Sunday, July 16, 2023

Igros Moshe: The statement found in Rashi (Menachos 43b) that a wife is a slave to her husband is nonsense

Igros Moshe[1](O.C. 6 5.2): [Menachos 43b  It was taught: R. Judah used to say, A man is bound to say the following three blessings daily: who has made me a Jew’, ‘. . . . who has not made me a woman’; and ‘ . . . who has not made me a brutish man’. R. Acha b. Yacov once overhead his son saying the blessing … who hast not made me a brutish man’, whereupon he said to him, ‘And this too!’ Said the other, ‘Then what blessing should I say instead?’ [He replied,] . . . who hast not made me a slave’. And is not that the same as a woman?[Rashi explains because in terms of the obligation of doing mitzvos – a woman and a slave are equal]— A slave is more degraded.]  Look at Rashi (Menachos 43b) who explains in his first explanation to the question of saying a beracha “who has not made me a slave” is the same saying “who has not made me a woman", that “the wife is also a slave to her husband as a slave is to his master.” If I weren't afraid I would say that it is necessary to erase the first explanation of Rashi. Because G-d forbid for Rashi to say this ridiculous statement. That is because according to the Torah there is no obligation for the wife to do anything for the husband except for having normal marital relations. And even in regard to intercourse, he is in fact more obligated to her because he also has a negative Torah commandment not to deprive her of sexual satisfaction. In fact it is only a decree of the Sages that requires that her work belongs to her husband. Corresponding to this requirement to work for him, he is required to feed her. But the only work she is obligated to do is house work and not to work in the field. She also has some obligation regarding wool - which is an easy job that women typically do. See Shulchan Aruch EH simon 80. Her meals are his obligation since she should not have it any worse than her family and his family and certainly not less than what she typically eats.   Similarly he is obligated to provide her clothing according to what the women of that city typically get as well as according to the standard of his and her family. That is because she is to go up in her standard of living with him and not go down. In addition he is obligated to honor her and he cannot leave the house without her permission except to go to his job that is known to her. In fact we see from all this the opposite of her being his slave. He is obligated to do all the work to earn a living as is stated in the Kesubah. Even if it means hiring himself out according to Tosfos (Kesubos 63). Thus we see that the husband is more of a slave to her then she is to him. This Rashi requires further study (tzorech iyun gadol).

[1] אגרות משה (אורח חיים ו:ב.ה):  מעיר על מה שפירש רש"י שאשה שפחה לבעלה כעבד
[ועיין ברש"י [מנחות מג:] שפירש בפירוש ראשון על הקושיא היינו אשה, דאשה נמי שפחה לבעלה כעבד לרבו. ולולא דמסתפינא הייתי אומר שצריך למחקו דח"ו לרש"י לומר דברי הבל כזה, דמן התורה הא ליכא שום שעבוד על האשה לבעלה חוץ מתשמיש, ולענין תשמיש הוא משועבד לה יותר דהא עליו איכא גם איסור לאו, ורבנן שתיקנו שמעשה ידיה לבעלה הא כנגד זה חייב במזונות ואינה מחוייבת לעשות רק עניני הבית ולא עבודת שדה ומעט עשיה בצמר שהיא מלאכה קלה ממלאכות שדרכן של בנות העיר בזה, עיין בש"ע אהע"ז ריש סי' פ', והמזונות מחוייב שלא לגרוע מכפי דרך משפחתה ודרך משפחתו ובכל אופן לא פחות מכפי שהוא אוכל, וכן שמחוייב בכסות לפי מנהג בנות העיר ולפי דרך המשפחות שלו ושלה דעולה עמו ואינה יורדת עמו ומחוייב לכבדה ואינו יכול לילך מביתו בלא רשותה רק למלאכתו הידוע לה, והבעל אדרבה מחוייב לעשות כל המלאכות שצריך האדם לפרנסה כלשון שתיקנו לכתוב בכתובה, ואף להשכיר עצמו סברי התוס' בשם ר' אליהו בכתובות דף ס"ג ד"ה באומר שהוא מחוייב, ונמצא שאדרבה הוא יותר עבד לה מכפי שהיא שפחתו וצע"ג].

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