Support Your Wife

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I. Working Hard or Hardly Working?

The rise of women’s work opportunities over the past decades beyond previous levels has allowed for a number of family work arrangements. Many even argue that an Orthodox family today requires both parents earning salaries. On the other side of the spectrum, others in the Orthodox community insist that the husband study in kollel rather than work. Which view is supported by Jewish tradition?

I will not attempt to resolve this weighty issue and I suspect that Jewish history and texts allows for more than one arrangement. I wish to address only one aspect of this discussion: a husband’s explicit promise upon marriage to work in order to support his wife. In the traditional kesuvah, a groom pledges, “I will work for, esteem, feed and support you…” (אנא אפלח ואוקיר ואיזון ואפרנס). Does this not create a requirement, if one did not already exist, for a husband to work in order to financially support his wife?

II. Rebellious Husband

The test case is a husband who refuses to support his wife. What does a religious court do for a woman who makes this claim? The Talmudic case is the rebellious husband, mentioned in the same breath as the more famous rebellious wife. The Mishnah (Kesuvos 63a) states that a rebellious husband is fined for every week he continues in his sinful ways. The Gemara records a debate over the nature of the husband’s rebellion, assuming it is parallel to that of a rebellious wife. According to one opinion, the husband refuses to engage in marital relations. According to another, it is refusal to financially support his wife. Regardless of whether such a man is the rebellious husband of the Mishnah, the Gemara quotes Rav who insists that the husband must divorce his wife and pay her kesuvah.

Tosafos (ad loc., sv. be-omer) quotes R. Eliyahu of Paris who deduces from this passage that a husband must even rent out his services as a laborer (in our language, getting a job) in order to support his wife. If a husband has assets then the court can easily fine him and even take from his assets to pay that fine. But what if he has no money and refuses to work? According to R. Eliyahu, a court can order him to work (although will certainly face difficulty in enforcing that order). R. Eliyahu adds a proof from the text of the kesuvah mentioned above. The husband has obligated himself to work (eflach) and can be forced to honor that promise.

However, Rabbenu Tam disagrees. Rashi and Rabbenu Chananel explain this passage as meaning that the husband rebels not from work but from the support he gives his wife in exchange for her housework. He supports her and she keeps the house. The word “work,” according to these commentators, refers to the wife and not the husband.

III. Kesuvah Obligation

Additionally, Rabbenu Tam explains the phrasing of the kesuvah means that the husband pledges to work around the house, including growing vegetables for food if necessary. It does not mean renting out his services for pay.

Ritva (ad loc.) offers a different interpretation of the kesuvah. According to his reading, it means supporting a wife who is ill. Just like a husband must pay for his wife’s medical bills, he must also work to provide for her during her illness. However, he is not obligated to work to support her when she is healthy. Alternately, perhaps it is just flowery language and means that the husband will support the wife if he can. (Again, if a husband has any money then he is obligated to use it to support his wife. The issue here is whether a man with no money is obligated to earn some to fulfill his marital responsibilities.)

IV. Paying Obligations

The Machaneh Ephraim (Hilkhos Sekhirus Po’alim, no. 2) quotes the Rosh who states that a man is not normally obligated to work to pay a debt. If he lacks the funds, he does not pay even if he is intentionally unemployed. However, according to R. Eliyahu, a husband’s obligation to his wife is unique. Unlike other financial obligations, a man must work to pay off his debt to his wife.

However, the Machaneh Ephraim disagrees that a man’s debt to his wife is unlike other financial obligations. Rather, he suggests, the debate between R. Eliyahu and Rabbenu Tam revolve around the language of the kesuvah. According to R. Eliyahu, a husband explicitly accepts a condition of higher financial obligation to his wife by agreeing to the kesuvah. According to Rabbenu Tam, that condition does not include an obligation to work.

