Putting Hubby First

I didn’t grow up with a mother who gave me any kind of pre-marital chat about how to be a good wife. But I learned from watching her. In our household, she was fully dedicated to taking care of my father’s every need. I vividly remember their routine – he ran a business about a 25-minute ride from home. He would call when he was leaving work, and my mother would time the evening supper meal perfectly so that when we all heard the automatic garage door opener, and my father was pulling in the driveway, my mother was plating up his dinner. Perhaps that is why my husband comes home to a warm meal every night, timed with his train schedule. I grew up thinking this was entirely normal.

The longer you are married, the easier it is to get lax on this kind of commitment. My husband, Stephen, would most certainly be forgiving if on any given evening he came home to a flustered, busy wife, and she said, “Didn’t happen today, dear – make yourself a sandwich.” It’s never happened, not once, and truthfully, I fully enjoy the ritual of preparing my husband’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s what I love about being married to him all these years, not what I wish I could remove from my to-do list. Chas v’shalom.

And so it came to be just recently that my commitment to always putting my husband first was tested. A family simcha on my husband’s side meant that Stephen was going to go away to the Berkshire Mountains for a weekend, leaving the children and me here. (That’s a longer story, not for this column, but everyone who reads Beyond BT can relate to when you decide to send away one member of the family to the obligatory family simcha that takes place over shabbos amongst non observant relatives). I made him his own special Shabbos food, and we packed him up to leave Friday morning. Meanwhile, the idea of Shabbos in our home without him was too depressing, so I called two good friends and invited the children and me to them, one Friday night, and one Shabbos day.

We make plans, and G-d laughs. Friday morning, the only news anyone was talking about was the first weather “event” to hit our area – in the form of a major snowstorm for Saturday night and Sunday that promised to dump 2 feet of snow in the area. It would not be safe driving for my husband. And so, after a long pow wow, we decided that he would opt out of the simcha, and stay home for Shabbos. Fantastic news for us.

Here’s the rub. We NEVER go out on Friday night for a meal. It’s our family time, and my husband relishes Friday night dinner with just the family after a long workweek, and making up for the sleep he is deprived of all week long by his grueling schedule. When we learned that he’d be home, he requested of me that I cancel our attendance at my friend’s house, as he preferred to eat at home. I protested – “that’s not fair to her, as I’m sure she’s done all the cooking already”. And, truth be told, I wasn’t interested or ready to make a Shabbos meal. I am ready for Shabbos by chatzos every week, and this was two hours before chatzos.

My husband is an agreeable guy, and he shrugged and agreed. Decision made. But it nagged at me. I knew that I wasn’t putting him first. And, I knew that I could, if I wanted to. I called my friend to find out if she’d already cooked for us, and found out that she isn’t a chatzos family – she hadn’t even begun cooking yet. And that’s when I knew the right decision. I wouldn’t be putting her out by cancelling; in fact, it would relieve pressure on her. And I would make my husband very happy.

I got into gear, and without my husband’s knowledge (he had gone elsewhere for a few hours), I put together a meal and set the table for dinner – before chatzos. Stephen would never have demanded it, but as he sat at the table on Friday night, beaming at his children, enjoying his wife’s cooking, and admiring a beautiful table, I knew that I’d made the right decision.

I was looking forward to a night off – no cooking, no dishes to wash, someone else to serve me for once. I traded that freedom for something much better – a look of gratitude in my husband’s eyes.

Azriela Jaffe is the author of twenty books. Most recently she has been focusing her writing efforts on holocaust memoirs. She is hired privately by families to write the life story of their surviving holocaust matriarch or patriarch. After months of interviews, she produces a finished book for the family. Azriela’s new novella, entitled ,“Meant to Be” will be in Jewish bookstores the end of January. And most recently, she is known as the “chatzos lady” because she has organized an email support group that now includes 160 women from all over the world who want to learn how to be fully ready for Shabbos by mid-day on Friday. To join this group, email azriela at chatzoslady@gmail.com. To inquire about her holocaust memoir writing, email azjaffe@optonline.net

26 comments on “Putting Hubby First

  1. Are so many of us so insecure in our own growth and so limited in our ability to rejoice in someone else’s successes that we can’t say:

    1) Way to go Azriela! or
    2) Wow, I am going to make an effort in ______ because I am inspired by her effort and love for her spouse.

