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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Does your wife let you watch the game with your mates?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 63

First it started with the Superbowl.   Jenny was happy to let Jim hang out with his mates on a Sunday afternoon and watch the game.  Then it was the Grey Cup.  And then Monday night football.  And then the hockey games.  Before she knew it, Jim was hardly ever home, always busy with his friends, never having any time to spend with the family.

Rav Yosef, the son of Rava, was sent by his father to the yeshiva of Rav Yosef.  They agreed that he would go for the first six years of his marriage. 
Three years later, the eve of Yom Kippur came along and he said, “Let me go and see how my family is doing.”  His father heard he had arrived, grabbed the pitchfork and went out to confront him.
He said to him, “I guess you remembered your harlot.”

Marriage is the coming together of two individuals who make a life together.  For the most part, the expectation is that you will spend as much time as possible with your spouse.  You will go out with them, vacation with them, enjoy their hobbies and pastimes.   

But of course, no two people are exactly alike, no matter how much in common you think you have when you first meet.  Particularly, when it comes to gender differences, men and women have different interests.  Part of marriage is giving free space and time to your spouse to engage in activities you might not be interested in pursuing.  Or allowing time for her to spend time with the girls, or him to hang out with the guys. 

The same is true of sacred space.  Yes, it’s nice to learn together or attend a class together, but you also need to make space for your spouse to learn Torah in gender-specific settings.  That’s an important part of our tradition.  Torah is integral to Jewish family life and must be built into the schedule for both husband and wife.

Nevertheless, you must never take advantage of your spouse’s generosity in terms of space-giving.  Rav Yosef was surely excited to have been granted six years of learning-space at the beginning of his marriage.  In those days, the husband would often go off to yeshiva, only returning to visit on occasion.   But fancy showing up to say hi after three years – no wonder his father comes out with a pitchfork and accuses him of taking advantage of his young wife!  It was extremely generous of her to allow him to study for six years, but that didn’t imply that he needn’t have stayed in touch at least once or twice a year!  She generously gave him an incredible opportunity but he went and took advantage of her generosity.

Whether it is fun-space or sacred-space, don’t ever take your spouse’s generosity for granted.  Just because he’s okay with you going off on vacation with the girls, it doesn’t mean you’re now free to forget family vacation time.  Just because she’s okay with you hanging out watching the game with your mates, it doesn’t mean you now have a free pass to spend every Sunday and Monday in front of the TV.  And even if she’s encouraging you to go to learn Torah at night, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for all family duties.

Part of marriage is giving your spouse room to breathe and continue to engage in their own activities – you don’t need to do everything together.  Just as long you never take your spouse’s generosity for granted.   May you merit striking the right balance in your marriage between family time, couple time and personal time!

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