Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
For The Jewish Husband





















Whenever a Torah sage is referred to with a phrase instead of his actual name, it is either the title of his most famous book, the initials of his name, or a reference to a key attribute. "Chazon Ish" means, "the image of man;" in other words, one who was such a tzadik and scholar that he is the model of what a human being should be. This appellation was appropriately applied to a paragon of Torah and saintliness in a recent generation, who wrote a major work of Torah scholarship which he titled, "Chazon Ish." The name became popularly applied to Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (1878-1953).

The Chazon Ish wrote to an engaged young man, "Pay attention every moment to the fact that a wife has pleasure from being attractive in her husband's eyes. Her eyes are always looking to him and she always hopes that she is adored by her husband. She needs to be praised for her cooking the meals which she serves and she brings to him every single day. If she hangs a picture on the wall or places a plant on the table, she does all this for him and he is obligated to see and to recognize good on every such occasion. He must speak to her about matters of the house and of the children. All the time that he does not pay attention to her, to the matters of the house, to her work and to her efforts and to her burdens, even if in things that he considers to be small things, over the course of time, he is going to distance her from him, and separate them apart from one another, and this will lead, more and more, to fighting, Heaven forbid."

While household things seem small in a man's eyes, they are life itself to a wife. The husband has to see and to recognize (the Chazon Ish makes a point to use double language: "see + recognize") these things and her efforts regarding them. He has to understand the woman's mind and needs. He has to constantly be diligent and sensitively responsive to his wife, her efforts and burdens, her appearance and that of the house, her handling of the children. Whenever the husband does not abide by this, the wife cannot feel fulfilled, at peace, loved, respected or appreciated. She will feel put-off and upset.

The Chazon Ish is making a central point. Whereas a man may not be able to comprehend, if he lived to be a million, a flower pot to be a big deal, the wife puts her heart into seeking an environment that he will approve of, that she is responsible for and THAT SHE WILL BE LOVED FOR. It's never the flower pot. Her heart is on the line. He's understanding his wife's heart, hopefully to love her heart with his. The Jewish home is for the perpetual practice of chesed (active lovingkindness). The world is for the perpetual practice of chesed. "The world is built by active kindness [Olam chesed yibonay," Psalm 89:3]. The family is the building block of society. How central to life is practicing chesed with one's spouse and children! A wife's happiness can live or die from her husband's treatment.

The Chazon Ish wrote that it is obligatory for a husband to make his wife happy constantly, to show love, closeness and endearment. When Pirkei Avos says, "Do not speak too much to a woman, including one's wife," this is only for non-necessities or for that which is frivolous. "Do not speak...wife" DOES NOT APPLY AT ALL DURING THE FIRST YEAR OF MARRIAGE, when the relationship is solidifying; and this ALSO DOES NOT APPLY in any case that results in his diminishing of kavod (honor, respect), closeness, derech eretz (civil, polite or thoughtful behavior), unity, gentleness or peacefulness with his wife.

He must speak with her about all needs of life, of the home and of the children. When he goes out he must tell his wife when he is leaving, say where he is going, when he plans to be back and, when he comes back, he must say what he did, whether for big or small things. The Chazon Ish teaches that these things convey concern, value, attachment, importance and respect to her. If he goes away on a journey, he must, every day, phone or write her a letter; and bring her gifts from the places that he visited. If he deprives her in any such ways, she will feel bad and "drive him crazy" about it "for seven years," meaning to say, for a long, long time.



A MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE AND NOT FOR PAIN. This Chazal (Kesubos 61a) makes it clear: if it hurts, it is not the Torah's idea of a marriage! Marriage is for home, children, family, refuge from the world, mutual support and concern. Marriage partners, by definition, are instruments: for each other's happiness and well-being and for the achievement of each one's purpose, goals, potentials and spiritual perfection. This gemora also says that a wife should raise her man up and be responsible for her duties. A practical message here is that a woman should never nag, criticize or "put down" her husband; or she'll alienate his affection. She should constructively bring out his potentials.

Tractate Pesachim (113a) says that a man should flay carcasses in the market place (hard, foul-smelling work) and earn honest wages rather than say, "I am an honored and great man and this work is beneath my dignity." No one is degraded by honest work. It is a mitzva to work to support a wife and children (Shulchan Aruch, Evven HaEzzer, chapters 69-74) in an honest, self-sufficient manner (exceptions do exist e.g. the husband is a Torah scholar who deserves to be supported while he studies, or the wife came into the marriage independently wealthy, or he has been debilitated by illness or injury - take practical questions to an experienced orthodox rabbi).

Tractate Sota (17a) Rabbi Akiva explained that when a husband and wife are worthy, the Divine Presence dwells with them and when they are not worthy, fire burns them. Rava said that when the fire is caused by the woman, it is worse, comes faster and is more punitive than the fire caused by the man. This is learned by the fact that the first two letters of the word isha (wife) form the word aish (fire) whereas the first two letters of the word ish (husband) do NOT form the word aish [there is a letter "yod" in-between which means that ish is further away from aish; i.e. a woman's ability to embitter a marriage is greater than a man's, e.g. if the man neglects or disrespects her].

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter eleven) teaches that "He who hates his wife is one who murders."

Derech Eretz Zuta says, "Be humble and beloved to all, and even moreso to your own household" (chapter three). "A house with dissention is destroyed" (chapter nine).

