Conversation about Marriage

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayishlach 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

- Hello, Rabbi Aviner. I’ve got a problem with my wife. She doesn’t obey me. She doesn’t do everything I ask her to do.
- But she does do some of it?
- Yes.
- Thank G-d. And do you do everything she asks?
- No. Some of it.
- If so, you are similar and compatible. It’s a marriage made in heaven! The solution is simple. Sometimes you’ll concede to her and sometimes she’ll concede to you. And how are we supposed to know who is supposed to concede to whom? Very simple. What’s very important to you, she should concede, and what’s very important to her, you should concede. If something is important to both of you, and each of you is pulling in a different direction, find the middle ground. And everything should be done in happiness.
- But Rambam writes that a woman has to fulfill her husband’s will, and not that the husband has to do his wife’s will.
- That is true (Rambam, Hilchot Ishut 15:20), but in the preceding paragraph, Rambam writes, “Our sages commanded that a husband should honor his wife more than himself and love her like himself.”
- But I do honor her and love her!
- How does that express itself?
- I work and buy her things that she loves.
- But she also likes it when you fulfill her requests. That makes her happier than your gifts. If you honor her and love her, you surely want her to be happy.
- But our sages tell about a husband who commanded his wife to break candlesticks over the head of Baba ben Buta, and she did it. That shows that the husband has the final say in all matters, even if it's something that makes no sense!
- That husband wasn’t normal, and his righteous, wise wife met him half way even in bizarre matters in order to keep the peace.
- Where does it say that he wasn’t normal?
- Our halachic luminaries write that. Yet even without them you can understand for yourself that if someone orders his wife to break candlesticks over the head of a Torah scholar, he is not a mentally sane person. A woman is not required to heed her husband in bizarre requests (see Ketubot 72a), and it certainly is not to your credit if you follow that approach.
- But also in the Sefer Menorat Ha-Meor it says that a woman has to treat her husband like a king, and then he will treat her like a queen.
- Those are just delineations designed to preserve the family unit. Please consider the Torah scholars that you know. Is that the way rabbis and rebbetzins treat one another? No. They love each other, honor each other and work together, and they are good friends. If you want a happy marriage, be a good friend to your wife. As the Prophet Malachi wrote, “She is your friend and ally” (2:14). And when the parents are friends and like each other, the children, as well, grow up to be happy and successful.
May G-d bless you that you should be privileged to build a steadfast Jewish home, steeped in love and brotherhood, harmony and friendship.