V. Conclusion

As already mentioned, the Ritva agrees with Rabbenu Tam, as does the Rosh. The Radbaz (Responsa, 3:566) also rules like Rabbenu Tam. However, R. Meir of Rothenberg (cited by the Tur) quotes the French rabbis who agree with R. Eliyahu. The Semag (lavin 81) also follows R. Eliyahu. In Shulchan Arukh (Even Ha-Ezer 70:3), the Rema quotes R. Eliyahu’s view as “some say” and the Vilna Gaon (ad loc., no. 9) states that most authorities agree with Rabbenu Tam.

In practice, I don’t know what contemporary religious courts do when a husband refuses to look for employment and a wife complains.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. So in halacha a monetary contract doesn’t mean what the parties, or their general society, thinks it means? That’s not what I was taught (not the first time that’s happened:-))

  2. R’ Rakeffet recently said that everything but ona’ah in the Ketubah is forgivable, as monetary questions can be.

  3. R’Joel: I don’t understand. In American law, can a court force you to pay if you don’t have the money? Can it force you to work? I don’t think so.

  4. Your first paragraph is a misrepresentation of the facts. The right wing of Orthodox society does not believe that one should learn instead of work. They believe that if someone chooses this path it is praiseworthy, and it should be a zechus for anyone to assist him in this endeavor. They do not believe it is wrong to go to work, and do not demand it from others.
    Joel; it seems that the deal between husband and wife is not a division of labor according to Rabeinu Tam. Rabbeinu Tam seems to believe that there is no agreement as to who works and who stays home, if anyone does. The only deal is that there should not be a situation in which the husband is rich and living a good life, when the wife has to suffer the indignity of poverty. If they are both poor, however, there is no more obligation on the husband to go to work than there is on the wife. Rabbenu Eliyahu disagrees. I seem to remember that the halocho follows Rabbeinu Tam, so the primary complaint against Kollel yungeleit seems to be settled.

  5. r’ groinem,
    does r’ tam’s understanding supercede any agreement between the couple prior to marriage?

  6. “The right wing of Orthodox society does not believe that one should learn instead of work.”

    Do you really believe that?

  7. Nachum: I am a member of that society and nobody is condemned for working. Learning is considered better than working. Does that make working bad?
    Joel: Rabbeinu Tam is discussing the kesuba agreement. If the couple agreed on something else that was not negated by the kesuba, then you would have to learn the relevant halochos (asmachta, po’el yachol lachzor bo etc.) before deciding on that.

  8. The society has multiple sub-societies. There are definitely places where you are looked down upon for working and other places where you are not.

  9. Name one society that looks down on people just for working. Not because they went to the Israeli army, and not because of anything else that came along with working, just for working itself.

  10. r’ groinem,
    So are you saying the kesuba is treated differently from other financial agreements (i.e. it has a meaning independent of what the partiesw think they agreed to)?

  11. So in halacha a monetary contract doesn’t mean what the parties, or their general society, thinks it means?

    Although somewhat off topic, technically what is known in Anglo-American law as a “contract” does not exist in halacha. It is called a “kinyan devarim.” Meaning an obligation to do something. Halakha does not recognize that.

    Rather, halakha allows for monetary obligations — I owe you $X — or transfers of interest — I sell you my house or cow, or give you a partial interest in it.

    (The obligation to “work” in the kesubah is merely a means for the husband to provide for his monetary obligations to his wife. If he is independently wealthy, for example, there is no requirement for him to go to work.)

  12. groinem:

    There are many people in certain segments of Judaism who would never consider marrying (or marrying of their daughter to) a fellow who was working. If that doesn’t qualify as “looking down” what does?

  13. Joel: No I said that the machlokes only pertains to the translation of the kesuba obligations. Any other agreement must be evaluated on its own. If you mean to ask what would be the halocho if a person wrote the language of a kesuba, without marrying someone (obviously without the marital words, just the financial words) would it mean the same thing? Or is the machlokes between RT and RE regarding the ikkar chiyuv kesuba, and the shtar is translated as an underlining of that chiyuv. My gut tells me the second option but i don’t have time now to prove it.

