Halacha for Monday 20 Adar 5780 March 16 2020

Mixed Couples With Varying Customs - Coronavirus pandemic

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By Popular Request: During this time when we are being plagued by the global Coronavirus pandemic, one must certainly abide by the regulations set forth by one’s respective health departments, as instructed by many great Poskim, among them the great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a.

If one knows of someone who may be infected with this virus and, according to the directives, must be in quarantine or isolation and is instead downplaying the instructions of the health department and roaming about freely, one should notify the relevant government authorities, as is the law regarding any person who endangers the public as codified by Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l in his Responsa Yechave Da’at, Volume 4, Chapter 60.

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Question: Regarding a married couple where the husband and wife come from different communities, i.e. Sephardic and Ashkenazi, how should they act in their home regarding various issues that are subject to varying customs, such as, consumption of legumes on Pesach, consumption of meat which is not “Bet Yosef,” and the like?

Answer: The great Rishonim (based on the words of the Gemara in several places) rule that if one has resided in a place where certain customs, both stringent and lenient, are observed and then leaves this place and settles in a new place, one must follow the customs of one’s new residence, whether they are more stringent or lenient than the previous place; one is no longer bound by the customs of the place he has left.

Based on this, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that if an Ashkenazi woman, who would customarily not consume legumes on Pesach in her father’s home, marries a Sephardic man, who is customarily lenient regarding this matter, she may act leniently in accordance with her husband’s custom, for she is considered like a person who has left one place in order to settle somewhere else.

The Rashbetz (Rabbeinu Shimon bar Tzemach, one of the great Rishonim) rules similarly regarding a place that is comprised of two different communities (such as Sephardim and Ashkenazim) and a man from one community married a woman who was a member of the other. He writes that the woman is certainly included in all of her husband’s obligations, for “one’s wife is considered like himself” and she is exempt from the customs of her father’s home. It is impossible for two people to be dining at the same table and eating different foods, meaning that what is permissible for one is prohibited for the other; rather, the woman must adopt all of her husband’s customs. This is especially true since differences in customs can lead to a rift in the relationship between man and wife.

(Once, Maran zt”l spoke about this topic to a small crowd. In the audience, there was a well-known and well-respected woman who began to question Maran and claim that the husband should follow the woman’s customs, for “who says that marriage makes it like the woman goes to the husband’s location? Maybe it is the other way around!” Maran then proceeded to explain this idea to her, in a calm and clear fashion, until she understood and agreed that it is more appropriate for a woman to follow her husband’s customs. Those in attendance were astonished how it was that Maran could explain this topic so eloquently, in a way that made sense to everybody.)

Eretz Yisrael is considered to be “the place” of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, Rabbeinu Yosef Karo zt”l, who lived and was active there; it was from Israel that his rulings were disseminated and became universally accepted as Halacha. Therefore, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that if a Sephardic woman marries an Ashkenazi man, although she is obligated to follow her husband’s customs in his home, such as, not cooking rice and legumes on Pesach in his home, nevertheless, if they live in Israel which is “the place of Maran,” she is not considered like one who has completely left one’s previous place and settled in another; rather, she may still continue to consume rice and other legumes on Pesach in her parents’ home even after her marriage in accordance with the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, master of the land of Israel. Similarly, such a woman may not be lenient and consume regular, kosher meat which is not “Bet Yosef” since the custom in Israel follows the opinion of Maran (which is based on most Rishonim) who prohibits the consumption of such meat, as we have discussed in a special Halacha dedicated to this topic. Although the custom of Ashkenazi Jews, even in Israel, is to be lenient and permit the consumption of meat that is not designated “Bet Yosef” (and is merely “Glatt”), nonetheless, such a woman who has already merited following Maran’s opinion regarding this matter cannot absolve herself of this custom through her marriage to an Ashkenazi man and she must continue to follow the stringent ruling of Maran regarding this matter.

Summary: In general, a woman must adopt all of her husband’s customs. There are exceptions to this rule when a Sephardic woman marries an Ashkenazi man and they live in Israel, as we have explained within the context of this Halacha.

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Let us all pray to Hashem that He have mercy upon us, especially for those who are infected, quarantined, and all those whose livelihood is being impacted by this virus. Now that the holiday of Pesach is approaching, how will all these people have the means to purchase all their Yom Tov needs? It is therefore incumbent upon us to open our eyes and try to help out our brothers and sisters as much as possible in fulfillment of the great Mitzvot of Tzedakah and performing acts of loving-kindness. In this merit, may Hashem see our pain and suffering and remove all illness and plague from among us and may we merit experiencing the Ultimate Redemption, Amen!

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