Tractate Taanis says, "It is obligatory that each Jew constantly train his personality to be gentle, as it says [Ecclesiastes 11:10], 'Remove anger from your heart' (4a)." This cryptic and fundamental Chazal tells us that 1. anger and gentleness are opposite ends of a "midos spectrum," 2. conquering anger, and getting to a full-time gentle temperament, is a lifelong constant task, 3. it is normal to expect that one must work hard on removing anger and becoming gentle and 4. this is a full-time obligation. This is especially so in marriage, where people are close and live with each other daily. Rabbi Ada Bar Ahava was asked by his students to what he attributed an extraordinarily long life. He answered, "I was never stern within my house (20b)."



Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) writes (Hilchos Ishus, chapter 19) that a husband must never frighten a wife, must always speak gently with her, and never be depressed or excited with her. He must always respond to her when she speaks to him. He must spend for jewelry and clothing for her, especially for yom tov (holidays). The more wealthy he gets, the more he should spend on her.

Madrich LeChasonim writes that for a husband to fulfill, "Love your neighbor as yourself," with a wife, he must feel love for her under all circumstances literally as he feels for himself. He must feel all her inner feelings as deeply as she feels them, he must share her pains and joys, and carry this as a yoke. The couple is obligated to join their daily lives together. Other than violation of another person's privacy, they should openly and closely communicate. This builds the relationship, warmth and their bond. They bring their unique, albeit different, contributions together.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger was a very busy man. In a letter, he wrote that after a full and hard work day, he would make a point to speak to his wife until midnight each night. They would discuss Torah philosophy and observance. He considered her opinions, regarded her with dignity, attributed importance to her input. He appreciated her character and intellect. He also, in that letter, praised her for shielding him from monetary worries, allowing him to engage in Torah scholarship. (The letters of Rabbi Akiva Eiger.)

In "Igerress HaKodesh (Holy Letter, on marriage, attributed to Ramban, Rabbi Moshe Nachmanides)," we see something beautiful about marriage: Great is the husband's obligation to nurture the relationship of love and of closeness between a husband and his wife, every day, every year, in every circumstance, in every attitudinal environment, until the end of his life.



Tractate Chulin (58b) has an agadata (allegorical story). "For seven years a female mosquito quarrelled with her ["husband"] mosquito. She said to him, 'I once saw a human being from Mechuza [a town whose people enjoyed swimming] bathing in water. When he came out, he wrapped himself in a sheet. You came and settled down upon him and sucked out blood and you didn't let me know!'"

We see from this agadata that a husband must share the pleasures of life with his wife. He must not keep or sneak them for himself and not hide from his wife what he does with his time. The Chazon Ish, possibly learning it from here, said that a husband must let his wife know when he's leaving, where he's going, what he is going to be doing and when he is going to be back. If he goes away on a journey, he must, every day, phone or write her a letter; and bring her gifts from the places that he visited. If he deprives her in any such ways, she will feel bad and "drive him crazy" about it "for seven years," meaning to say, for a long time.

Several years ago, a rabbi I am acquainted with, arrived at his wedding day. His grandfather was in his late eighties and had been married sixty years. His grandfather pulled him aside before the ceremony and spoke as follows.

When his wife had become a nida, when they were physically forbidden to each other, he would buy her flowers for shabos. He, also specifically then, bought her presents and gave her compliments for her cooking or for things which she did. When she came home from the mikva, he took his wife out on a "date," to spend time with her, so that she would feel that he had a complete, not a physical, interest in her, and that his love for her was unconditional.

He made a point, throughout their relationship, no matter how busy or tense or difficult life ever was, to regularly spend quality time with her.

He would talk to her about his life, Torah learning, decisions, activities, about what was going on his life. Through this he created the sense in her that he is truly sharing his life with her and that she should constantly feel involved in his life. Through these actions he kept showing to her that she is an unmistakably important part of his life. He kept showing that HER BEING IMPORTANT WAS IMPORTANT TO HIM.

However, he was always making sure never to unnecessarily burden or trouble or worry her. He would only tell her his problems when she could, as a practical matter, help him or encourage him. If it were something negative, he would only tell her when there was a benefit to be derived from the telling. He would share what was going on so that she would feel she was important and involved in his life. He was steadily showing that she was valuable in his mind and heart.

When they had a difference, they approached each other as if the other were sage counsel with a wise and weighty opinion to be seriously considered. They consistently discussed differences with gentleness, adaptability, open communication, respect and calm. They would always together work out a resolution that was peaceful, amicable and mutually agreeable.

The point of all of this is that this couple (i.e. the grandparents of the rabbi) NEVER ONCE had a single fight in their entire 60-year long marriage. The grandfather was beckoning to his grandson to conduct the marriage that he was on the verge of entering into in the same "kavod-rich" way, and so that the grandson would enjoy the same blessing of nonstop peace as a result.

Normally flattery is considered a sin. Orchos Tzadikim writes that a husband may flatter a wife for marital peace. He should speak gently, appealingly and appeasingly to his wife, to make her happy and comfortable.

Pirkei DeRebbi Eliezer (chapter 13) says that G-d put His name between husband and wife: He put the letters "yod" and "heh" (which form a name of G-d) into the names for "ish" and "ishah" (Hebrew for "man" and "woman"). G-d said: If the couple will go in My ways and observe My laws, then My name is between them and this will save them from all trouble and anguish. If they will not go in My ways and observe My laws, then, when I am taken out of their marriage, they take the "yod" out of "Ish" and the "heh" out of "ishaH" and that leaves them with only "alef" and "shin" which spell "aish [fire]" and that fire will consume them.



