Taking advice from one’s wife-A Torah perspective: Should a man listen to his wife’s suggestions and consult her about personal matters?

Taking advice from one’s wife-A Torah perspective: Should a man listen to his wife’s suggestions and consult her about personal matters?

It is not uncommon for some husbands to feel a sense of masculine pride which prevents them from being naturally open to taking advice from their wives, especially in matters that deal with them personally and do not involve the marriage or family. Psychologist explain that indeed this may be due to insecurity and fear of loss of power in the relationship, and that it may jeopardize their leadership position of the family unit. Others explain that it is simply due to masculine pride. Whatever the case, below will focus on the Torah’s perspective on this issue, which is obviously meant to be a directive for how a couple is to act in a marriage and retain most peaceful relations.

The Torah’s perspective:

Advice in material matters: The Sefer Chassidim[1] writes “One should pray to G-d that He grant him a good wife, as it states in Mishlei[2] that a wise wife comes from G-d. It is common amongst the world that a man follows after the wife.” Accordingly, the Talmud concludes that one is to take advice from his wife in material matters [even if it is personal, and does not involve matters relating to one’s home[3]].[4] It goes without saying that one is to take advice from his wife regarding material matters that relate to the household.[5] This applies even if his wife does not reach his level of intellect and understanding.[6] This matter is not just a dictum of Talmudic advice, but has the authority of a ruling in Shulchan Aruch, and is hence expected to be followed.[7] [This is because G-d granted women with extra wisdom, as while men are rooted in Chochmah, women are rooted in Bina, and hence they naturally have ability to offer one a deeper perspective into the material matter.[8][

Advice in matters that relate to religion: The Midrash[9] records a story of how an evil life who was married to a righteous husband influenced him to become evil, while a righteous wife was married to an evil husband influenced her husband to become good. Accordingly, we see the great influence that a wife could have on her husband regarding spiritual matters. Due to this, the Sages warned against a husband seeking advice from his wife regarding religious matters that the wife does not excel in, or contains a natural disposition towards leniency, either due to lack of understanding of its severity, or due to the psychological differences of outlook of a woman.[10] This applies even if in general she is considered a G-d fearing woman.[11] [If, however, the wife also has education regarding this matter and is considered G-d fearing regarding it, then one is encouraged to consult with his wife even regarding spiritual matters.[12] Likewise, if the spiritual matter also contains relevance to material matters, then he is to consult with his wife.[13] Thus, the Talmud[14] relates that when Rebbe Elazar Ben Azarya was asked to be appointed the head of the Sanhedrin, he went to first consult with his wife prior to agreeing [i.e. Imlich Bidveisuhu].[15] Likewise we find many stories of Tzadikim and Gedolei Yisrael who advise with their wise even regarding spiritual matters.[16]]

 

Summary:

The Sages instruct that regarding material matters, and certainly regardless matters that relate to the household, a husband is to seek advice from his wife, even if she is of a lower status scholastically. However, regarding spiritual matters, while he is to seek her advice in matters that she equally understands their importance and is likewise G-d fearing in their fulfillment, he is not a seek her advice in matters that she does not have understanding in or is lax in its performance.    

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[1] Sefer Chassidim 135

[2] Mishlei 19:14

[3] 2nd Lishna of Gemara, as brought in next footnote

[4] 2nd answer/Lishna in Bava Metzia 59a “People say: If your wife is shorter than you, bend down and whisper in her ear [to ask her advice]…this refers to material matters.” Conclusion of Sefer Chassidim ibid

[5] Bava Metzia ibid even according to first Lishna

[6] See Bava Metzia ibid, Upashut that the intent of the Talmud regarding a husband bending down to his shorter wife to ask her for advice is not to be taken in merely its physical connotation but also in its metaphoric connotation, which is that even if she’s not of one’s level scholastically, one is it take advice from her regarding material matters. So is also evident from the story in the Talmud with Rebbe Elazar Ben Azarya, as recorded below.

[7] See Toras Menachem Vol. 22 p. 292 regarding the students of the Arizal “According to Torah one is to indeed take advice from his wife regarding material matters..and this is a matter based completely on Torah and founded on the Shulchan Aruch”

[8] See Nidda 45b; Toras Menachem 5743 Vol. 4 p. 2013; Givat Shaul Derushim p. 13

[9] Bereishis Raba 15, recorded in Sefer Chassidim ibid

[10] See Bava Metzia ibid that “Whoever goes after the advice of his wife falls in Gihennom” and its conclusion that this refers to spiritual matters.; However, see Sefer Chassidim ibid who explains this to be in reference to matters that women have a more lenient disposition or outlook towards, such as “Isha Eiyneha Tzara Beorchim” and the like

[11] Sefer Chassidim ibid

[12] So seems Pashut and the simple implication of Sefer Chassidim ibid based on the story in the Midrash! See also Aruch Hashulchan 437:7 that practically the women of today are no longer considered “Atzlaniyos” and hence may be trusted even initially to do the search for the Chametz. Accordingly, one can strongly argue that after the common custom dating back a number of generations for women to receive Torah education, that they too can be trusted in certain spiritual matters, and at times even more than a man. See Brachos 17a “With what do women receive merit [of learning Torah]? Through escorting their children to the Talmud Torah, and assisting their husbands in learning Torah, and waiting for their husbands to return from the Beis Midrash” And hence we see that the Talmud prescribe the great spiritual merit onto the wife in advising and motivating her husband to go learn Torah.

[13] See Toras Menachem Vol. 22 p. 292

[14] Brachos 27b

[15] See however Pischeiy Teshuvah E.H. 76:3 in name of Yearos Devash 2 Derush 18that the reason he consulted his wife is because his appointment would diminish the Halachic minimum requirement of Onah.

[16] See introduction to the Sefer Pokeiach Ivrim for a story related by the Rebbe Rayatz of Rav Yosef Baal Agalah, who was a great Torah scholar, and sought the advice of his wife regarding fulfilling a directive that the Alter Rebbe had given him in a private audience, which would be life changing and utterly degrading of his spiritual stature.

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