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What are a husband's obligations to his wife and vice versa?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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When a Jewish man marries a Jewish woman he automatically obligates himself to his wife in ten areas; some are Torah mandated and others by rabbinic decree.1 A number of these obligations are mentioned specifically in the Ketubah and others are implied:

He must 1) feed his wife; 2) clothe her; and 3) provide her conjugal needs.

His estate is obligated to 4) pay her a lump sum in the event that he divorces her or dies before she does.

He must 5) pay her medical bills if she falls ill; and 6) ransom her if she is taken hostage.

If the wife passes away before the husband, he must 7) pay her burial expenses, and 8) after he dies, her children inherit their mother’s ketubah money, before the rest of the estate is divided amongst all the heirs.

In the event that the husband dies before the wife, 9) she is entitled to live in his home and live off his estate until she dies or remarries, and 10) her daughters, too, are supported by his estate until they marry.

In exchange for these ten responsibilities, the husband is entitled to four privileges—all by rabbinic decree:

He has right over his wife’s 1) earnings2 and 2) any lost object his wife may stumble upon. 3) For the duration of the marriage he is entitled to all monetary benefits produced by any property or possessions she owns (such as rent or harvests). 4) If she predeceases him, he inherits her estate.3

Footnotes

  • 1. Maimonidies laws of Marriage chapter 12
  • 2. The rabbis gave the husband the right to his wife’s income only because he is obligated to provide for her needs. If the wife wishes, she may declare that she wishes to keep her wages, and she is ready to be self-sufficient.
  • 3. Prenuptial agreements can be arranged to circumvent any of these conditions. A rabbi should be consulted to facilitate such a contract.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Ketubah
The wedding contract which features the husband’s various obligations to his wife. The focal point of the document is the financial compensation due to the wife in the event of the marriage’s dissolution through divorce or widowhood.