"The man who loves his wife as much as himself and who gives her more kavod than to the person referred to by the verse (Job 5:24), 'And you will know for certain that your home is peace' (Yevamos 62b)." Here we see the Talmudic source for the imperative for a man to honor his wife enormously WITH THIS BEING DIRECTLY TIED TO THE LEVEL OF PEACE THAT WILL EXIST IN THEIR HOME. The pattern of kavod starts with the man giving kavod to his wife. When she feels secure that he respects her, the nature of the (normal! - we must specify "normal" these days!) Jewish wife is that she will give kavod back willingly.

King Dovid wrote, "Turn from bad and do good (Psalm 34)." First we clear away what is bad and then we are able to pursue pure good. Accordingly, the first step in producing a happy wife is: not producing an unhappy wife. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 59a & b) brings several relevant marriage teachings.

"Rav said, 'A man must always be careful with the paining of his wife. Because her tears come readily, her pain comes quickly.' Said Rabbi Elazar, 'Since the destruction of the Holy Temple, the gates of prayer [in Heaven, where the prayers of an individual, who prays without a minyan, have to pass] are shut, but the gates of tears are not shut.' [Since a woman doesn't pray with a minyan, her prayers are heard if they are said with a sincere heart OR WITH TEARS; a man who prays without a minyan may or may not be heard - it is up to Heaven each time; men who pray with a minyan are heard by Heaven.]

"Rav also said, 'A man who acts upon his wife's advice will fall'...Rabbi Papo expressed objection to [his colleague] Abayei, saying, 'Everyone says that if your wife is short, bend down and listen to her whisper [go out of your way to obtain and act upon the advice of your wife - a seeming contradiction with the authoritative Rav].' It is no contradiction [each has a specific domain of leadership]. He is the leader in religious matters, she is leader in household matters [i.e. where her knowledge or intuition is stronger, he should listen].'

"Rabbi Hisda said, 'All the gates [in Heaven] are shut except the gates of [prayers arising from] pained feelings'...Rabbi Elazar said, 'All punishments come through an intermediary, but punishment for causing pained feelings comes directly and rapidly from G-d.'

"Rabbi Yehuda said, 'A man must always be careful that there be food in his house, for over matters of food a fight is guaranteed to come.'

Rabbi Helbo said, 'A man must be always careful with his wife's honor because blessing is found in his home only because of his wife, as the Torah says [Genesis 12], "And [G-d] gave good to Avraham because of her [Sara, his wife]." And accordingly Rava said to the men of the town of Mehuza, 'Treat your wives as precious because this is prerequisite to becoming wealthy.'

Many other sources in Chazal teach us how not to mistreat a spouse.

Tractate Shabos (62b) says that a man must never give a wife cause to curse him, for a justifiable curse (e.g. not spending on her in accordance with his means) can bring poverty.

Tractate Nida 31b says that a man can be appeased, a woman cannot be appeased. Watch out for the feelings of a wife! Be very careful for her sensitivities and emotions. Even if a man tries to appease his wife after he has hurt her, some of the pain will continue to stab her and stay within her. Once a husband has put that impression, that sting and that insecurity into the woman's emotions, they are very difficult and slow to go out of her. Never hurt or upset a wife in the first place, but if, Heaven forbid, you do, be very big and forthcoming and make amends rapidly, sincerely and fully. It's not a question of what's right and wrong or of what is reasonable. It's entirely a question of what will or won't work. Note: the wife may never use this to take advantage. The point is not for her to have a way to abuse him. The point is that there won't be abuse by anybody.



In the previous segment we studied Chazals on how to not mistreat a wife. In this installment we proceed with how to treat her properly.

Kidushin (34b) says, "It is a man's obligation to make his wife happy."

Rosh Hashanah 6b says, "A good husband is a wife's happiness."

Midrash Beraishis Raba teaches how a husband should take care of a wife. The Torah writes (Genesis 12:8) that Avraham prioritized his wife before himself. Avraham traveled and pitched "oheloH (his tent)." In Hebrew, the suffix "H" makes a noun possessive in the feminine gender (i.e "her" object). The masculine possessive comes with the vowel "O" as a suffix (i.e. "his" object). The Torah in Genesis 12:8 uses the strange combination of vowel "O" and the consonant "H" with the noun "ohel (tent)." The translation of the text as spoken is "his tent," and the translation of the text as written is "her tent." So what is the meaning of the Torah's placing of this unusual "O" and "H" together? The midrash explains that Avraham first pitched the tent of Sara, his wife, before he pitched his own. We see this because the "H" is a consonant which is more dominant in Hebrew grammar than a vowel ("O"). The Torah is teaching us that whenever a husband needs to do something for himself and his wife, HE MUST TAKE CARE OF HIS WIFE'S NEEDS FIRST. This will apply to all forms of help, respect, kindness and consideration for his wife.

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter four) says, "One should always be pleasant when entering and leaving" (especially his own house).

Tractate Chulin (84b) says that a man should eat and drink less than in accordance with what he can afford, dress himself in accordance with what he can afford, and he should honor his wife and children more than in accordance with what he can afford. The wife and children are dependent on the husband, and the husband is dependent on the One Who Spoke And The World Was Created.