    It is striking to me how this is all internalized and processed according to our own experiences and our lack of ability to be happy with someone elses growth without being threatened by it.

    I am in admiration of Mrs. Jaffe’s accomplishments.

  2. I read Azriela’s post as an illustration of bechira (free will and choice). Making the best Shabbat atmosphere that she could for her husband and being prepared by chatzot were things that were important to her, but not easy to do. She felt that she made the right decision even though it was the more difficult path. That is an illustration of using free will and one that I think is inspiring. We all have different challenges. I am glad that I was reminded to face a challenge, make the right decision, and take action.

  3. I think what’s important to take away from Azriela Jaffe’s posting is how much the home life in one generation affects the next. Fortunately, Azriela had some very positive role models to draw upon, parents who treated each other with love and respect, and therefore she is able to utilize that memory to conduct her own home likewise. The tragedy is when children who grow up in homes filled with physical and verbal abuse eventually become adults and perpetuate the negative behavior, simply because they’ve never seen any other kinds of interaction between men and women. I remember reading how the director of one of the children’s homes in Israel started a program for teenagers to live semi-independently, so that they could get some idea how to function outside an institution (even just the fact that typical adults have to buy food and cook their own meals). Azriela Jaffe’s daughters might not be able to serve their husbands dinner every night, or have Shabbos preparations completed by chatzos, but they will have very powerful narratives to relate to their own children about what a tzidkonis “Savta Azriela” is.

  4. I think the sensitive nerve hit by this post for some is that Judaism appears to become the religion of ever-increasingly unattainable standards, which is caused, in part, by some people treating non-halachic observances – such as “chatzos” and the particular domestic division of labor cited in this post – in a manner that they would treat actual halacha.

  5. My professional career comes first. That’s because I pay the mortgage. The mortgage doesn’t get paid, Hubby and I are out on the street.

    I work very late hours, so most nights Hubby has to cook dinner himself. He’s quite good at it. Nothing too elaborate, he shoves a steak or turkey leg under the broiler, along with a microwaved potato. For variation, he enjoys stir-fried chicken with wild rice. By the time I get home, he’s already asleep. When he leaves at about 5:40 AM the next morning, I’m still sleeping. So from Sunday through Thursday we rarely see each other.

    Shabbos cooking is a 180-degree turnaround. I’m off most Fridays, whereas Hubby comes home less than an hour before shkiah. So the job of Shabbos cooking is all mine. I prepare crockpot cholent for Shabbos morning, plus the standard chicken with sides for Friday night (we like to vary the sides and appetizer). Very infrequently I have to be out of town for Shabbos for work, so on those occasions my husband chooses to go to our married daughter.

    Those few times we do eat together, Shabbos and Yom Tov, I enjoy cooking for and serving my husband. Probably I wouldn’t enjoy it at all if I had to serve him dinner every day, particularly after a stressful day at work.

    During the summer, if our kids and grandkids come to visit, my husband will spend hours manning the barbecue; he grills a delicious half-pound burger. So when he’s grilling, I sit down and he serves me, along with the rest of the family.

    This schedule would definitely not work for most people. Also it would not work with young children. Six of my seven children are married already and the seventh (who will turn 20 next month) dorms at his yeshiva and only comes home once a month. So all the kids are out of the house (empty nest).

    Let me close with a quote attributed to the Stiepler Rav, zatzal, the father of the gadol HoRav Chaim Kanievsky. A man once came to the Stiepler Rav complaining that his wife was always so disorganized on Erev Shabbos, running around and never ready on time. The Stiepler shouted at him,”Nemt a bezzim!” (“Grab a broom!” In other words: Help her out).

  6. What’s a little meandering among friends? I’m sure we all agree that Azriella’s way works for her family, and that she should be proud of finding that way.

