Rambam on Marriage

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    Will Hill

    This is for the talmidei chachomim out there. I read the following Rambam quoted on another topic here. (It was completely off topic there, and was kind of glossed over.) I don’t know its veracity, maybe someone can verify it. If it is in fact correct, maybe someone can explain it. Its hard for me to understand, but not being a talmid chochom I’m probably missing the point here.

    This is what was quoted:

    Rambam, Laws of Interpersonal Relations, perek 21, halacha 7: “We find that every woman performs five tasks for her husband. She spins, washes his face, hands, and legs, pours his drink, makes the bed, and serves him. There are six tasks some women do and some don’t: grind and bake and cook, wash, nurse children, and feed the animals.”

    Halacha 10: “Any woman who does not do the tasks which she is obligated to do is forced, even with a stick.”

    The Rabad meforesh on this: “I have never heard of hitting a woman with a stick, but one reduces the necessities given to her and her food until she gives in.”


    Please read on further for what the “man” should provide for his wife. This isn’t about equality, it’s about the taking & giving (not only what you benefit from), and being a decent human being. The strongest marriages, and the most successful ones as well, are those of which the husband and wife BOTH respect each other. Your Kallah and Chosson teacher can refer many books to you if you are having trouble finding one, or if you have questions.

    For anyone who is ignorant to the laws of living in America, It is illegal for one to beat or starve another (it goes both ways no matter what gender you are) This is considered what is called, “ABUSE” and is not tolerated in the USA or in Judaism. Go ahead and ask your Rov what he thinks about this.

    Be a role model for your children, if they see either father or mother abuse each other in a physical and/or emotional way, sadly, they too will follow in those ways.

    Will Hill

    yoshi, I don’t think that Rambam is condoning beating or starving anyone. This is why I think a Talmid Chochom may be best suited to explain this Rambam.


    Keep in mind that the Rambam lived in a society and time when wife-beating was condoned. You sometimes have to look at a halacha in the context of the environment in which it was issued. No one lives in a vacuum.

    The Wolf


    Look up the origin of the expression “rule of thumb”. Briefly, the law was that a man was permitted to hit his wife with a stick (except on Sundays, of course) so long as it was no thicker than his thumb. We still use this expression, though we don’t condone the practice that is its origin. As the Wolfish one says, keep the context in mind (except of course if you’re Litvish) when you are learning. And context in halacha is best defined by a Torah authority.


    will hill

    so lost, care to reexplain please?

    Will Hill


    You seem to be assuming that the Rambam actually condones wife-beating. I think any Talmid Chochom here can easily debunk that.

    The other issue I take with your comment is the the seeming presumption that halacha changes with time and/or environment.


    Tada! Will Hill is a Litvak.

    Will Hill


    Origin of the phrase rule of thumb:

    It is often claimed that the term originally referred to a law that limited the maximum thickness of a stick with which it was permissible for a man to beat his wife, but this has been fully discredited as a hoax. Sir Francis Buller, a British judge, was alleged to have stated that a man may legally beat his wife, provided that he used a stick no thicker than his thumb. However, it is questionable whether Buller ever made such a pronouncement and there is even less evidence that he phrased it as a “rule of thumb”; The “rule of thumb” was referenced in at least four legal cases from 1782 to 1897, and in each of the known cases it was referred to only to state its invalidity, with one judge calling it “…a barbarous custom which modern authorities condemn.” “It’s certainly the case that, although British common law once held that it was legal for a man to chastise his wife in moderation, the ‘rule of thumb’ has never been the law in England.” In the modern period, this non-law gained popularity after feminist Del Martin wrote about it in 1976.


    Everyone is focusing on the second Rambam above. What about the first Rambam describing a wifes responsibilities is serving her husband?

    I was at Rebbetzin Miller’s levaya yesterday and that is exactly how she served Rav Avigdor Miller!