  14. Abba's Rantings


    “I am a member of that society and nobody is condemned for working”

    what about in adminssions in certain schools?

  15. Sippurei Chassidim, commentary on Devarim, chapter 1, verse 1, page 465:

    Rabbi Shlomoh HaKohen Rabinowicz of Radomsk (born 1801, died 1866) compared a husband who is supported by his wife to Adam HaRishon whose wife gave him something to eat.

  16. Mishnah Berurah commentary on Orach Chaim,
    Siman 135, Sif 1, Sif Katan 2:

    No more than three people receive aliyot to the Torah scroll on Monday and Thursday mornings, to avoid taking the people away from their work [bitul melachah] and this is also the reason we do not read a haftarah from the prophets at those times.

  17. In a shul where nobody works, you have a better argument for haftarah on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

  18. Name one society that looks down on people just for working. Not because they went to the Israeli army, and not because of anything else that came along with working, just for working itself.

    When I lived in Haifa I got the distinct impression that the Litvish community there felt this way. And the Haifa Litvish community is widely considered to be about as moderate as Israeli charedim can possibly get.

  19. Abba: I am not aware of a school that would refuse admittance to a child solely because his/her father works. Either they preferred to give this slot to a learner’s child because they believe a learner is better (as I said) or they had another gripe against the parents.
    BTW, I personally do not believe that a school should be exercising judgement in acceptance of children and I am upset at being surrounded by that attitude. But even after these unfortunate circumstances, you cannot say that the society looks askance at working. They just believe that learning is better.

  20. Anon: Did those worker’s go to the Israeli army? Where they more subservient to the outside prevailing culture? Were there no other differentiating fact between them and the Litvisher people other than the fact that they worked?
    BTW, I was referring to the right wing in the US. Maybe Israel is different, but I highly doubt that a person with the same ideals and lifestyle is rejected because he works.

  21. Mr. Cohen: The MB is proof that people generally work. How does that prove that learning (for those who have the ability) isn’t better?

  22. Even if the kesuvah means what it says — that husbands are required to provide for their wives — my understanding is that wives can agree to forgo that requirement in order to allow the husband to learn full time, even supported by her wages. However, theoretically at any time she could change her mind and ask him to work.

    What I don’t understand is why the kesuvah still has the same form as two thousand years ago, down to the zuzim. I understand our halachic system is fundamentally conservative, but what could possibly be wrong with updating the currency? Is this just a matter of minhag? If we can’t change the kesuvah no matter what, then it shouldn’t be surprising that couples come up with their own informal contracts with each other to supplement or contradict the kesuvah.

  23. “Not because they went to the Israeli army”

    Well, among Israelis, that’s to a very great extent the only way you *can* work. You certainly can’t work and have a learning exemption from the IDF at the same time.

    “Did those worker’s go to the Israeli army?”

    Ditto, ditto.

  24. Nachum: that is a red herring. The reason people look down on someone who went to the IDF is because of the ideological fortress charedism is today. see Brown on the CI. That is not because these people work, and yeshiva society does not look down on the idea of work. It just believes that learning is better.

  25. groinem:

    I’ll ask again: Do you deny that there are many right wing people who will not consider a husband/son-in-law who is working? Or do you think that’s not considered “looking down?”

  26. machshavos: How is marriage a judgement call? When a person chooses to marry someone, they mean to pass judgement or approval of that person? Or do they mean that they think their life’s goals are similar enough and the chemistry is sufficient to make the jump?
    Put it this way. Is there anyone in Teaneck who will marry someone who wants to learn long-term? Does a negative answer mean they look down on learners?
    Marriage is the last proof of anything.

  27. People choose their spouses for various inter-related reasons, certainly.

    I’m not asking about someone marrying someone in kollel – I’m asking about people who won’t consider a suitor who works.