Tractate Chulin (89a) says that the world is kept in existence in the merit of the one who keeps restrained at the time when a fight the merit of the one who humbles himself.

Tractate Chulin (141a) says, "Great is peace between husband and wife."

Tractate Shabos (118b) says that Rabbi Yosi called his wife his "home," never "wife." Rashi explains that Rabbi Yosi spoke with wisdom even in his plain speech. By referring to his wife as his "home," he is adding a message that she is the essence, the central figure of their house. Madrich LeChasonim [Guide To Grooms] explains Rabbi Yosi beautifully by writing: the home is the essence of life, the wife is the essence of the home, therefore the wife is the essence of life, to the husband. It seems appropriate to add that she transforms a "building" into a "home" and into a refuge from the world, where he may have relief, fulfillment and independence.

Tractate Shabos (152a) says, short and to-the-point, "the happiness of one's heart is a wife."

Tractate Sanhedrin (76b) says that a husband should adorn his wife with attractive jewels and ornaments, to make her more respectable (this is a practical, concrete way of attributing honor to his wife). Besides giving honor, these make a woman very happy (even though men may have trouble understanding why!).

In tractate Taanis (20b), Rabbi Ada Bar Ahava was asked by his students to what he attributed an extraordinarily long life. He answered, "I was never stern within my house."

Tractate Brachos 61a says that Elisha the Prophet followed the words and advice of his wife. Even though he had the attribute of prophesy, he was able to recognize that there was merit and wisdom in his wife's words and advice.



In the previous generation, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was one of the world's leading Torah authorities. One time a visitor came over to his house to talk to the sage. All of a sudden, in the middle of the conversation, the rabbi started buttoning his coat and making it very neat. It seemed very out of context and the visitor was puzzled. Rabbi Auerbach explained, "The Talmud says that when a husband and wife dwell together in peace, the divine presence dwells with them. My wife and I dwell in such peace. Since it is time for her to be coming home, the divine presence is coming. Should I not be presentable?"

Several years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach lost his elderly wife. It is customary, when one spouse loses the other, for the survivor to ask for forgiveness in case the surviving spouse hurt the deceased. While eulogizing his wife, Rabbi Auerbach put his audience into shock by saying emphatically, as if speaking to his wife, "I do not forgive you and I do not ask you to forgive me!" Seeing that the audience was stunned, and that such a radical statement from such a scholar was entirely unexpected, he continued, "Let me explain. In 54 years of marriage, my wife never once hurt me, and I never once hurt my wife. Forgiving is not relevant when there is nothing to forgive."

When Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Torah VaDaas in Brooklyn during the early '40s, passed away, a group of his devoted disciples went to make a shiva call (a visit to comfort a mourner during the seven days of mourning) to his widow. She told the group that she was going to tell the young men how to be husbands who will make their wife happy.

The Rosh HaYeshiva was a busy man. He always made a point to have at least one meal, generally supper, every day with his wife, making it a point to talk with her on whatever she felt it necessary to talk about, for 45 minutes to an hour each day (spending what we call today "quality time").

Every evening from 8:30 to 10:45 she would go out to raise funds for poor orphans. When she came back tired each evening, she always came home to find the kitchen table set. On it were a teacup, sugar, tea, a plate with cut cake. The kettle had freshly boiled water. Each night she would protest that this service does not befit a busy, esteemed Rosh HaYeshiva. He would protest back that she was making busy rounds and that she is tired and needs refreshment. When she would go back to the bedroom to pull down the sheets, she would find, each evening, that her husband had already done the job.

A young man came to the Steipler in B'nei Brak, Israel (who was one of the leading Torah authorities in the previous generation) with a problem. He was in kollel learning full time. His wife was working to support the family and was raising the family also. The family was growing and needed more time and attention than his wife could now furnish. The wife required that the husband take a half hour a day from his learning to provide help with the children. The young man asked the Steipler which half hour in his chock-full learning schedule should he give up in order to give a half hour to his wife. The Steipler sat and patiently went through this man's schedule with him, including what he was doing in kollel and what was happening at home in the family's schedule. The Steipler went through every segment of the day and chose a half hour time that would be the greatest help to the young man's wife and children.

A Jew used to regularly beat his wife. After she no longer could take it, she disclosed her husband's habit of beating her. Word got to some chasidim of the famed Satmar Rov, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, and they met the man and brought him to the tzadik. When the Rebbi asked why the man beat his wife, the man's answer was that ever since he was a child he used to beat up his sisters. The Rebbe told the man - in no uncertain terms - that he was never to hit his wife ever again and that he had to differentiate between the behavior of a reckless, mean little child and a married adult.

When he was an elderly widower, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian ("Lev Eliyahu," 1876-1970) was a guest for dinner at the home of a certain couple. At the end of the meal, the couple had to excuse themselves for something that required them to leave the rabbi alone for several minutes. When they came back, the couple was astonished to find that the venerable and humble rabbi had, quietly and without any fanfare, washed and dried all the dishes.



The Steipler said that midos is a priority in marriage. A person can be dedicated to Torah but, when alone, this can be abstract. For example, a masmid who can't figure out a gemora may hit his shtender. Maybe, when frustrated, he will hit his wife. If he has good midos, he will be good to her in practical life, for example, to take out the garbage and care for her when she is sick.

