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Tuesday
Dec202016

THE BUSINESS OF MARRIAGE

Selected Halachos from the “One Minute Halacha” project

By HaRav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Shlita
Mara D’asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights

IS A CHILD TO BE TRUSTED TO CHECK VEGETABLES FOR INSECTS?

Eid echad ne’eman b’issurin (one witness is believed with regard to prohibited substances); a single adult is trusted when it comes to the status of toiveled (ritually immersed) dishes, kosher food or checking produce for bugs, and eggs for bloodspots. May a child perform these tasks without supervision and declare them “kosher”?

When it comes to taking a child’s word, halacha states that kol shebeyado ne’eman (anything that is within his ability to perform he can be depended upon). But there is a caveat: something that is ischazek issura (already established as an assumed prohibition) cannot be “kosherized” by a child’s assertion. Therefore, a dish cannot be removed from its pre-toiveled and prohibited state by the testimony of a child. Even this exception, however, is limited, according to many poskim, to those things that are an issur d’Oraisa (a Biblical prohibition). So, for example, since immersing glass dishes is merely d’Rabbanan (by Rabbinic law) it may be performed (and confirmed) by a child.

B’dikas Chametz (searching for bread before Pesach)—which involves only a d’Rabbanan—is therefore a project that could theoretically be performed by a child—but since it’s a difficult job, it is preferred that an adult carry it out whenever possible.

Whether a child can be trusted to check for bugs depends on the status of the produce in question. Produce that is muchzak b’tolaim (assumed to be bug infested) cannot be declared free of insects by a child. But produce that will be cooked may be checked by a child, since cooked insects would be batel (nullified) strictly min ha’Torah (by Biblical law) and is only assur mid’Rabbanan. Any fruit or vegetable for which infestation is mi’ut hamatzui (found in a minority of cases; see Halacha #578 for details) may also be checked by a child.

Checking eggs in this day and age is a completely different process than in the past, since commercial eggs are not fertilized. Therefore, it is a task where there is much room for leniency, and can be performed by a child.

For any type of checking, a child must be a bar da’as (capable of understanding), a level of maturity that is attained at around the age of nine.

THE BUSINESS OF MARRIAGE: A TRADITIONAL APPROACH

Every successful partnership has clear guidelines; the responsibilities of each partner are clearly defined. The same holds true for the partnership of marriage, including each spouse’s monetary obligations. Torah and Chazal have laid the groundwork for a “working” kosher marriage and the obligations the husband and wife have toward each other.

It is the husband’s responsibility, according to halacha, to provide for his wife’s needs, and any supplemental income the wife earns belongs to her husband. There is the possibility for an alternative arrangement: A woman may choose to say, “Eini nezonis v’eini oseh” (I will not be supported and will not [contribute] my work), which would make her self-supporting and in position keep all her income.

In the times of Chazal, in certain socio-economic circles, it was acceptable for the husband to rely on his wife’s work if it was needed; he thus acquired her income. The Gemara speaks of spinning wool in this context and lays guidelines as to the standard amounts a woman would be expected to produce under this type of agreement. However, if either the husband or the wife came from an affluent background, so that they could afford to live without the wife joining the labor force, she was not required to work. If a couple has servants—or the means to hire them—they may be retained to do household according to the wife’s wishes, even if the husband objects. (The housework was extensive and arduous in pre-Industrial times.)

THE BUSINESS OF MARRIAGE: MODERN APPROACH

A statement regarding a married woman’s obligation to contribute to household finances (when she does not choose to be fiscally independent) was above: If the wife’s supplementary income is needed, she is required to work, and her salary belongs to her husband.

Early poskim are very specific about the types of work a husband can insist his wife perform, and limit the effort she must invest, as well. The Rashba (13th century authority) lists the occupations women are exempt from: construction, agriculture and banking—among others—that were traditionally men’s work. The Rambam (12th century) lists the gold standard for women’s work—spinning, weaving and other established feminine vocations.

In today’s day and age, the line between men’s and women’s work has blurred significantly, and many new careers in technology, education, administration and business have opened up wide for women. Although religiously observant women perform successfully in these professions and others, the question must be asked: Is a woman obligated to enter these fields to support her family, and if she does so, does her salary belong to her husband?

Contemporary poskim address this question: The Beis Meir (early 20th century posek) states that the types of work that are mandatory for women are only those listed by the Rambam, although other authorities disagree, and maintain that all work that is customarily done by women in their particular locale should be included.

However, there are other considerations that exempt a woman from seeking employment. There are courtesies extended to the wife who is called akeres habayis (mainstay of the home). The Rambam quotes the pasuk from T’hillim, “Kol kevudah bas melech penima” (the honor of the king’s daughter [the Jewish woman] is within) with regard to women in public situations, which many poskim interpret as cautionary counsel for women working outside the home. Thus a woman can’t be obligated to work outside her house. Additionally, work done out of home often interferes with her home duties. She is exempt due to her primary responsibility to her household, emotionally and physically.

Another element that frees a wife from the onus of work outside the home is time-related. A woman need only work standard hours, and her household and child-raising duties usually exceed the typical forty-hour week. Even a woman who is so efficient that she “gets it all done” in record time and has free hours for employment, would need to work extra hard and after hours. There is a halachic dispute regarding income received due to ha’adafah al y’dei hadechak (pressure from overload). Accordingly, a woman may argue “kim li” and keep her earnings as her own.

SMALL TALK DURING A SHEVA BRACHOS

Kos shel bracha (lit., cup of blessing) is the designation for the cup of wine used for Kiddush, Havdala and bentching (after-blessing on bread meals) and other occasions. Special concentration is required by halacha for this cup of wine, and there should be no hefsek (interruption, primarily with speech) from the time the leader raises the cup until the wine is drunk. This ban on talking applies especially to the leader who makes the bracha, but also to all those who are participating—even between brachos and even if they are not saying the brachos along with him. This is because the distinctive quality of this kos shel bracha compels us to treat it with respect and not be mei’siach daas (become distracted) from it.

During Sheva Brachos (the seven blessings recited after feasts for a bride and groom during the week after their wedding), it is common practice these days to honor different guests with each bracha. This may be a lengthy process, but it is still proper for all those reciting the brachos to remain silent until the kosos shel bracha—the cup for bentching and the cup of wine for sheva brachos respectively—are drunk so as not make a hefsek. There is an added stringency that all the mesubin (other participants) should respect the silence, though the common custom is to be lenient in this regard.

Me’ikar hadin (according to the letter of the law) those listening to Havdala may speak at the conclusion of the bracha on the wine—“ah gutte voch!” (Have a good week!) is a popular adage for this time. Nevertheless, it is good to be stricter with a hefsek and wait until the wine is drunk before talking in order to show respect for the wine of blessing. Indeed the custom is to refrain from wishing “ah gutte voch!” till after the wine has been drunk.

The same applies to Kiddush by day: those being yotze (fulfilling their obligation) shouldn’t talk from the time the Kiddush cup is lifted until the wine has been drunk.

“One Minute Halacha” is a succinct daily presentation on practical Halacha in video, audio, and text formats, and can be accessed by phone at 718.989.9599, by email, halacha2go@gmail.com, or by WhatsApp 347.456.5665.

 

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