Is there any example of physical spousal abuse anywhere in tanach or shas?


The mishna in Kesubos describes a series of psychological abuses, all of which are grounds for divorce (and Tosfos says actually, the rabbi should step in and recommend it). For instance, "I demand that you tell the neighbors some deeply-intimate details about yourself." It doesn't really spend time on physical abuse.

There are feminists who claim that physical abuse was so common the Mishna just ignored it; I think it's far more likely that there was no need to address it because it was unheard-of. Or at least obvious from the discussions of psychological abuse.

  • It's more accurate to say that the concept of physical abuse didn't really exist. If you damaged a person, you damaged them had and to fix it, pay damages etc... But what we call physical abuse today, back then, was called discipline. – avi Jan 6 '14 at 15:39
  • @Avi -- says who?!!!! Ptooey!! Rambam says if you slap someone in the face, even if there's no long-term damage (i.e. you can go back to work the next day just fine), you still pay for pain and embarrassment. Why is this different? – Shalom Jan 6 '14 at 15:54
  • @Avi Rambam says that if a woman says "I insist on sitting around the house, remaining married to my husband, getting fed by him, but doing no chores whatsoever", that they -- i.e. the courts -- could compel her to do so, even with a strap if necessary. Not that the husband could take that into his own hands, G-d forbid! (Rav Kapach, zt'l, makes this point.) – Shalom Jan 6 '14 at 15:56
  • really? The courts come to the person's house and hits them with a strap everytime they sit down? – avi Jan 6 '14 at 16:40
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    @avi Shalom is correct; the Rambam is obviously referring to a court: ודבר זה כפי מה שיראה הדיין. (This is also evident in many other instances in Hil. Ishus where the word "kofin" is used). And there are lots of things for which a person could theoretically be disciplined by a court. That doesn't mean that agents of the court would go around surveilling people and breaking into their homes to administer punishment. But, under the right circumstances, a court was empowered to compel people to fulfill their obligations. – Fred Jan 7 '14 at 0:55

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