  7. Well, well well. . . . .I was certainly not being self congratulatory, nor was I giving direction on how husbands and wives should team together, nor was I suggesting that chatzos should be a commitment on the part of the entire klal, nor was I complaining about my husband, nor was I passing judgment on anyone else’s husbands, nor was I. . . .let’s see, what other criticism did I miss? I wrote a love story – for my husband, for shabbos, for what it means, to me ( not to you, or anyone reading this, only for me) to be a married frum woman. If I make certain choices, and then write about them, that never means that I am dictating those choices for others. I am reflecting my experience and feelings on a moment in time that could have occurred to any one of us. We are all balancing, all the time, and trying to make the right decision in any given moment about how to serve Hashem, our spouses, our kids, our friends, extended families, and so forth. I trust that you will make the right decision for you and your spouse, and it could very well be different than the ones that I choose. Hatzlacha!

    Azriela Jaffe

  8. I must have not made my point so clear. Perhaps it’s better I don’t comment further on the thread’s meandering.

  9. It seems as though Azriella considers cooking for her husband in particular part of her fundamental role, and she admits having imbibed it in her own home when she was young. This is her role that she feels comfortable with.

    Therefore, although it is of course admirable, it does not seem to be a “challenge” for her. While many other women cook for their husbands and family, and see it as their role as a Jewish wife, I dare say many women who were not raised with as nurturing a mother find it much more difficult. Some can find peace with a flexible husband and others may find it an ongoing source of tension if they cannot “handle” all the cooking.

    I am not sure what the point of the essay was, as it did not really highlight a point of growth, despite the final anecdote. Maybe I am a bit sensitive to this, but I did see it a little as self congratulatory for a behavior that seems to come naturally to her. Sorry if I sound critical, but I imagine many women might come away from this article a little deflated, not inspired. (And I imagine many men reading this might be thinking about their spouse “if only she were more like Azriella….”)

  10. PL-WADR, I think that you overreacted to the thread. I think that it is manifestly obvious that what works for some families does not work for others.

  11. Not sure how this segued from a post regarding putting a husband first to implicit mussar for the husband himself… Not sure it is appropriate, either.

    It’s a very uncalled for intrusion into someone’s personal life. One related personal anecdote is not blanket permission to make subtle assumptions or implications about anything else via the comment thread.

    I’m sure a separate article about teamwork would be quite welcome by the administrators.

  12. I would also second Charlie Hall’s comments, both with respect to Thursday night and our willingness to accept invitations.

  13. What works for some families and they view the same as contributing to the Shalom Bayis of their household may be utterly counterproductive for others. I don’t think that teamwork is the same as tension, but rather a realistic recognition that Oneg Shabbos is a huge mitvah that everyone can and should contribute to providing, regardless of their myriad responsibilities as a father, husband, wife, mother and child. IIRC, RMF, who spent Sukkos in Monsey with R M Tendler, always participated in some manner in helping the household get ready for Sukkos. There is a well known story involving R M Gifter ZL who went to a talmid’s house and showed him personally that he should not consider taking out the garbage as beneath his stature as a Ben Torah. R C Y Goldvicht ZL always told talmidim that they should speak in an especially sensitive tone on Erev Shabbos when asking their spouses if all of the preparations for Shabbos were complete and if they were ready to light Shabbos candles.

  14. Why assume that every family needs the same distribution of tasks, timing, etc., as regards Shabbos preparations?

    While some things like chaos and discord are clearly undesirable to all, most aspects of preparation will depend on the individuals involved, how they would like to relate to each other, and their necessary outside work or school commitments.

  15. Sounds like Azriella really takes that lecture to heart! Kudos for such dedication to marriage- an inspiration!

  16. Several years ago when lived in the same community where Azriella lives now one of the shul rabbis gave a series of lectures on Shalom Bayis to both Men and Women on different nights.

    My wife and I would compare “notes” and generally we found he was saying the same thing to both of us, i.e. to the women he was saying “put your hubby first” and to the men he was saying “put your wifey first.”

    The major difference was that he came down a little stronger on the men in terms of being more sensitive to the wives’ needs. This included being flexible with some of the rigid obligations that are required of men.

  17. It would be interesting to explore whether some ways of dividing responsibilities are more in line with Torah hashkafa or whether the Gemora speaks at all about how to spend our Shabbos meals, but I didn’t see these as the point of Azriela’s post.

    I think Azriela was pointing out the reality that Shalom Bayis involves a tension between the sometimes conflicting needs and wants of two individuals.

