By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Change is in the air. The school year has begun and everyone is off to a running start with carpools, newly invigorated Daf Yomi shiurim, and some early morning Slichos. The fast pace of Elul and September has replaced the slower leisurely summer.
During the summer some couples have more time for each other and eat breakfast together. After Labor Day, this gets harder. But are there any halachos about it?
The answer, of course, is “yes.” The halachos are found in the Even HaEzer section of Shulchan Aruch. In particular, they are found in the laws of Kesuvos – the document promulgated by the sages that ensures the wife’s rights.
The Remah in Even HoEzer (70:2), citing the Tur in his understanding of the Yerushalmi, writes that if the wife wants her husband to eat meals with her, he must do so if it is possible. He adds that this is the view of most Rishonim. He further adds that this is his own opinion as well. The Halacha of the wife’s right to eat with her husband is true even if she wants to do so every day.
But is it a two-way street? Rav Moshe Feinstein (OC IV 101:2) zt”l extends this obligation found in the Ramah to the other way around as well – a woman is also required to eat with her husband if he so desires. The Avnei Yashpeh (16:3) cites a ruling from Rav Elyashiv zt”l that if a husband wishes to eat breakfast with his wife and she has not had a chance to Daven yet, she should just recite a very short Tefillah so that they can eat together without delay. The Avnei Yashpeh further cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, who ruled in the same manner regarding breakfast.
Interestingly enough, Rav Yoseph Karo rules that the obligation is only once per week on Shabbos itself. Normative Ashkenazic Halacha, however, has adopted the position of the Remah. The obligation to eat together if either spouse desires to do so is entrenched in Jewish law.
It is not just Halacha, however. Research shows that eating breakfast together creates stronger bonds between couples and also serves as a means of reducing stress in everyday life. Yet, shockingly, on average only one-third of US families eat at least one meal per day together. For the remaining two-thirds, eating together is a rarity. Experts say that the stresses of everyday life could be dramatically improved if families took the time to eat together.
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