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Laws of Religion

 

Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

 

16.  Food Obligations to Family

 

from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

 

16.  Food Obligations to Family

From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

 

When a man sells his daughter to be a slave and her master marries her, the master must not reduce her food, clothing or marriage rights if he takes an additional wife.[1]

 

 

Food Obligations to Family

Jewish Law (Halakha) from the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

The Torah (Exodus 21:10, cited above) requires that a man provide his wife with three things: food, clothing and her marital rights to sexual intercourse.[2] The Sages have taught that a man should eat less than is appropriate for his income, dress as is appropriate for his income and provide for his wife and children in a manner that exceeds what is appropriate for his income.[3]

 

A poor man is obliged to provide two meals daily for his wife including bread, a vegetable dish, oil and fruit. If they live in a place where it is customary for women to drink wine, he must also provide her with wine. On the Sabbath, he must provide his wife with three meals including meat or fish as is customary in the place where they live.[4] If the man is too poor to provide his wife with the bread she needs, he must divorce her. A wealthy man is to provide his wife with food commensurate with his wealth, even if that means giving her meat more than once each day.[5] A man who vows not to support his wife must divorce her after thirty days.[6] A husband is obliged to eat with his wife at least once each week, on the eve of the Sabbath (Friday night).[7] However, if the man betrothed the woman on the condition that he will not be responsible for providing her with food, that condition is valid and he need not provide her with food.[8]

 

A man is required to maintain his children until they are six years old. He is also to provide them with food until they grow up and if he refuses to do so he is to be publicly exposed and humiliated. However, a man is not to be coerced to maintain his children more than six years of age unless he is known to be wealthy enough to do so.[9]

 

A poor wife must bake bread for her husband and do it early in the morning so some is available to the poor. She must also cook for her husband, feed the animal he rides, nurse her child and watch the grinding of the grain.[10] If the couple has a female servant (slave) or is wealthy enough to purchase one, then the wife does not have to bake bread, feed her husband’s animal or watch the grinding of the grain. If they have or can purchase two female servants, then the wife is also relieved of responsibility for cooking and she may give her child to a maidservant to nurse.[11]

 

A nursing wife should be given extra wine and other things that benefit her milk production. Her work load should also be reduced. If she craves more food than the amount her husband is required to give her, she can use her own money to buy all that she desires. Since alleviating her suffering takes priority, her husband cannot complain that she is eating too much or that if she eats harmful foods the child will die.[12]

 

A husband should hire a wet nurse for one child when there are twins. He cannot compel his wife to nurse both of them. A man may prevent his wife from nursing the child of a female friend even if she wants to, so that only his child will be nursed by his wife.[13] He may also compel his wife to nurse their own male or female child until it is twenty-four months old, even if she does not want to. However, if the wife is poor and does not want to nurse the child while the husband has enough money hire a wet nurse or purchase a female servant (slave) to nurse the child, he must do so. If she does want to nurse their child, the husband cannot prevent her from doing so for the purpose of preserving her attractiveness; the pain she would feel in being separated from the child takes precedence.[14]

 

In the case of divorce, a nursing mother must continue to nurse the child until it is twenty-four months old if it is capable of recognizing her, even if it is blind. The father must pay his ex-wife her fee for nursing their child in addition to providing for the child’s other needs such as food and clothing. However, the man has no obligation to provide anything to his ex-wife while she is pregnant. Before the time a nursing child recognizes its mother, a divorced mother may refuse to nurse her child and turn it over to its father, who is then responsible for its care.[15]

 

A man must provide for the maintenance, including food, of his wife and daughters out of his estate upon his death.[16] If he was married to more than one woman when he died, then each of his wives is entitled to the same level of maintenance from his estate.[17] The maintenance of a widow takes precedence over that of a daughter if the estate is not sufficient to support them both, in which case the daughter is to go begging.[18] Although sons are to inherit the property of their father, and also the money that their mother brought to the marriage if the mother predeceased her husband, the sons must support their sisters until the sisters are espoused or come of age (at twelve years of age, at the earliest[19]).[20] When the estate contains real property (i.e., real estate), the maintenance of the daughters takes precedence over that of the sons to the extent that the sons are to be left to beg if there is only enough in the estate to provide for the maintenance of the daughters. If there is no real property in the estate, then the daughters and the sons must share in it to receive whatever maintenance is possible, however inadequate.[21] Certain daughters, though entitled to maintenance by their living fathers, are not entitled to maintenance from their fathers’ estates. This exclusion includes a daughter whose mother was espoused (promised in betrothal but not yet married to the father[22]), was a victim of rape (who, after becoming pregnant with the daughter, married the rapist[23] as described in Deuteronomy 22:28-29) or was a “second degree” relative of the daughter’s father (in which case the marriage is prohibited by Scribal laws on incest[24]).[25]

 

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Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 16, 2016

 

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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

Gen: The Biblical book of Genesis.

Exod: The Biblical book of Exodus.

Lev: The Biblical book of Leviticus.

Num: The Biblical Book of Numbers.

Deut: The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy.

MT:  The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here.

F:  indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.

M:  indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)

Y:  indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 



[1] Exod 21:7-11

[2] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, secs 1-2 (pages 142M 73Y)

[3] MT Book 1, The Book of Knowledge, Sefer Madda; Treatise 2 De’ot Personality Development, Chapter 5, sec 10 (pages 54aF 106-108M)

[4] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, secs 10-11 (pages 148M 75-76Y)

[5] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, sec 11 (pages 148M 76Y)

[6] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, sec 23 (pages 156M 79-80Y)

[7] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, sec 12 (pages 148M 76Y)

[8] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 6, sec 10 (pages 74M 39Y)

[9] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, secs 14-15 (pages 150M 76-77Y)

[10] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 21, secs 5-6 (pages 268M 131-132Y)

[11] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 21, sec 6 (pages 268M 132Y)

[12] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 21, sec 11 (pages 270-272M 133Y)

[13] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 21, sec 12 (pages 272M 133Y)

[14] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 21, secs 13-14 (pages 272M 133-134Y)

[15] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 21, secs 16-17 (pages 272-274M 134Y)

[16] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, sec 2 (pages 142-144M 73-74Y); MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 18, sec 1 (pages 230-232M 114Y)

[17] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 18, sec 14 (pages 238M 118Y)

[18] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, sec 21 (pages 258M 126Y)

[19] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 2, secs 1-9 (pages 18-22M 8-10Y)

[20] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 12, sec 2 (pages 142-144M 73-74Y); MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, secs 1-2 (pages 246M 121-122Y); MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, secs 10-13 (pages 250-252M 123-124Y)

[21] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, secs 17-18 (pages 256M 125-126Y)

[22] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Note in Yale translation to Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, sec 14 (page 409Y)

[23] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Note in Yale translation to Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, sec 14 (page 409Y)

[24] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 1, sec 6 (pages 14-16M 6Y); MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Note in Yale translation to Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, sec 14 (page 409Y)

[25] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 19, sec 14 (pages 254M 125Y)