    An astute Rav recently pointed out that seeing the conflicts and tensions and working to resolve them in thought, speech and action is at the heart of growth in your Shalom Bayis.

  18. I’m not a Chatzot person. I’m a “do everything on Thursday night” person. (And I do as much cooking as does my wife.)

    And we accept most Shabat invitations. It is nice to spend time with friends and it is one less meal we need to prepare.

  19. If this works for some families, then such a Kabalah, Bli Neder, is fine for them, but one can legitimately ask if such a Minhag is feasible and workable either as a Takanah or Chumrah.

    Simply stated, many women, here and elsewhere, who are working, even on Erev Shabbos , depend on a team effort from all family members, including one’s husband and kids to pitch in and help in some small way ranging from helping with cooking, making cholent, setting the table and buying challos ( or some other concrete means real early Erev Shabbos morning) to ensure that all is place before Zman Hadlakas Neros every Erev Shabbos.

    Chazal emphasize Lfi Tzaara Agra-in all areas of life, we are rewarded for our efforts. IMO, being ready by Chatzos is wonderful for some, but unrealistic as a Chumra and/or Takanah to impose on all of Klal Yisrael, especially when many women are working Erev Shabbos. IMO, one cannot seriously say that a Baalas HaBayis who does not have everything done by Chatzos is placing her career before Shabbos, her husband and children.

  20. I think it is important for a family to be together for shabbos and if there is a family celebration he should go for only part of the weekend like on sunday and say mazal tov. I don’t know if it was possible in this situation but I would be very lonely if my husband went away for shabbos and left me home alone with the kids. His first responsibility is to his wife and kids and not the non frum relatives. Just my opinion.

  21. Yes, Rabbi Frand really helped to spread the word, and now many have taken up the cause. The email support group is growing every day, and women ( and their husbands) are expressing the desire to be involved in chatzos, or at least, to look at preparation for shabbos differently, so that they are ready early, or at the very least, on time. Anyone who wants to be connected can email me at chatzoslady@gmail.com

  22. As a BT I learned many years ago — unfortunately I don’t remember the source — that a Jewish woman’s priorities should be as follows:

    1) husband, 2) children, and 3) friends and community. (Frankly I was quite surprised that the husband came before the children).

    My first marriage ended because my ex-wife’s priorities were 1) her professional career, 2) our children, 3) friends in the community, and a very distant fourth: me. From my jaded vantage point Azriela is the dream spouse.

  23. Menachem, the reason it works is because my husband would never demand this of me, and in fact, would be the first to assure me that I shouldn’t put myself out on his behalf. It was something I wanted to do, not something I was required to do, or even, that he expected. I love “waiting on my husband” and I know he appreciates it every time.

  24. What I took from this post (and maybe we can get another post from Azriela about this)
    was the importance of this quote:

    I am ready for Shabbos by chatzos every week, and this was two hours before chatzos.

    During Tishrei I, and thousands of others, were enlightened about her “Chatzos project” when R Frand mentioned it in his annual Teshuva Drasha.

    I’m sure it was difficult to give up that invite out, but the fact that she has committed herself to preparing for Shabbos early (with a family) is a tribute to her wanting an “Oneg Shabbos” for her husband.

  25. I’m not sure exactly why, but I find myself uncomfortable with this post. Don’t get me wrong, if this works for Azriella and her husband then that’s what’s important for them. However, this is not how my wife and I have lived for the past 28 years and don’t see it as an ideal.

    I also grew up in a traditional “Father Knows Best” home where my mom waited on my father. The message I took away was that I wanted to be more involved in the activities of the house.

    I also commuted from Highland Park to New York on the train for 20 years. Generally, my wife would have dinner ready when I got home. However, I wouldn’t think twice, nor would I want her to, if she had a rough day and dinner just didn’t happen.

    In Azriella’s Shabbos snow storm scenario I would have been very unhappy had my wife given up the chance to have a “Friday night off” for me. Then again, maybe that’s because it’s a Friday night off for me as well. :)

    Since making Aliyah I have been given the wonderful gift of not having to commute anymore. (I work from my house at night). After 20 years of leaving the house before my kids awoke to catch that train I relish every morning that I’m now able to do the whole “morning prep” routine with my two youngest.

    I guess you could say different strokes for different folks, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Comments are closed.