Updated: Jul 18
By providing for her physical needs and fulfilling her conjugal rights, the husband not only maintains the harmony of the marriage but also participates in a sacred union that reflects the divine attributes. * On Rambam's Seifer HaMitzvos
Rambam's Seifer HaMitzvos for today reads:
The Torah tells us that if a man marries a Jewish slave-girl, he may not torment her by denying her appropriate food, clothing, or conjugal rights. Rather, he must accord her the rights due to all "the daughters [of Israel]." Thus it is clear that this precept applies to all wives.
The verse in Exodus 21:10 states, "He shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or conjugal rights." This verse outlines the obligations of a husband towards his wife, specifically focusing on the treatment of a Jewish slave-girl who becomes a wife.
Rashi explains that "diminishing her food" refers to reducing the quantity or quality of her food, while "diminishing her clothing" refers to not providing her with sufficient clothing. Rashi emphasizes the importance of meeting the wife's physical needs, ensuring she receives adequate sustenance and appropriate clothing. Additionally, Rashi highlights the aspect of conjugal rights, stating that the husband must not deprive his wife of regular intimacy, as it would cause her distress.
Ibn Ezra, in his commentary, expands upon Rashi's interpretation. He suggests that "diminishing her food" includes both the quantity and quality of the wife's food, emphasizing the husband's responsibility to provide appropriate and sufficient sustenance. Ibn Ezra also emphasizes the importance of providing clothing suitable for the wife's status. Furthermore, he echoes Rashi's perspective on conjugal rights, stating that the husband must be intimate with his wife to maintain a healthy relationship.
Sforno provides a broader understanding of conjugal rights beyond the physical aspect. According to Sforno, it encompasses emotional and psychological attention and care. He highlights the husband's obligation not to neglect his wife's emotional needs and emphasizes the importance of companionship, support, and love within the marriage relationship.
Within these mystical and spiritual traditions, the mitzvah takes on deeper significance. It is seen as an opportunity for the husband to channel divine energy into the world through the act of caring for his wife. By providing for her physical needs and fulfilling her conjugal rights, the husband not only maintains the harmony of the marriage but also participates in a sacred union that reflects the divine attributes.
Moreover, this mitzvah is seen as interconnected with the concept of Moshiach, the messianic redemption. The ideal state of the world, as envisioned by Jewish teachings, includes a harmonious and loving relationship between husband and wife, where both partners fulfill their respective responsibilities with kindness and devotion. By embodying the principles outlined in this mitzvah, individuals contribute to the rectification and transformation of the world, bringing it closer to the Messianic era.