Jewish men have been sued by their wives in family courts and are in desperate situations, their assets consumed by lawyers and seized by the Court, while they're unable to see their children.

    In many cases the family courts will grant custody of younger children (below teenage) to the mother. The fact that she does not observe halacha may make no difference to the judge, instead he may just order her to keep the children in Jewish schools. If your wife gets custody of your children, not only may they drop observance of halacha, but they may also be heavily alienated against you by your ex who might convince them you're a religious fanatic.

    Once your case enters the civil court system, your ex might get an "Order of Protection" banning you from any contact with your children, with criminal penalties imposed for violation, after a one minute kangaroo court trial in front of a feminist judge.

    It may make no difference how good of a lawyer you have. If a lawyer tells you he can get custody for you, ask him how many fathers did he represent who were granted custody? How many fathers were granted custody by your judge? Ask the lawyer if he's aware of any statutes or appellate decisions that favor granting custody to a father in your situation.

    If you case enters civil court, many feminist rabbis may focus on convincing you to give a Get ASAP to help the poor "agunah". I suggest you ignore any "rabbi" who focuses on the Get and not the welfare of your children.

  7. Rabbi E.: I raised my personal situation because I want to understand the peshat in the Gemara. If you could please elaborate on your understanding of it in light of my question and various other relevant sources, I would greatly appreciate that. As for your request for a guest post, I will bli neder write something up for you.

    Dlz.: That is an interesting chiluk, but it would not apply in my case, because if I would tell my wife that I wanted a divorce, she would, I think, agree.

    EmesLeYaacov: As I wrote, I am doing everything I can, or at least a great deal, to keep my marriage and family together, and with Hashem's help I believe, and my experience has shown, that I can maintain it. I am not considering divorcing my wife at this point. I do, however, want to understand what this Gemara means, because I want to follow Torah. As for your advice, although I was aware of this problem already, it is appreciated and duly noted.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.