Volume 15 Number 51
                       Produced: Wed Oct  5 20:24:24 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Marriage (2)
         [Shaul Wallach, Shaul Wallach]
Research on Salonika
         [Bennett Ruda]


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Sun, 02 Oct 94 17:07:01 IST
Subject: Marriage

      Jeremy Nussbaum offers some thoughtful remarks on the subject
of marriage which deserve at least a token response.

>I have a hard time with a phrase like "the Torah perspective."  There
>are many perspectives articulated in the classic sources, the
>commentaries and other original works through the ages.  It seems to
>me that there are many Torah perspectives, even on simpler topics, and
>certainly on a complicated topic like relationships between men and
>women and marriage.

     This is indeed an important point, and it is one that I spent some
time pondering myself. As a "compromise" I ended up using the phrase
"the Torah persepctive" in Part 2 and "a Torah perspective" in Part 3.
Without getting too philospohical, we might say roughly that while there
is indeed only one Torah and therefore only a single Torah perspective,
we can also say that it is multifaceted, having (perhaps) different
manifestations for different times, places and individuals. Thus, what
I presented in Part 3 is part of the perspective that I saw emerging
from the Talmud and the Poseqim (authorities) and over which I did not
find any significant disagreement. However, it is clearly an ideal which
not everyone attains in equal measure. Our imperfect generation needs
special guidance in order to strive intelligently towards the Talmudic
ideal, and anyone who is in doubt should consult with his rabbi on how
to approach the matter in a way that is best fit for him.

>It seems to me that the basic issues of relationships is a human one,
>not a Jewish one.  It is not obvious to me that the "Torah" perspective
>is, or should be different, from the "enlightened" human perspective.
>I do agree that as Jews living specifically Jewish lifestyles, with
>a certain degree of shared principles, literature and outlooks, there
>may be issues that recur, or approaches that generally work.
>In no way do I mean to impugn the value of this discussion or the
>validity of the points raised.  It seems to me that while in halachic
>matters, the classic and modern sources are comprehensive and specific to
>Jews, in psychological matters this is not the case.

     I would suggest looking at things in reverse - when the Jew
sincerely devotes himself to living by the Torah, in which everything
in his life is governed by the halacha, he will need have no recourse
to "psychological matters," because his whole personality is governed
by the Torah. But if his devotion is incomplete, then at least in part
he will need the "enlightened human perspective" to deal with the part
of his personality that is not governed by the Torah.

     Just yesterday on Shabbat I happened to come across an essay on
the Jewish woman by one of Benei Beraq's leading yeshiva deans, Rabbi
Meir Mazuz Shelit"a from Djerba, Tunisia. He pointed out that the two
halachot from the Rambam with which Part 3 of our series on marriage
closed were translated into French and introduced into Napoleon's
code, and from the French in turn into Arabic to be included in the
Tunisian law code under President Bourgiba. This should give us at
least a hint of the real relationship between the "enlightened"
human perspective and the "Torah" perspective.



From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Mon, 03 Oct 94 10:52:19 IST
Subject: Marriage

     It is again a great pleasure to read the contributions on
the subject of marriage, and I am most grateful for the thoughtful
comments which are helping to clarify the issues that have been
raised. Before I make any further comments of substance, however,
there is a small matter that I must clear up.

     In Vol. 15 #44 several people took me up on my handling of the
translation of "ish we-isha". On rereading Leah Gordon's original
comment, it dawned on me that I had completely misunderstood her. I
thought that she was actually proposing the usage "woman and husband"
to refer to marriage in general, whereas she obviously used it only to
illustrate how my parallel phrase "man and wife" offended her. I didn't
see this at the time and needlessly overreacted. I should have known
better than to get into an argument with a woman! Did not our Rabbis
say women have bina yeteira (greater intuition)? :-) At any rate I
apologize to Leah, and hope that people will find my subsequent usage,
especially in Part 3, more balanced and in keeping with their


      It was indeed pleasant to read Chana Stillinger's further
comments, and feel that we have reached a basic understanding on the
main issues:

>> >Although I agree that one serious problem with the modern world is a
>> >failure to take marriage seriously,
>> ...
>> >                                    I think it is important to realize
>> >that divorce rates may rise when individuals are given some freedom
>> >precisely because they find the freedom to end lousy marriages.
>>      Here again, this talk about "freedom" reflects modern, alien
>> influences. Our Rabbis gave us this definition of freedom: "There is no
>> free person but one who occupies himself with the Torah."
>Whoa, I'm more on your side than you think!  You and I are using
>different definitions of the word "freedom," apparently.  I'm using it
>in a very narrow way, to mean the real availability of concrete choices,
>without judging whether it's good or bad to have those choices.