A while after the Chafetz Chayim lost his first wife, he married again. Once when an older man, he built his sukka in a certain location behind his home. After he finished the sukka, his second wife said, "I think it would be better over there." Without a word, he agreeably took the sukka apart and rebuilt it in the other location to which she referred. Then she said, "You know, you were right the first time. It's better where it was." Again, without any grumbling, the elderly Chafetz Chayim dissembled the sukka a second time and built it again in the original place. Take a lesson from the Chafetz Chayim in honoring a wife and in shalom bayis.

[NOTE: The material in the rest of this installment (Daas Torah in Practical Married Life) is collated from the book, "Love Your Neighbor," written and copyright by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Jerusalem, and is used with his consent.]

Rabbi Naftali Amsterdam was one of the principle disciples of the famed mussar giant Rabbi Yisroel Salanter. Soon after his disciple married, Rabbi Yisroel asked, "Reb Naftali, do you do chesed?" The word chesed has both the general meaning of active lovingkindness and the more specific meaning of interest-free loan. Since it is commonly used in the latter fashion, that is how Rabbi Amsterdam understood his teacher's question.

"Rebbe, I don't have money to lend to others."

"I was not referring to chesed through money. I meant doing chesed by helping your wife in the house. You must know that marrying does not mean that you took a maid to serve you. The sages say that a wife is as himself (ishto kigufo). Marrying means you took a WIFE." (B'tuv Yerushalayim, p. 392)

Rabbi Naftali Amsterdam moved to Jerusalem in his old age. He married an elderly woman and soon after their marriage, she became quite ill. Although he was a weak man of eighty, he had to take care of her. He tended to her faithfully. He kept the house, including all cleaning and washing. He did not feel sorry for himself. Rather, he cheerfully accepted the situation and appreciated the opportunity to do chesed (active lovingkindness). (Migdolay Yerushalayim, p. 180)

Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel headed the esteemed Slobodka Yeshiva for a half a century. He taught and inspired very many disciples. One summer night Rabbi Finkel was giving a lecture to some former students before maariv (the evening prayer). It was growing late into the evening. His wife whispered quietly to him, "They have wives." Although he had not completed his ethical discourse, he stopped and said, "It is time to start maariv." One of the students replied, "Our wives won't mind."

Rabbi Finkel responded, "I'm not certain that is true. Regardless, you don't have the right to make them wait. Also, my wife is hungry by now and I don't have the right to make her wait."

Upon completing maariv, he insisted that all of the students return home immediately. (Tenuas HaMussar, vol. 3, p. 250.)

Another marriage-related story is brought in Tenuas HaMussar about Rabbi Finkel.

Rabbi Finkel once asked one of his students if he helped his wife in the house before shabos. The student replied that he did, and added that he well appreciated the importance of honoring shabos and that he knew that the Talmud relates (Shabos 119a) that even the most prominent sages performed menial tasks to prepare for shabos.

Instead of praising the student, Rabbi Finkel admonished the student for his attitude, saying, "It's a Torah commandment to help any Jew who needs assistance. This applies to even a total stranger. All the moreso to your wife! Friday afternoon, women are usually tired, and it is a very big mitzva to assist one's wife.

Rabbi Yitzchok Blauser used to say that a man should treat his wife with as much respect as he would treat a stranger. Just as a person is careful to treat strangers politely, so should a husband treat his wife politely (Kochvay Or, vol. 2, p. 16).

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelovitz, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem in the previous generation, said that if a husband will fulfill his obligations and the wife will fulfill her obligations, they will live a happy and tranquil life together. Troubles begin when the husband is only concerned that the wife meet her obligations to him and the wife is only concerned that the husband meet his obligations to her.



Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky was famed within his lifetime (1891-1986) for being a tzadik (one who fulfills all of the Torah). Three stories about him involve his saintliness in marriage.

A few years after his first wife passed away, Reb Yaakov (as he is affectionately called) felt ready to re-marry. He was about sixty. Reb Yaakov was Lithuanian and followed the customs of Lithuanian Jewry. His second wife was Polish and followed the customs of her section of Poland. Reb Yaakov, also, had a private custom of never eating dairy on Fridays. He said he had no idea why, but not eating milchigs (dairy foods) Fridays was a custom in his father's family. He was confident that it had a holy basis and he observed it uncompromisingly.

He married his second wife shortly before the holiday of Shevuos. It is customary to eat dairy on Shevuos. As it turned out, Shevuos that year came out on Friday. His wife's custom for the first day of Shevuos was to prepare a lavish dairy kiddush, and then serve a traditional meat meal after the kiddush. They were married such a short time that they couldn't have possibly learned all of each other's customs. The rebitzen thought that she would please her husband by preparing a generous dairy kiddush featuring that Shevuos favorite: cheesecake! Milchigs on a Friday!

Rabbi Kaminetsky came home from synagogue with a gathering of guests, all yeshiva scholars. When he walked in, his bride was proud as a peacock. She honored yom tov as if for a king. The house was nearly wall-papered in cheesecake! She had evidently spent enormous time and care, buying, baking and preparing a royal spread. It was obvious that her intentions had been extremely selfless and noble. Inside himself, he was aghast. While he knew he had to express delighted and appreciative surprise to his rebitzen, he was in a real dilemma. He had a vow never to eat dairy on Friday. He also had a vow to keep a wife happy. Not eating the milchigs would break her heart. Eating, and breaking the vow to never eat dairy on Friday, was not an option.