    (And to answer your questions: I would assume that there are those looking for long-term learners in Teaneck. And yes, at least some of those who wouldn’t marry a long-term learner look down on them.)

  28. Machshavos: Are any of the inter-related reasons connected to judgement? Do people that you know claim to be making a statement by marrying someone? Or are they just looking for someone to share a life with?

  29. MiMedinat HaYam

    MB (and others, pre modern day era) describes a realistic society that does not exist today, in certain circles.

    as for the ketuba, it is completelty meaningless today (which leads to disputes over its “value”, etc.) my solution — reinstate it as being meaningful, value it in USD (or euro or NIS or whatever), have the chattan sign it (include a pre nup in it, if you want; instead of in a separate document that may be considered meaningless), and other changes. problen — IgrotMoshe that standardized its wording, and its meaninglessness.

    In practice (last para) — the wife has the choice of divorcing him and getting nothing, or keeping him and getting … nothing … most batei din will accomodate that choice, unless there was an agreement (implied or otherwise; i.e., societal) that there will be no man’s work.

  30. Mimedinat HaYam: Where do you come from? Do you not know of congregations that must finish shacharis on the minute because people are rushing to work? I live in Lakewood and I have seen it all over. The MB is just as relevant today.

  31. Dovid Teitelbaum

    My uncle wrote very nicely on this topic. Here is the link
    Choosing a livelihood, By Moshe Teitelbaum

  32. Seforno commentary on Bereishit, chapter 28, verse 18:

    There is no doubt that this righteous man (Yaakov Avinu) would not marry and have children if he did not have a way to support them, particularly with food and clothes.

    Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno (born year 1470 CE, died year 1550 CE) was a Torah scholar, philosopher, physician, mathematician and communal leader in his native Italy.

    ספורנו עה”ת ספר בראשית פרק כט פסוק יח
    אין ספק שלא היה הצדיק נושא אשה להעמיד בנים אם לא היה בידו לפרנסה בפרט בשאר וכסות

  33. On a personal level people, by and large, are not deciding who they marry in an attempt to make a statement. That doesn’t mean that by eliminating a group (i.e. people who work) from their dating pool they aren’t making a statement.

  34. I was told by my cousin who lives in B’nei Brak about a school there that will not accept a child whose father works, to the extent that they do not accept the children of their own teachers and rabbeim. If true, this is an existence proof. (Note that I did not fact-check myself, but the cousin is a reliable sort of person and unlikely to joke on such a topic).

  35. MMY, we’re talking about obligations *during* marriage here, not after.

    In any event, in Israel, the ketubah is certainly binding. The chatan signs it.

  36. The difference between Teaneck and the chareidi communities is the concept of “full time.” In the Teaneck MO community, almost no one would look down at someone who learns — indeed, that’s encouraged and is desirable — though many would about someone who learns to the exclusion of working and expects his wife to support him and their children. The argument is that certain Chareidi communities look down at those who learn and work.

  37. Nachum: No-one is saying the kesubah is not binding. The question is what is the meaning of the kesubah. In America the witnesses see the choson being mekabel kinyan on the obligations of the kesubah and they see him transfer the kesubah to his wife (or her agent). Even if they did not write a kesuba they are still bound by all of its obligations. See Mishna Kesubos 51a and 52 b et al.

  38. A minute ago you posted an article predicated on the notion that women’s status in society has changed, and hence women may wear tzitzit. Now you’re telling us no, society has not changed, and women should still expect to be supported by their husbands, with the the halachic ramifications thereof.

    Mimoh Nafshoch. Make up your mind. If you believe orthodox society is a disticnt subset of larger coastal American society, than nothing has changed, and there’s nothing to talk about re tzitizit. If you think orthdox Jews are no different, than the whole ketubah is irrational, and the question you should be asking is why doesnt the wife sign the kesubah obligating herself to support her husband, rather than the other way around.