    Will Hill:

    It would be disingenuous to suggest that SOME interpretation of halacha and many of our traditions have evolved in light of the contextual and historical backdrop of the times. That’s not necessarily to say that halacha changes, but to suggest that everything in Judaism has remained the same since its inception would be woefully ignorant of reality (and history).


    “Keep in mind that the Rambam lived in a society and time when wife-beating was condoned. You sometimes have to look at a halacha in the context of the environment in which it was issued. No one lives in a vacuum.

    The Wolf”

    As anyone even remotely familiar with Rambam can attest, Rambam seldom makes statements in Yad that are not explicit in gemara or midrashim ,at least according to his understanding thereof, and in the instances where he states an opinion of his own he makes a disclaimer. Hence, it is hard to say that historical context influenced the halacha. It seems that the discussion here is ignoring the context of the halacha itself. Striking is only permitted when the wife refuses to do her duties. It is not a beating as punishment, but only to make her do those duties. As soon as she agrees to do those duties if the husband hit her he is punished. Also, does it say in Rambam that the husband is the one to hit? Beis Din in many instances uses physical mean to force someone to fulfill their obligation, and this would seem to be similar. (Tosfos, however, often interprets kefias Beis Din as verbal throughout shas.)


    I guess that the Rabad is more “meikel” than the Rambam on what the appropriate punishment is. The Sefardim usually pasken with the Rambam.


    will hill

    please ask a rav and get back to us. because there must be a further explanation to this halacha.

    and to be so kind and post it.

    thank you.

    Will Hill

    This was posted by bugnot on the other thread, and is relevant to this discussion:

    Why are you bringing it down from the Rambam (the things that a mans wife has to do for him), bring it down from the Gemara in Kesubos Daf Daled amud Bais (4b) that says “All the things a woman must do for her husband, a nidah must do for her husband EXCEPT for Pouring his drink, making his bed, washing his face, hands, & feet” Therefore we know that generally she always has to do it.

    (So now we know it comes from the Gemorah.)

    Will Hill

    Any buki out there on this Gemorah, Rambam, and Rabad?

    Toras Moshe

    What is the shverkeit of this Torah? It only becomes shver if you subscribe to American equality, a non-Torah concept. This is a pushut Gemorah that Rambam paskens on. A) The wife has specific responsibilities (it is listed above.) B) If she refuses to carry out her responsibilities, there is a specific method (listed above) how to enforce it. Rambam says with a stick and Rabad says by reducing her essentials, including food.

    It should be noted though, that it is a two-way street. The husband has certain responsibilities as well. And if he violates some of them and he refuses to change his behavior, Beis Din is empowered to enforce it, including with corporal punishment.


    So halacha as paskened by the Rambam allows a husband to hit his wife (in certain circumstances)?

    I also hadn’t heard that a wife is mechuyiv to serve her husband, wash his hands, pour his drinks, etc. This is halacha l’maaisa?


    The Torah is so specific regarding the issur of a man abusing his SERVANT (the eved ivri who is sold into servitude in order to repay a debt or such), does it make sense that the Torah would matir a man abusing his WIFE, whom he is required to be mechabeid more than himself?

    blue shirt

    Small side point to Doc. The sefardim (North African, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Bucharim and others)do not pasken according to the Rambam but according to the Mechaber. However, the Teimanim pasken according to the Rambam almost exclusively, as they were not exposed to the Shulchan Aruch as the Ashkenazim and Sefardim were. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but it is a pretty valid rule.

    Feif Un

    blue shirt, it’s not only the Teimanim. Most Sefardim who went East after leaving Spain follow the Shulchan Aruch. The Sefardim who went West (some call them Ladinos) follow the Rambam.

    blue shirt

    Feif Un, thanks for that information, I will check it out. West means Portugal. Do you know where these people are now?


    As long as one follows Rambam mentioned in this post, they are on safe ground.

    Will Hill

    This is a very interesting Rambam!

    Pashuteh Yid

    Note the gemara says that the woman performs certain serveices for her husband, but does not mention what happens if she doesn’t. We know there is a klal takinu mezonoseha tachas maiseh yadeha (outside work). If these things are considered maiseh yadeha although they are internal work, then the Rayvad makes a lot of sense. SInce she is reneging on the deal, we decrease her mezonos accordingly.

