I just wish to know the opinions of the Sages or what the Halacha is.

What are the rights a man has over his wife?

  • Do you also want to know the opposite? (There are really two opposites: rights the wife has over the husband, and obligations the husband has to the wife. That's all without getting into obligations the wife has to the husband.)
    – Double AA
    Jun 28, 2022 at 19:49
  • Sure, I’m interested in both sides Jun 28, 2022 at 21:33
  • 3
    Then asking for both sides is the best way to not seem sexist
    – Double AA
    Jun 28, 2022 at 21:34
  • Judaism usually approaches "rights and responsibilities" (which are two sides of the same coin) from the "responsibilities" side, as in "what responsibilities does a wife have to her husband, and a husband to a wife" rather than the other way around.
    – Esther
    Jun 28, 2022 at 21:36

1 Answer 1


LOVE YOUR FELLOW LIKE YOURSELF starts at home. Each spouse has to apply that to the other. Each spouse is obligated to care for the other. Judaism speaks in terms of obligations, not rights.

Maimonides writes that "she should treat him like a king" ... but that he should "honor her more than himself" ... so I guess that's kind of a wash?

Of course, the marriage itself is him saying "you are dedicated to me", so she can't be intimate with any other man. Kind of a no-brainer. And yes, until 1000 years ago he was allowed to take a second wife, but with all kinds of conditions that couldn't impinge on the first wife ... that's a discussion for another question.

The Torah does grant the husband the right to cancel his wife's vows, within a day of learning about them, if they would afflict her or affect him. That's really the only other inviolable right I can think of.

Marital rape is not allowed. If a woman says she has a powerful revulsion reaction to all intimacy with her husband ... obviously try therapy ... but if all else fails, divorce is better than asking her to continue with him (or asking him to be celibate). But she can demand a divorce if he refuses to be intimate with her, too. Obviously, whichever spouse had an intimacy problem will be at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the financial settlement, but that's not about anyone's "rights" over the other.

It should go without saying that abuse, God forbid, is prohibited.

The default arrangement would be that she should take on his community's customs, but again, that's not his rights over her. Rabbi Feinstein had caveats to that rule of thumb, and even then, only applied that situation ceteris paribus, e.g. he's Yemenite and has a massive Yemenite congregation half a mile north of here, she's Lubavitch and has a thriving Lubavitch community half a mile south. If there's one dominant set of practices in the family/community, they use that, whichever side it is.

He's not allowed to feed her non-kosher, or vice versa. If either one has a drastic change in religious observance, or starts messing up the other one's observance, that's grounds for divorce -- but not because of his "rights" over her. (It is true that women have an obligation to use the mikvah and men don't. Thus, there are couples who started off equally observant and then one has a crisis of faith. If he goes off and eats pork outside the house, she can choose to stay with him, and in fact some do. If she eats pork outside the house, again they can stick together if they feel that's best. But if she stops using the mikvah, now you're asking him to either violate halacha or be celibate, at which point a divorce is probably the least-bad option.)

Financially, there are the default arrangements set up in the Talmud, which also say clearly that she has the right to change. In the Talmud's default arrangement, the husband was the primary money person; he was obligated to support her, so if she had a hobby that made a few bucks, he was entitled to those earnings. (Same if she found $20 on the street.) Any property she brought into the marriage: she could either say "here's a field, you can use it normally, and I get it back as-is at the end of the marriage"; or she can say "this field is worth $1,000; I get back $1,000 from the estate no matter what happens to it.") The Talmud also lays out the default expectations of her contribution to the family -- baking, spinning, nursing his baby (even if it's not hers, e.g. a blended family). But again, those are the defaults, and subject to change.

However if she out-earns him, or just wants financial independence, the Talmud says explicitly she can opt to put something in writing that says -- I don't want your financial support, and I'd rather have my own earnings -- and that's fine too. (The default dependence relationship was instituted assuming that would be helpful for most women; if she feels it isn't, that's her call to make.)

  • Nursing His baby (even if it's not hers, e.g. a blended family)? Are you sure? Please check Kesubos 59: ומניקה את בנה = nurses HER child.
    – user16403
    Sep 6, 2022 at 0:45

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