  39. MMY: I heard that there was a Rov in the Israeli Rabbinate who tried to write a new kesuba in modern hebrew. When it was shown to Reb Meshulam Roth zt”l, he read it and showed a mistake in virtually every word. (See Chelkas Mechokek Even Ho’ezer 126:5)
    I checked the halocho on this issue of men working to support the family. The Rema in Eh”a 70 quotes a י”א deciding like Rabbeinu Eliyahu. The Vilna Ga’on, however, says that most poskim hold like Rabbenu Tam. Maybe the minhag in EY should be like the Vilna Ga’on as are many other minhagim, and therefore a husband in EY is not obligated to go to work.

  40. Groinem, Hebrew ketubot are used all the time in Israel, especially among Sephardim. Kind of hard to imagine how mistakes could be made.And try to enforce the ketubah in America.

  41. MiMedinat HaYam

    nachum — in israel, they take the ketubah more seriously than in america. they allow any (realistic; a friend once put in 1 million USD; the mesader kiddushin did not allow it, “making a joke of the ketubah” he said (i subsequently found out both sides had substantial real estate assets, so the million would not be a joke) amount, vs the american fixed 200 “zuzim”.

    signing it does not make it (neccessarily) valid, but it shows seriousness. how many chatanim know they are making a kinyan? but other steps, such as USD (or euro, or NIS) vs undefined “zuz”, english vs aramaic, would indicate seriousness. also, note beginning of says its never enforced, and questionably valid.

  42. MMY: seriously, you are bringing proof from Wikipedia?
    How many chassanim know they are making a kinyan?
    My Mesader Kidushin sat with me the night before the chassuna and explained everything. Of course the Kalloh was his granddaughter so he wanted to be sure she was protected!
    In America it is not 200 fixed zuzim. Read yours again.
    Nachum: look up the Chelkas Mechokek. Then learn hilchos gittin and see how many chashoshos they were choshed for.
    We have veered off topic. The question was what are husbands obligated, not if we should keep our obligations.

  43. MiMedinat HaYam

    groinem: wiki is enough of a proof to cast doubt on the validity / enforceability of the ketubah. (i disagree woth other parts of that wiki, too.)

    in the yeshivish world, the mesader kiddushin is a RY who has very little contact with the chattan, and runs out of the hall after the chuppa (not even staying for the eidei yichud. i was one several times and never received instructions.) and they definitely do not explain it to the chattan (esp the way syrian rabbonim actual do spend time explaining it to the chattan; of course, syrians do not have a chattan’s tish to write up the ketubah.)

    it definitely is 200 zuzim (whatever that means.)

    on topic — if the society of the chattan / kallah is a working society, there is an obligation. the only alternative the wife has, is to divorce him. a bet din can, but will not, order him to get a paying job.

  44. Groinem, the link is to an article by R’ Broyde and R’ Reiss, certainly not lightweights. And you yourself admit your experience was an exception.

    MMY: Sephardim have million-dollar ketubot. It’s supposed to be a disincentive for divorce.

  45. Many years ago a friend of mine told me the following story.

    His son had a chavrusah who became a choson. This chavrusah had connections to KAJ in Washington Heights and decided to go to Rav Dr. Breuer, ZT”L, for a bracha not long before his Chasana. During the course of their conversation, Rav Breuer asked him what he planned to do after he married. He replied that he was going to sit and learn for some time. Rav Breuer then asked him how he intended to support his wife and himself. The fellow replied that his wife was going to work and support them.

    Rav Breuer asked the fellow if he had the kesuva with him that was going to be used at the chasana. The fellow replied in the negative. Rav Breuer asked him to come back the next day and bring the kesuva.

    The next day when he returned, Rav Breuer looked at the kesuva and then said, “It says here that you are going to support your wife! Auf a falsha zach kein bracha!” (On a false thing, no bracha!)

    Needless to say this fellow was shocked, but Rav Breuer would not give him a bracha.