    However, the source for the Rambam is shver. (Have not looked up the nosei keilim.) The mechaber or rama does bring somewhere that a woman who curses her husband’s parents can be hit. It seems that this is because she would be considered some kind of moredes. Maybe that would apply here as well, because of moredes. (I don’t know what the mechaber’s source is there either, since normally a moredes is just forced to get divorced, but is not given any corporal punishment.) I haven’t looked inside, so don’t rely on this. Need to check.

    Will Hill

    6. Rambam (21:10): If a woman refuses to do any

    obligatory Melachah, we force her, even with a


    i. Rebuttal (Ra’avad): I never heard about hittng

    women with sticks. Rather, he diminishes her

    needs and food until she submits.

    ii. Beis Yosef (EH 80 DH u’Mah she’Chosav Yir’eh):

    The Tur says that the Rambam holds that

    rebellion from Melachah is rebellion. He learns

    from the fact that we force her with sticks. If

    she could say ‘do not feed me, and I will not

    work for you’, why would we force her? However,

    why didn’t the Rambam say that we deduct from

    her Kesuvah? I say that the Rambam does not

    consider her a rebel. He said (12:4) that if

    she says ‘do not feed me, and I will not work

    for you’, we heed her. In Perek 21, he

    discusses one who wants to be fed without

    working. The Ran explains that since she did

    not pardon food, he must still feed her,

    therefore he can force her to work.

    Alternatively, even when she says ‘do not feed

    me, and I will not work for you’, this helps

    only for spinning, but not for other Melachos.

    iii. Rosh (5:31): Rav Huna says that refusing to

    work is not rebellion. This is like he said

    above, that a wife can tell her husband ‘do not

    feed me, and I will not work for you.’ R. Yosi

    b’Ribi Chanina says that it is rebellion. He

    holds like Reish Lakish, who says that a man

    can force his wife to work. If he can force

    her, why is she considered a rebel? Since she

    works only through coercion, she is a rebel.

    (c) Poskim

    1. Shulchan Aruch (EH 80:15): If a wife refuses to do a

    mandatory Melachah, we force her.

    i. Gra (25): We cannot say that we do not force at

    all. We force a woman to nurse. Even if she

    brings in 100 slaves, we force her (for

    idleness ruins people).

    2. Rema: He does not feed her until she does it. Beis

    Din excommunicates her or sells her Kesuvah to hire

    a slave. Some say that Beis Din forces her with


    i. Chelkas Mechokek (26): Beis Din does not

    excommunicate her if he does not feed her, for

    then she may say that she will not work for

    him. Rather, they excommunicate her if he does

    not want to withhold food, e.g. she is nursing

    or for another reason.

    See also:



    Any income a married woman earns, halachicly belongs to her husband.

    Belev Echad

    i recently heard that it was once acceptable for a husband to hit his wife, and now i read here that the Ramabam lived at a time where it was acceptable to hit a wife…..

    so my question is, is this in the Jewish home, or outside society?

    Basicaly- was it ever acceptable in the Jewish home for a man to hit his wife?

    please respond, thanks.


    Belev Echad,

    The quoted Rambam is referring to Besi Din (Jewish Court.) In the aforemention instance, the Beis Din could hit a wife for failing to do her marital duties. THE HUSBAND CANNOT.


    When I was getting married my rabbi was very clear on this subject. He said that in no way shape or form is it OK for a man to hit his wife in the current time. (Though he did allow that there is an argument that in the past it might have been allowed). Mind you I thought this long before he said it to me.


    Belev, NEVER in Jewish History has been either acceptable OR permissible to strike a wife. This halachic discussion is regarding the avenues available to the authorities in a case where the wife stubbornly refused to do her spousal duties.