She said that she had to go into the kitchen to make some last minute arrangements. This gave him a moment to think. He turned to the three among his guests who were the greatest scholars. He explained the dilemma. "You three are Torah scholars. You can form a bais din [court]. You will do 'hataras nedarim' [the Torah court procedure for canceling vows, which may only be done under certain conditions - fortunately this case contained an allowable condition - ask your local orthodox rabbi if you have practical questions]. They finished the vow-canceling ceremony just in time. He ate his wife's cheesecake.

Story number two about Reb Yaakov tells of him coming to a dinner sponsored by a major Torah organization. He was with Rabbi Shnayer Kotler, late Rosh HaYeshiva of the prominent Lakewood Yeshiva. Appreciate that BOTH WERE EXCEPTIONALLY HUMBLE MEN.

Both of these distinguished Torah giants were about to come in the main entrance of the banquet hall. Reb Shnayer said, "Let us not go in this way. I know of a back entrance. If we come in this way, everyone will stand up to give us honor. Let us not impose on an entire crowd."

To his astonishment, Reb Yaakov said insistently, and surprisingly out of character, "Let us enter specifically through this main door."

"But, why?" said Reb Shnayer, in amazement at his friend who was world-famous for humility.

"Our wives are in there," Reb Yaakov replied. "When the entire crowd stands, this gives honor to our wives."

Once Reb Yaakov, who lived in Monsey, was in New York City for a simcha. A young man from Monsey was asked to give the tzadik a ride home. He gladly agreed and eagerly introduced himself to the Rosh Yeshiva as his ride. Reb Yaakov said that he first had to inspect the car before he could accept the ride. He got into the back seat and sat for a moment. He then came out of the car and said he would accept the ride. The reason he went into the car first was to make sure the seat would be comfortable for HIS WIFE.



A man may look at a woman's beauty so that he will want to be married to her, but he may not look at a woman disrespectfully or as a physical object (Evven Ha'Ezer 21:3). A husband has to spend on his wife according to his financial station, even a bit more, including colorful clothes for yom tov and jewelry; and he must share his wealth and the honor of his social standing. He must announce his coming into and leaving the house. He must talk with her regularly about the house and children; he must see and appreciate her efforts with the home and children. When he travels away, he must communicate regularly and have gifts for her upon his return. He should regularly do and say things that will make her happy, and show - in ways that SHE WILL BE PLEASED BY - that he is thinking of her and that she is important to him; and treat her like she is a queen. He should let her manage the home, just looking on enough to make sure there is nothing objectionable. He must give genuine consideration to her opinions, advice and feelings - and never hurt or cheapen her feelings. He should never be depressed or excited in front of her or tell her about worrisome problems that she cannot offer practical help about.

The famed commentator, Rashi, writes (on Yevamos 62b and Bava Metzia 59a) that a husband must never disparage, insult, cheapen, shame, disrespect, neglect or hurt his wife in any way; these hit harder on a woman than on a man; these are more severe to a woman than to a man. He writes (on Rosh HaShana 6b) that it is imperative that a man make his wife happy, and a "classic" way to do this is to give her nice clothes that will please her. On Bava Metzia 94a he writes that if a man marries a woman on condition that is exempt from any marriage obligation imposed by the Torah, the marriage takes effect but the condition does not because "there is no such thing as half a marriage." In other words, a marriage and its obligations are synonymous. It's a "package deal."



Rambam wrote [Hilchos Ishus 15:17-20] that a husband is to approach his wife (for physical relations) never by force or pressure, but only by obtaining her will through first talking nicely to her and making her happy. He must honor her more than he honors himself and love her as much as he loves himself. He must spend money on her to do good for her. The more money he has, the more he is to spend on benefitting her. He must never be frightening, depressed or angry with her. His speaking with her must always be gentle. The Torah also commands the woman in conduct. She must be extremely modest (especially regarding demeanor, clothing and covering of her hair). She should minimize levity and silliness, she should not speak on the subject of marital relations, she should not refrain from being with her husband, especially when this will pain him. She should obey all of his words, instruction and will. She must honor her husband exceedingly as if she views him to be an officer or king, and she must distance herself from anything he dislikes. This, Rambam concludes, is the way the holy men and women in Israel conduct themselves in their marriages, and through this, they will live a beautiful life together.

"The sages said in a midrash that one wise woman directed her daughter when she was about to marry, saying to her, 'My daughter, stand before your husband like before a king and serve him. If you will be like a maid to him, he will be like a slave to you and he will honor you like his master. And if you will make yourself big upon him, he will be like a master over you against your will; and you will be, in his eyes, cheap like a maidservant'" (Menoras HaMeor, portion "To Marry a Wife," section four, chapter two).

Pela Yo'etz writes (in the section on "zivug [getting married]"), that the marriage which operates by following the Torah and its sages is the marriage which will be blessed by G-d and be happy. This couple will have a pleasant, calm, fortunate and good life; and will have a sweet lot in olam habo (eternal



Wives often complain that some husbands do not help around the house, even though their wives work. They speak of marriage as being a bundle of responsibilities. Sometimes, even a "talmid chocham" husband does not take out the garbage and a lazy husband does not help a working and overwhelmed wife with housework. Each of these is addressed by the Torah, so I will simply bring the sources, since the Torah can speak for itself.