  46. R’ Levine: Someone came to the Chazon Ish and told him that the Kamarna writes that someone who does not wear Rabbeinu Tam’s Tefillin is a קרקפתא דלא מנחא תפלין. The Chazon Ish replied “Nu, Rabbeinu Tam holds the same way.”
    Your story proves that Rav Breuer held like Rabbenu Eliyahu. Nu, Rabbeinu Tam disagreed with him too.

  47. Rabbeinu Tam didn’t wear Rabbeinu Tam tefillin.

  48. MMY – I just looked up my wife’s kesuba again. Sorry, it is not 200 zuz. The chosson, out of his own will, added 100 zekukim on top of the 100 zekukim he was mekabel in lieu of her clothes and jewelery that she brought into the marriage.
    The 200 zuz is either about 1000 grams of silver (Today’s (dec 19 2012) price = $1.0 per gram) = $1000
    or 120 grams of silver making the kesuba $120
    The 200 zekukim is (acc. to Igros Moshe) 100lb of silver, (silver is $31.25oz) = $50,000.
    I hope you realize the difference between 200 zuz and the added 200 zekukim.

  49. Is it not true that there are certain schools that won’t take children from families where the husband works?

    If so, that is community sanctioned looking down upon the workers if ever there was!

  50. What’s interesting is that even though R”T says that you don’t have to get a job, he does say that you have to get your hands dirty with planting and harvesting in order to support your wife. Apparently that was considered a more dignified state than working for someone else, since at least you were working on your own land.

    The impression one gets is that most Jews in R”T’s time were self-employed, and that working for others was something relatively rare and lowly.

    It’s impossible to know, of course, but I wonder whether R”T would maintain his approach in the current situation, where few Jews own farm land and most jobs that Jews are likely to get are held in higher esteem than farm labor.

    Today only a small percentage of working people are self-employed, see , so there is no stigma to working for others. Should halacha take cognizance of this reality?

  51. Curious George – Living in Lakewood, I am not sure what those people are talking about. If a person lives with a certain lifestyle, his individual choices of whether to work or learn are not relevant. However, if working changed his outlook, that outlook may deter schools from accepting his child. I do not agree or understand this way of running a school, but that is how things are. This is not looking down on working people, just looking down on other attitudes which is wrong, but not hypocritical.

  52. There’s a long teshuvah on the subject by R”T quoted by the Hagahot Maimoniyot to Hilchot Ishut 12:11. Some interesting points emerge.

    First, the other French rabbis objected to R”T’s position, claiming that he was bringing disgrace upon Jewish women. Still, R”T stuck to his guns.

    Second, he did concede that a court could compel a husband to work as a temporary measure, but not permanently.

    R”T’s objection didn’t derive from Hilchot Ishut and had nothing to do with going to kollel. Rather, it derived from the halacha that a worker must be able to quit his job even in the middle of the day, or else the job would be equivalent to slavery (B”K 116b).

    Therefore, if a court ordered a husband to work on a permanent basis, it would amount to selling him into slavery, since he would be unable to quit. But we don’t sell husbands as slaves to fulfill their marital obligations.

    I still wonder how this applies in contemporary times. First, most people work at jobs and don’t regard it as slavery. In fact, the only people who do are Marxists, who refer to workers as wage slaves. Fortunately, the common law, no less than Jewish law, gives employees-at-will the right to quit at any time, though custom requires two weeks’ notice.

    But second, while some people can live off their trust funds or investment income and others own businesses and work for themselves, most people work for others for a living. So R”T’s position would turn the husband’s support obligation, which of course he does not deny, into a dead letter for most husbands.