    If you look at history you will find that by the GENTILES their wives and daughters were considered to be a property akin to cattle that they could even kill on a whim. Anyone even remotely familiar with Roman Law, which much of European society was based upon, can testify to this. And it was no less in other gentile societies in Asia, Africa, etc.

    By us Jews, we have a noble and glorious history on how we treated everyone throughout our history with our laws and legal system.


    It sounds like the Liberal American “Equality” movement is affecting the Jews a little too much for comfort.

    Belev Echad

    thank you all for responding, i appreciate it


    So if this does still apply today, then women are obligated in spinning?


    see the 4th to last comment on the previous page for additional sources.

    eli lev

    rabeinu yona [sh tshuva 3:77]writes

    one who hits another jew including his wife

    has transgressed [ohver] 2 negative commandments [lavin].


    JewishFeminist, I think we always had the option of outsourcing 😉


    y is there even a conversation about if your allowed to hit your wife who would wana do such a thing like that i mean take your anger out elswhere


    Women today do a lot more than they used to have to! We cook our husbands gourmet meals, daven for our family, clean, buy the groceries, iron, earn outside income, drive carpool, diet and exercise so that we will look good in his eyes, pick up the cleaning, go to the bank, attend shiurim, volunteer our “spare” time for chesed, shlep various family members to appointments, all while nursing! Seems like we ARE spinning-not just in the sense that was mentioned in the Gemara! Also our imahos had servants, I’m still waiting for mine! At best I get a cleaning lady once in a while! Perhaps these days we women are really getting “the short end of the stick”. But seriously it is scary that this thread was even brought up-it is so clear that hitting is assur. And for a physically strong man to hit a weaker person, female or child, just shows what a weak power hungry controlling tyrant he is. If a woman was stubbornly refusing to do her duties I am sure that there was a very good reason for it. What if a woman couldn’t perform her duties because she was ill? Pregnant? You can’t mean to tell me that ANY rav in the Gemara or Rambam’s time would say, okay get out your stick! Make her get out of bed?


    Of course a woman can NEVER be hit or starved for not obeying her husband certain aspects of halacha change with time.

    The rambam lived in a time and place were wife beating was common and even condoned

    The halacha also is that a father can marry off his 9 year old daughter i think that anyone in there right mind would agree that any father (and the person who marrys her) who does such a thing nowadays should be locked up


    Like was mentioned by others, the husband could not hit his wife. Rambam is talking about BEIS DIN. The husband could only file a complaint with BEIS DIN, who had the authority to utilize corporal punishment. NOT c’v the husband.


    “The Rambam lived in a time and place were [sic] wife beating was common and even condoned”

    So here we attribute this to the society in which the Rambam lived, yet on other subjects, like women learning Gemara, the very suggestion that poskim who frown upon or outright prohibit it are a product of their times is “insulting and bordering on heresy.”

    Inconsistent much?


    jf02, That statement you quoted (not your response to it) is not only factually inaccurate (insofar as it pertains to Jewish society), it is bordering on heresy.

    So your question is unfounded.


    …bordering on heresy as it implies somehow that Rambam c’v would tolerate wife-beating. Aside from being a lie, such a thought is repulsive. While gentile society has traditions of allowing husbands the legal right to literally kill their wives (per Roman law), Jewish scoiety has ALWAYS throughout its glorious history condemned ANY abuse.



    Do you not call a father marrying off his nine year old daughter abuse?


    I never said in any thred that attributing CERTAIN ASPECTS of halacha to the times borders on heresy.



    If you agree that the above example is abuse then you are basicly agreeing that your statement is simply not true.

    so do you think the example i gave is abuse or not?


    646, get yourself a Rov before incorrectly making Torah deductions.



    i dont beleive i am making an “incorrect torah deduction” are you saying it was never okay in jewish society for a father to marry off his 9 year old daugther? i think it is pretty clear that it was considerd okay.

    please answer the question that i asked in my last post

    thank you.

    Chuck Schwab

    000646: The bottom line here is do you conform to the wishes of your Baal (husband), as your halachic obligations obligate you. If you do, there are no problems.

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