     Thanks for the clarification. Here again, I see that the women
are more to the point than I am. You know, sometimes I get the feeling
that after living nearly 20 years in Benei Beraq, I'm from a different
planet than you folks back in the States :-).

>> In most cases
>> it is not the marriage itself that is "lousy" but the devotion of the
>> partners to Torah values. If they really behaved themselves the way the
>> Torah teaches them, they would find the ultimate freedom within their
>> marriage. On this point I will dwell at length in Part 3 of this series.
>I think we agree that lack of devotion to Torah values can lead to lousy
>marriages.  I just meant to point out that rising divorce rates in the
>relevant traditional communities *might* be *diagnostic* of serious
>problems in many of their marriages.
>To my surprise, you actually seem to be suggesting that such communities
>may be failing to inculcate important Torah values in the first place
>(else so many marriages wouldn't be foundering).

     Absolutely! The main problem seems to be adapting the teachings
of the Torah to the changing social environment. But I would go even
further. The Rambam in Hilkot De`ot syas that if the ways of the people
in one's city are bad, then he should move to a place where they are
good, and if they are bad everywhere, then he should go out and live
in the wilderness. Now of course not everyone can do this literally.
But I have heard in the name of the Hazon Ish that today the yeshivot
take the place of the wilderness in the Rambam's ruling. What I'm
saying is that we should realize that the outside world is destructive
of Torah values, and that by making our community more insular, like a
yeshiva, we will find it easier to instill these Torah values among us.

>I'll agree that the best solution to the problem of divorce is
>prevention through the dedication of both partners to Torah values.  But
>in the meantime, before this solution can be implemented, what should be
>done about husbands/wives who are abused by their spouses?

     When it is clear that despite all efforts at mediation, there is
no hope for the marriage and that the children are suffering more than
they would were the couple to break up, then I would favor divorce. On
this issue I differ with the practice of many rabbinical courts, which
are very hesitant to coerce either the husband or the wife to grant or
receive the Get against their will. Here I find the Rambam's rulings
more enlightened. He did not forbid divorcing the wife against her
will, as did the Ashkenazim who adopted Rabbeinu Gershom's ban. But
at the same time, he forced the husband to give the Get when the wife
could no longer stand living with him. In this also the Ashkenazim
are strict, but there are nevertheless responsa from Rabbeinu Asher
(the RO"Sh) which support the forced Get when the wife has good
reason to part from her husband.

     In Yemen, where the Rambam was considered the Mara De'atra
("master of the place"), both leniencies were observed down to our
times. Similarly, in 19th century Turkey, R. Hayyim Falagi of Izmir
(Smyrna) put a maximum period of 18 months for mediating a troubled
marriage, and afterwards had the Get issued against the will of the
recalcitrant husband or wife. If these policies were adopted today,
I think there would be much less suffering.

     Again I realize I'm playing with fire :-), but I think that the
ease with which a husband could divorce his wife actually worked for
the good of the marriage, since it acted as a psychological deterrent
for the wife not to misbehave. Let us read the following excerpt from
an impassioned speech to rabbinical judges given on 1 Elul 5739 by R.
Moshe Malka from Morocco, now the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Petah Tiqwa,
in which he explains why the Sephardim did not accept Rabbeinu Gershom's
ban on divorcing one's wife against her will (Resp. Miqwe Ha-Mayyim, Pt.
4, Even Ha-`Ezer 3, p. 130):

    ... and when the Castillian rabbis stood on the need to take
    measures for the good of the wife, they did not touch the law of
    divorce and left it according to the rule of the Torah, knowing
    correctly that this is the good and happiness of the wife; for when
    she knows that her husband has permission to divorce her whenever
    he wishes, she honors him and acts with modesty and importance like
    the fit daughters of Israel, and he also continues to honor her,
    and to do her will, and thus the peace of the house and the honor
    of the family are kept; otherwise, if she knows that she decides,
    she will try to take control and to go wild according to her will,
    and this way the peace of the house is completely disturbed.