  53. Scott – I am unaware of a difference in the הלכות of פועל יכול לחזור בו because of today’s attitudes to work.
    However, the hagohos maymonis you quote is not quite like you say it. He is proving that a person is not obligated to rent himself out as a slave or a worker to support his wife, just like any borrower is not obligated to do so to repay his loan. Even a thief would only be sold for six years to repay his thievery because of the prohibition of Jewish slavery. That is proof that a person cannot be forced to work for someone else for the rest of his married life.
    Even if the התחייבות of a man to his wife is the same as the התחייבות of a פועל to his בעה”ב, he would still be allowed to leave. The nuance is that a person cannot be made a slave to his wife either.
    I do not fully understand this argument, because a worker cannot demand to be paid and not to work because of the prohibition of slavery. He can only demand not to have to work. Similarly a husband only has to support his wife while he is getting ‘paid’ with the benefits of marriage. At any time he can divorce his wife (even against her will) and be freed from the obligation of מזונות.
    Your mention of the temporary measure only works למיגדר מילתא. If there is a religious and sociological benefit of having a group of people who dedicate their life to learning, then there would be an argument against sanctioning those people למיגדר מילתא. The argument against kollel is based on the idea that the Torah demands a different lifestyle, and any benefit is not the Torah’s way. If according to R”T the Torah does not demand a different lifestyle, then the argument holds no water.

  54. “So R”T’s position would turn the husband’s support obligation, which of course he does not deny, into a dead letter for most husbands.”

    no. as you mention, most people, including most husbands, do work. they need to feed themselves after all. once they are working, and have income, they need to provide for their wives too.

  55. Ah, I found someone who agrees with my distinction. See here:

    I’ll reproduce the first paragraph, but there’s much more, ayen sham.

    “In several previous posts, we mentioned the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam that an indigent man who lacks the means to satisfy his debts or his obligation to maintain his wife can nevertheless not be obligated to hire himself out in order to satisfy these obligations. There is, however, an important judicial ruling by rabbanim Shmuel Baruch Werner, Shlomo Tene, and Y. Ha’Levi Epstein asserting that “in contemporary times, when all our livelihoods are based on work and labor”, all poskim agree that a husband, at least insofar as he has previously been in the habit of working and is only now refraining in order to avoid supporting his family, can be compelled to return to his erstwhile habit of employment.”

  56. There seems to be something of an eliding between what is regarded as proper behaviour, and what a beis din should be empowered to enforce.

    Let’s give a slightly different case.

    Let’s say we were dealing with a husband who was engaging in extra marital relations (in modern parlance: “cheating on his wife”).

    Would Rabbanu Tam require a beis din to force the husband to divorce his wife? – famously no.

    Does that mean that Rabbanu Tam is comfortable with a man who has a bit on the side, and indeed would embrace a society where this was the norm and regard them as ideal?

    I find that position very doubtful, and yet that appears to be the implication of the article vis a vis the ketuba – ie if a beis din is not empowered or required force a man to get a job to support his wife, then a society where men are not prepared to do this can therefore be accepted ideal.

    There are many situations where the moral situation and the legal situation do not align. Classic cases in halacha are the situations that give rise to a mishepara. If somebody agrees to enter into a contract, but reneges before the necessary halachic formalities creating a kinyan are carried out, the courts are unable to force such a person to fulfil the contract. But what they can do is give a formal curse for engaging in such behaviour and going back on their word.

    Similarly here. One can have a political/philosophical position that is generally not keen on government or beis din intervention, and regards such intervention as a cure worse than the disease, and still not support the actions of those who take advantage of the lack of intervention. It does not necessarily follow that anybody opposed to government regulated gun control believes that shooting innocent children is ideal or appropriate, nor does it follow that if somebody does not support a beis din forcing a husband to hire himself out to support his wife, especially if the rationale is, as the Hagahos Mamonios indicates, because that would violate the Torah’s prohibition on slavery, then such a person supports a society where husbands learn in kollel rather than work (or a society where people refuse to fulfil their korbanos obligations by refusing to go out and work for that matter). It is just that such a person may regard minimal interference by the courts (or government) in people’s lives as an ideal, even if that has consequences that result in people (maybe even many people) not fulfilling the obligations to which they have signed up to or where as a consequence they are left free (at least b’zman hazeh) to act in immoral ways with others paying the price.

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