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F4. Withholding Food, Clothing or Marital Rights from Our Wife.    [Make a Comment]

We are forbidden to afflict our wife by withholding food, clothing, or marital rights.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 21:7-11 (Maimonides RN262; Meir MN42; Chinuch C46)
If a man sells his daughter as a slave, she is not to go free like the men-slaves. If her master married her but decides she no longer pleases him, then he is to allow her to be redeemed. He is not allowed to sell her to a foreign people, because he has treated her unfairly. If he has her marry his son, then he is to treat her like a daughter. If he marries another wife, he is not to reduce her food, clothing or marital rights. If he fails to provide her with these three things, she is to be given her freedom without having to pay anything.

Ephesians 5:25-33
As for husbands, love your wives, just as the Messiah loved the Messianic Community, indeed, gave himself up on its behalf, in order to set it apart for God, making it clean through immersion in the mikveh, so to speak, in order to present the Messianic Community to himself as a bride to be proud of, without a spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without defect. This is how husbands ought to love their wives - like their own bodies; for the man who loves his wife is loving himself. Why, no one ever hated his own flesh! On the contrary, he feeds it well and takes care of it, just as the Messiah does the Messianic Community, because we are parts of his Body. Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and remain with his wife, and the two will become one. There is profound truth hidden here, which I say concerns the Messiah and the Messianic Community. However, the text also applies to each of you individually: let each man love his wife as he does himself, and see that the wife respects her husband.

1 Timothy 5:8
Moreover, anyone who does not provide for his own people, especially for his family, has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Peter 3:7
You husbands, likewise, conduct your married lives with understanding. Although your wife may be weaker physically, you should respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of Life. If you don't, your prayers will be blocked.


It is clear from the totality of the Scriptures (and especially from the New Covenant Scriptures), that the overarching commandment is for men to love their wives. The particulars of this Mitzvah in singling out food, clothing, and marital (conjugal sexual) rights is forced upon us because it is treated that way by the classical commentators, and we felt that we should respond accordingly. Many Scriptures address men but are clearly applicable to both men and women. We understand that wives are to love their husbands but the responsibility of this Mitzvah is directed specifically to husbands.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch use Exodus 21:9-10 to support their mitzvot that we must not withhold food, clothing, or marital rights from our wives. The context of the Scripture that they use to support their mitzvot is that of a wife who was previously a slave, marries her master, and the master subsequently marries for a second time when his first wife no longer pleases him.

Ancient Understanding: JMm JFi KMm KFi GMm GFi
Modern Understanding: JMm JFm KMm JFm GMm GFm

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