There are two parts to the creation of a Jewish marriage. The first is "kedushin (sanctification)." "Nesuin," the final step of creating the marriage bond, is from the same Hebrew root (nune, sin, alef) as the words * "nosi (leader, president - one who carries, in Torah terms, responsibility for others)," and * "naso (to carry or bear a heavy load or responsibility)," and * "nisaw (noble, exalted, lofty, elevated, high)." Further, midrash Raba refers to marriage as "nosa b'ol (carrying a burden)."

The above cluster of words are derived from the same root as Nesuin. From this cluster, we can discern that marriage is, by definition, a state in which husband and wife totally owe, and obligate themselves to, RESPONSIBILITY TO THE OTHER AND TO THEIR MARRIAGE. Until there is ACTIVE AND MUTUAL ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITIES BY EACH ONE FOR THE OTHER, the couple has NOT YET ATTAINED TO READINESS FOR, NOR A COMPLETE STATE OF, MARRIAGE! This state of "relationship founded upon active, ongoing responsibility" is shared with the state attributed by the Torah to authentic and qualified leaders. BY DEFINITION IN TORAH, leaders accept and carry full responsibility for the people they lead; to care for their needs, to provide for, to protect, to maintain their well-being. And, this is synonymous with exaltedness, with noble behavior.

Until there is formal exchange of commitment to responsibility, no state of complete marriage can exist. People find it useful when I tell them that fundamental to the definitions of "responsibility" are: * making things happen that have to happen, and * keeping from happening things that have to not happen. Seeing to these actively, steadily and reliably; and ongoingly approaching life as a growth and maturation process; are fundamental to being a responsible, and therefore marriageable, person. The Hebrew root nune-sin-alef means, by definition, that marriage = responsibility, and that the acceptance of ALL REQUISITE RESPONSIBILITY IS NOBILITY. It is not a Jewish idea that a leader is a tyrant or boss who is served. A person of standing in Torah hashkafa (view) SERVES OTHERS - ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO HE LEADS.

The Steipler Gaon, a Torah leader of the previous generation, advised that a woman look for a man who is diligent in Torah learning, who has "straight [i.e. unperverted] intelligence" and who has good midos - one who will take out the garbage when needed, will handle it well if she ever makes a sour face and care for her when she gets sick. The Steipler said that if a fellow is a "masmid [constant and diligent in Torah learning]" and has a straight and intelligent mind, this is no proof that he will be a good husband. All day he learns over his "shtender [wooden learning stand]." A shtender never talks back, never gets sick and needs to be taken care of or asks him to take out the garbage. If he has a hard time understanding the gemora, he might smack the shtender. There is no indication from his learning or intellect that he can be a good husband. It must be verified that he has good midos. One of the Steipler's concrete example of a man who is worthy of marrying is TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE WHEN NEEDED.

Tractate Shabos (119a) tells us that the Talmudic sages used to help their wives prepare for shabos every Friday. Rabbi Safra heated meat. Rava salted fish. Rabbi Huna lit the lantern. Rabbi Papaw prepared the candle wicks. Rabbi Hisda sliced beets. Rabah and Rabbi Yosef chopped wood. Rabbi Zayra lit the fire. Rabbi Nachman ben Yitzchok carried utensils, clothes and delicacies (to honor the coming Shabos), as if he were receiving the most distinguished rabbis as his guests, with the attitude that he was frightened about honoring them properly and about exerting himself adequately for these most important guests (such is the honor to be accorded Shabos). These distinguished rabbis did not see it as beneath their station to honor Shabos or to help their wives. Further, joint preparation before shabos by a husband and wife brings G-d's presence into the house. Chazal, the authorities of Torah tradition, honored their wives and shabos by doing menial tasks humbly, cheerfully and willingly. In parshas Truma, the Torah instructs construction of the ark, specifying that it is to have four precious rings around it. The ark represents Torah. The four rings tell us that the true talmid chochom is distinguished by four precious attributes: 1. Torah learning, 2. fulfillment of the commandments, 3. kind deeds and 4. humility (i.e. good midos; Midrash Agada 10). The "talmid chocham" who won't take out the garbage is missing the last two attributes. Without ongoing and practical kindness, without fine midos, how can we call him a "talmid chocham?" If he calls himself a talmid chocham and chazal say he's not, don't we have to go with chazal? The midrash says "Derech Eretz (considerate, thoughtful, polite, civil behavior) came before Torah." If one does not have derech eretz, the prerequisite for Torah, what is one's Torah?"

To be fair, some men and women have harder times than others handling the "job" of the other. Remember that the "avodas parech (hard labor)" of the Jewish slaves in Egypt was men and women being forced to do the others' work. Most important in such marriage questions is that there be sincere consideration for the personalities and abilities that each spouse has or does not have, willing give and take, a good and caring attitude and a division of labor that fairly addresses the overall needs of the family, that enables the family to effectively function and that both can peacefully live with. The "symptoms" which some complaining wives describe indicate things missing in the relationships or chinuch, more than in the housekeeping. There may be problems in midos, psychology, relating or communicating skills and/or finance. To really address such deeper problems, the solution may be in education of spouses and in addressing why there isn't enough relationship health to get all of those responsibilities successfully fulfilled. Sometimes outside counseling help for the couple, or household help for the wife, can provide the answer. Most important, however, if there ever are differences or quarrels, it is vital that they be effectively and two-sidedly communicated about and handled in a thoughtful, nice, agreeable, mature, calm, practical and individually-tailored way. As the gemora says (Tamid 32b), "Who is wise? He who sees in advance the long-run outcome (of decisions and



Try to not be grouchy or burdensome to your wife when you come home each day. She has had burdens and pressures during her day, especially if you have children. Many wives long to talk about the day when the husband comes home. You may need opportunity to gather your strength, but understand that your wife will need to talk to you as soon as you are calm and able.