    Rabbi Malka refers only to the ease with which a man can divorce
his wife according to the Torah and the deterrent this has on her.
While he does not mention this, I would venture to say that if we
went according to the Rambam's rule as well - forcing the husband
to grant the Get when the wife cannot stand him any longer - then the
deterrent might also work the opposite way on the husband as well.

    In his speech, Rabbi Malka makes the point that when the wife
submits to her husband's authority, he reciprocates and does her will in
return. This idea can be found among the Castillian rabbis themselves
whom he mentioned. Thus, for example, R. Yizhaq Abuhab (Spain, 14th
century) writes as follows in his popular book Menorat Ha-Ma'or
(Chap. 176):

    They said in the Midrash that a wise woman commanded her daughter
    when she was bringing her to her husband's home; she told her, "My
    daughter, stand before your husband as before a king and serve him;
    and if you are a maid to him, he will be a servant to you and honor
    you like a mistress. But if you aggrandize yourself over him, he
    will be a master to you against your will and you will be in
    contempt in his eyes like one of the slaves".


     Both Chana and Ellen Krishner are rightly concerned for the
welfare of the children of unhappy marriages. This touches on the
importance of giving them good examples of behavior, something which
is sadly lacking among us today. The Talmud, in discussing the Ben
Sorer U-More (rebellious son), says that he is not judged according
to this law if the voice of his father (Qol Aviw) and his mother
(Qol Immo) are not the same. It follows that they are to blame if
he knows about their differences. Today this is harder to avoid
when the wife feels more "equal" to her husband and demands a say
in matters that were formerly his exclusive domain. But given that
this is so, both parents must make a conscious effort to find time
for a dialogue away from their children and display a single opinion
in their presence.

     Ellen makes the following point with which I think we would all

>In fact, I think this was the point made by the original poster:  we want
>to encourage 'happy' 'successful' 'pick-your-favorite-adjective' marriages
>so that there *will* be love, intimacy and genuine caring between the
>individuals.  Such a home provides the emotional support and stability
>that children need.

     In answer I do agree with Ellen in that the path to a successful
marriage will differ in details for different people. But here I will
offer something that should help everyone in his own way. This is the
importance of giving instead of taking. When we think more about our
obligations instead of our rights - our Torah is a book of duties,
not a "Bill of Rights" - then we come closer to serving G-d in our
marriages. Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler ZS"L, one of the spiritual
giants of the modern Musar movement, devoted a whole essay, "Kontres
ha-Hesed" (published in "Mikhtav mi-Eliyahu", Bnei Braq, 1964, pp.
32-51) on this theme. His basic idea is that love comes from giving, not
the opposite as we might think. He quotes our Rabbis who said (Derekh
Eretz Zuta 2), "If you want to cleave to the love of your friend, then
deal in his welfare".

    The advice Rabbi Dessler gave to newlywed couples was as follows
p. 39):

    Be careful, dear ones, to seek always to please each other as you
    feel yourselves at this hour; and know that at the moment you start
    to make demands from one another, then your happiness is already
    beyond you".

    In closing, let us pray that Rav Dessler's advice always guide us
in seeking love and happiness in our marriages. Amen.




From: Bennett Ruda <ritz.mordor.com!<teacher@...>
Date: Sat, 17 Sep 1994 22:03:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Research on Salonika

A teacher at my school (SAR) is doing research on Salonika in the areas of:

-Famous Rabbis during the 16-17 century
-Sephardic History of the community
-Sephardic customs
-The Jewish community there today: schools, business.

If you have any information on sources, resources, resource-people, etc 
please let me know.



Bennett J. Ruda         || "The World exists only because of
SAR Academy             || the innocent breath of schoolchildren"
Riverdale, NY           || From the Talmud
<teacher@...> || Masechet Shabbat 119b


End of Volume 15 Issue 51