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The St. Louis Cards First Baseman and the Mishna in Kesuvos

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Albert Pujols is a St. Louis Cardinal’s first baseman.  This past Sunday, he hit two home runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates, contributing to a win of  18 to 4 described by ESPN as a “romp.”

Mr. Pujols may have won two home runs this past Sunday, but – in terms of halacha – his actions are, well, let’s just say that they are far from a home run.

Last month, Mr. Pujols announced that he would file for divorce from his wife of 22 years.  His announcement came a few days after an Instagram post that she had just undergone brain surgery.  Doctors operated on her to remove a tumor that was discovered back in October.

His exact words in his statement were, “I realize this is not the most opportune time with Opening Day approaching and other family events that have recently taken place. These situations are never easy and isn’t something that just happened overnight. As a devout Christian, this is an outcome that I never wanted to see happen..”

This behavior, however, is far from a home run in terms of halacha  for two reasons:

  • Firstly, the Talmud (Brachos 24a) tells us, “Ishto K’Gufo” – a person’s wife is like his very own body.
  • Secondly, there is a full-fledged marital obligation to heal one’s wife.

The great Tzaddik of Jerusalem, Rav Aryeh Levine zatzal, and the father-in-law of Rav Elyashiv zt”l once accompanied his wife to the doctor, and when asked by the doctor as to the reason for the visit – he responded, “My wife’s knee hurts us.”

But before we get into the nitty-gritty of the obligation of a husband to heal a wife – let’s list the ten general obligations of a husband toward his wife.  The Rambam lists ten.  He must provide her with:

1] food and sustenance 2] clothing. 3]intimacy 4] redemption from kidnapping (lawyer fees, even bribery) 5] healing her 6] burying her after he dies 7] housing, food and sustenance in his home after he dies 8] the kesuva 9] providing for daughters after his death 10] providing for sons after his death.


We will focus on the healing obligation.  The Mishna in Kesuvos (51a) informs us of the obligation and it is clear that this obligation is not just to get her out of danger – but to heal her as much as possible.  In this author’s opinion, this includes not just surgeries and medicine, but OT and PT too. [See Amudei Mishpat Vol. II 10:21].  It is interesting to note that the obligation also includes praying for her recovery (see Ish v’Isha sh’zachu Vol. I p. 346).

Let’s also remember that we read in Sefer Bereishis that Yaakov, our forefather, prayed in front of his wife, that she be healed from her state of barrenness.  One may ask, why in front of her?  Why didn’t he pray, say at the grave of a Tzaddik or of his forefathers?  This author would like to cite the Seforno to respond to this point.  The Seforno writes that he prayed in front of her in order to drum up even more empathy and concern for her in his prayers.  We see then that there is not only an obligation to pray (and to heal and to stick with her), but there also seems to be an obligation to do so in the most effective manner.


What is the source of this obligation?  There is a debate as to whether it is a separate Rabbinic enactment or whether it is subsumed under obligation #1 – food and sustenance. The Ritba (Kesuvos 51a) writes that it is a Rabbinic enactment.  The Ran (In his commentary to Kesuovs 19b), however, writes that it is actually a biblical obligation.


The husband is obligated in providing preventative care as well, which according to contemporary Poskim includes vitamins as well.  What about health insurance?  Many Poskim rule that since is the norm in modern times, this is also an obligation in order to relieve any anxieties she may have.


What if she brought it on herself? The obligation still exists, if she was careless and did not dress warmly or in her diet.  If, however, there was a purposeful self-inflicted would not brought on by mental illness, then he is not obligated in her medical care.


If the wife feels that she can better recover at her parents’ home, the husband  cannot prevent this – even if it will prevent issues of intimacy.


If he is wealthy , he must provide the top level of care, private room, top level food, private doctors, etc.  If he is poor, then his obligation is to provide the generally accepted level of care.


In a case where there are no funds, and he is incapable of providing for payment of her recovery, there is a debate among Poskim as to the halacha after the enactment of Rabbeinu Gershon that one may not divorce a wife against her will.  The halacha according to the Chelkas Mechokaik (EH 79:3) is that, technically, one can.  But without this, there is certainly an obligation to stick with her through this difficult time and help her recover.


However, morally and ethically, it is repugnant (See Shulchn Aruch EH 79:3, Rambam, Hilchos Ishus 14:17 and Maaseh Rokeach there).   If, however, he has not fulfilled the Mitzvah of pru urvu (if he has not had a boy and a girl), he may do so.


So please, Mr. Pujols, do the right thing.  She clearly loves you.  In her follow-up Instagram post, she wrote how excited she was to watch you start the 2022 baseball season.

She wrote:

“I am really happy he gets one more year to play the game! Despite the most recent surge of media attention about our personal lives, I would never miss out on an opportunity to send love, and blessings to someone who I have spent a majority of my life with and will forever be connected..”

The author can be reached at [email protected]

4 Responses

  1. There is no suggestion that he is divorcing her because of her illness, and he’s certainly not doing so to get out of his obligation to pay for her medical care, which in any case her insurance is doing, not him personally. On the contrary, despite being separated for months, he delayed the filing until after her successful operation. He certainly won’t gain anything financially by divorcing her — men never do. Whatever has gone wrong in their marriage is clearly something he can’t live with, and if it justified divorce before she got sick then her getting sick doesn’t change that. Nowhere will you find that an otherwise-justified divorce becomes unjustified just because the wife suddenly got sick.

  2. Correct no one said this had anything to do with her illness. And even if it did – I would suggest not judging someone until your in his place. And I sincerely hope you never have to deal with such issues.

  3. Doesn’t anyone realize that Rabbi Hoffman is teaching us Torah without being mevazeh a ben bris? Thank you Rabbi Hoffman!!

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