When your wife wants to discuss something or says that something matters to her, never discount it. Things matter to women and can be emotionally charged in ways that a man might never understand. Give full weight to what your wife says and deal with it as an issue that is very real to her. A major part of demonstrating love for a spouse is the ability to sincerely say (especially about something that is incomprehensible or worthless to you), "If it is important to you, it is important to me, BECAUSE YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO ME." Speak softly, respectfully and from the heart.

Be attractive to your wife. Call her during the day to show interest and that you think about her, especially during nida when calling is a way of saying that your love is unconditional and constant, even when your options for expressing it are limited. Most women like to be made to feel that their husband considers her important. This can be achieved by bringing (or sending) presents, even of the "no cost/low cost" variety. This works with most women (unless they are especially spoiled, immature or materialistic) even if you just buy a sentimental card, write a poem or, in some other sincere and effective way, demonstrate - on a fairly steady basis - that you are thinking of her, appreciate her and that she matters to you. If you will be coming home late, call to say that you are going to be late. Give an estimated time of arrival (call again if this will be significantly changed) and a general explanation of why you are running late (you do not owe her a detailed or minute-by-minute explanation).

Wives object when they are not consulted about big decisions. Make her feel part of your decision-making. Give consideration to her opinions about the issue and feelings about being part of the process, even if she will not end up a major contributor to the end decision. In some areas, the woman should be favored in determining a decision because the thing matters very much to a woman or because she understands the subject better than her husband does (even if he does not recognize or admit it).

Each couple must have a qualified and mutually acceptable Rov to bring all questions, problems and differences to. EVERYTHING is addressed and governed by the Torah. Adopt a policy of, "WE DON'T HAVE FIGHTS, WE HAVE SHAALOS!"

Don't give mere allowance. A wife typically needs access to funds for managing the house and children, shopping, doctors, clothing, etc. It is degrading to have to come to you for each expense. It can lead to fighting if she fears she will not have her needs or those of the house and children. If this is a big issue, there might be something more serious involved (e.g. mistrust, bad hashkafa, inadequate livelihood) which may require professional help to resolve.

Learn Torah steadily. Let your learning show up in improved midos (character traits), halacha observance and divray Torah at the table (especially shabos and yom tov). Your wife will admire and respect these about you.



Tractate Kesubos (61a) says that a husband must share the benefits of his life (e.g. wealth or honor in the community) with his wife...a wife is given to a man for life and not for pain (he should care for her so as to keep her from pain)...she is responsible for the performance of a wife's duties.

Tractate Kesubos (62b-63a) recounts how Rabbi Akiva's wife sacrificed to enable him to learn Torah and how he honored and appreciated her. Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest sages of the Talmud, grew up knowing no Torah. He was an uneducated shepherd. His employer's daughter recognized that he was modest and of superlative character. She said that if he would learn Torah she would marry him and he agreed. He married her and went away to yeshiva. Her wealthy father, infuriated that his daughter would marry the shepherd, disowned her. She lived in abject poverty and by herself for twelve years. When he returned, he had advanced to the point at which he had twelve thousand disciples. When he was arriving home, he heard an old man say to his wife, "How long will you live as a widow?" She replied, "I would have him learn another twelve years." Rabbi Akiva said, "This is her will," and he immediately about-faced and returned to yeshiva for another twelve years. When he returned home, he had twenty-four thousand disciples. When she heard that Rabbi Akiva was finally returning, she ran to meet him. Her clothes were those of a poor beggar and she fell on her face to kiss his feet. His students, thinking that this strange woman was publicly dishonoring their rabbi with immodest behavior, were about to push her aside. He told them to leave her alone and said to them, "All of my Torah and all of your Torah is hers!"

Tractate Taanis (23b) tells us that Aba Chilkia was a tzadik. When there was a drought, the townspeople came to his home to ask him to pray to Hashem for rain. He and his wife went to the roof and went to the opposite corners to pray. The clouds formed over his wife (answering her prayer). The people asked why the rain came in the merit of her prayer (since he was a tzadik). He answered that when he gives kindness, he does it by giving money to the poor. When his wife gives kindness, she personally cooks and serves food herself; which is more direct, immediate and meaningful.

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter six) provides a wonderful lesson on giving benefit of doubt in a marriage context. "A man should never be strict about his meals. It once happened that Hillel the Elder invited a guest for a meal. A pauper came and stood at his door and said [to Hillel's wife], 'Today I am to marry a woman and I have no livelihood whatsoever.' [Hillel's] wife took the entire meal [which she made for her husband and his guest] and gave it to [the pauper]. After that, she kneaded another dough, cooked another meal and brought it and set it before them. [Hillel gently] said to her, 'My sweetheart, why did you not bring [the meal] to us immediately?' She described to him all that happened. He said to her, 'My sweetheart, I never judged you to be guilty. I only judged favorably, because all of your deeds were only done for the sake of Heaven.'"


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