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Respecting and Loving a Spouse

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Is it respecting and loving a spouse or the other way around – loving and respecting?  Believe it or not this may be a contradiction between a BRaisah cited in the Talmud and the Rambam.  The Gemorah in Yevamos 62b cites a Braisah that says if a person loves his wife and respects her the verse in Iyov applies to him:  Then you shall know that there is peace in your tent.

Yet when the Rambam (Hilchos Ishus 15:19) discusses the obligations of a husband to his wife – he reverses the order.  He begins with respect and then discusses the obligation of love.  Why does the Rambam reverse the order?

Rav Avrohom Genakofsky zt”l  (1936-2012), the Rosh yeshiva of the Chebiner Yeshiva (Kochav MiYaakov on Rechov Chana) gave two answers to this question.

The Braisah is merely discussing those that do this but is not mentioning the fact that the sages commanded to do it.  In the Rambam’s formulation they are both commandments of the sages.  That being the case it is preferable to mention the physical actions and then the emotional requirements.  Honoring, explains the Rambam, means doing physical acts.  This would include helping around the house, etc.  Loving is an emotional requirement.

The second answer that Rav Genakofsky zt”l gives is that the Rambam’s purpose is to provide more clarity to the original Rabbinic source material.  One can come to love a person by doing the physical actions that bring one toward this feeling.  Chitzonius me’oreros es hapnimius.

There may be a proof to the second answer of Rav Genakovsky from the Pasuk in Bereishis (Bereishis 24:7) regarding Yitzchok.  His love grew for her after actions on his part.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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