By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Albert Pujols is a St. Louis Cardinal’s first baseman. This past Sunday, he hit two homeruns against the Pittsburgh Pirates, contributing to a win of 18 to 4 described by ESPN as a “romp.”

Mr. Pujols may have won two homeruns this past Sunday, but in terms of halachah, his actions are, well, let’s just say that they are far from a homerun.

Last month, Mr. Pujols announced that he would file for divorce from his wife of 22 years. His announcement came a few days after an Instagram post that she had just undergone brain surgery. Doctors operated on her to remove a tumor that was discovered back in October.

His exact words in his statement were, “I realize this is not the most opportune time with Opening Day approaching and other family events that have recently taken place. These situations are never easy and isn’t something that just happened overnight. As a devout Christian, this is an outcome that I never wanted to see happen.”

This behavior, however, is far from a homerun in terms of halachah for two reasons:

• Firstly, the Talmud (Berachos 24a) tells us, “Ishto k’gufo”—a person’s wife is like his very own body.

• Secondly, there is a full-fledged marital obligation to heal one’s wife.

The great tzaddik of Jerusalem, Rav Aryeh Levine, zt’l, and the father-in-law of Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, once accompanied his wife to the doctor, and when asked by the doctor as to the reason for the visit, he responded, “My wife’s knee hurts us.”

But before we get into the nitty-gritty of the obligation of a husband to heal a wife, let’s list the ten general obligations of a husband toward his wife. The Rambam lists ten. 

1] food and sustenance

2] clothing

3] intimacy

4] redemption from kidnapping (lawyer fees, even bribery)

5] healing her

6] burying her after he dies

7] housing, food, and sustenance in his home after he dies

8] the kesuvah

9] providing for daughters after his death

10] providing for sons after his death

Healing Obligation

We will focus on the healing obligation. The Mishnah in Kesuvos (51a) informs us of the obligation, and it is clear that this obligation is not just to get her out of danger but to heal her as much as possible. In this author’s opinion, this includes not just surgeries and medicine, but OT and PT, too. [See Amudei Mishpat Vol. II 10:21.] It is interesting to note that the obligation also includes praying for her recovery (see Ish v’Isha She’zachu Vol. I p. 346).

Let’s also remember that we read in Sefer Bereishis that Yaakov, our forefather, prayed in front of his wife that she be healed from her state of barrenness. One may ask, why in front of her? Why didn’t he pray, say, at the grave of a tzaddik or of his forefathers? The Seforno writes that he prayed in front of her in order to drum up even more empathy and concern for her in his prayers. We see that there is not only an obligation to pray (and to heal and to stick with her), but there also seems to be an obligation to do so in the most effective manner.

Source

What is the source of this obligation? There is a debate as to whether it is a separate rabbinic enactment or whether it is subsumed under obligation #1, food and sustenance. The Ritba (Kesuvos 51a) writes that it is a rabbinic enactment. The Ran (in his commentary to Kesuvos 19b), however, writes that it is actually a Biblical obligation.

Preventive Care

The husband is obligated in providing preventive care as well, which according to contemporary poskim includes vitamins. What about health insurance? Many poskim rule that since it’s the norm in modern times, this is also an obligation in order to relieve any anxieties she may have.

What if she brought it on herself? The obligation still exists if she was careless and did not dress warmly or careless in her diet. If, however, there was a purposeful self-inflicted wound not brought on by mental illness, then he is not obligated in her medical care.

Location

If the wife feels that she can better recover at her parents’ home, the husband cannot prevent this, even if it will impede intimacy.

Level Of Care

If he is wealthy, he must provide the top level of care, a private room, top-level food, private doctors, etc. If he is poor, then his obligation is to provide the generally accepted level of care.

May He Choose To Divorce?

In a case where there are no funds and he is incapable of providing payment for her recovery, there is a debate among poskim as to the halachah after the enactment of Rabbeinu Gershon that one may not divorce a wife against her will. The halachah according to the Chelkas Mechokaik (EH 79:3) is that, technically, one can.

However, morally and ethically, it is repugnant (See Shulchan Aruch EH 79:3, Rambam, Hilchos Ishus 14:17 and Maaseh Rokeach there). If, however, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah of p’ru u’revu (if he has not had a boy and a girl), he may do so.

Conclusion

So please, Mr. Pujols, do the right thing. Your wife clearly loves you. In her follow-up Instagram post, she wrote how excited she was to watch you start the 2022 baseball season.

She wrote:

“I am really happy he gets one more year to play the game! Despite the most recent surge of media attention about our personal lives, I would never miss out on an opportunity to send love, and blessings to someone who I have spent a majority of my life with and will forever be connected.” 

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. B”H No one takes the content of a weakly-weekly so aligned with the outliers of Jewish life seriously; and Larry Gordon’s deserves the opprobrium he earns in derision for intentionally profiting from our self-evident divisions. A welcome exception is Rabbi Yair Hoffman, with whom I conversed and exchanged reasonable essays on various issues —- giving me hope that some in this stable of politico-religious reaction may have the capacity to emerge from Plato’s proverbial cave and not be blinded by truth. Still, Yair must not be confused with the eponymous Rabbi Evan Hoffman: a friend for years, I have attended his popular classes in Jewish history at WYI. Having earned his spurs as an assistant to the venerable 92-year-old Rabbi Arthur’s Schneier of the Park East Synagogue, he now enjoys the admiration and support of his own congregation in New Rochelle. The younger, unrelated Hoffman hits a home run in his column criticizing a prominent baseball player for his cavalier attitude to his wife of 22 years, choosing to file for divorce while is is in recuperation from a serious medical operation. Quite obviously, it’s neither the Jewish or humane way to seek and cast a marriage asunder! Making his observations as the Jewish People, while in the Exodus wilderness await the giving of the Twin Tablets at Mt. Sinai, there’s stark contrast with the dictum to be a mensch; show compassion and actively see your spouse as an extension of yourself. Indeed, the admission that when one partner hurts it’s the couple who feels out of sorts; it’s most certainly not a possessive error! Perhaps the unwelcome attention the ball player justly receives will jar him, his teammates, even our society to express abhorrence, even as this accidental reader bestows kudos on a thoughtful and timely essay by a local rabbi with potential (provided he’s not drawn into the swirl of this newspaper’s ignorance-intolerance-bigotry. Amen. With fraternal affection, Asher🙏👏🏿🔯😀🇺🇸🎶🇮🇱🎂🕍

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