Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the husband’s right to annul a vow made by his wife, in regard to matters that will affect their personal relationship.
Sometimes, we are able to get an indirect glimpse at various values, ethics and morals that Chazal endorsed by studying certain halachos. In this vein, I will discuss the idea of a wife drinking alcohol with her husband as a way to enhance romance and good experiences. There is no shortage of warnings about the dire effects of alcohol, as we saw earlier in Psychology of the Daf Nedarim 60, and Gemara Kesuvos 65a has particularly strong words about the effect of alcohol on women and modesty practices. However, that is not the whole story, and with the right intentions alcohol can function as an aphrodisiac reducing inhibitions and allowing for less anxiety. (Of course, a small to moderate amount of alcohol, not utter intoxication.) We can see that the sages endorsed this as well from the following teaching:
Mishna Nazir (28a) discusses the circumstances where the husband as justification for breaking his wife’s vow, that is when it is considered an interference in their personal life. One such circumstance is when she is a Nazir, as the Mishna says, he can say, “I do not want an ugly wife”. One might think the interpretation has to do with the various abstentions from a Nazir not being able to cut hair, perhaps it cannot be styled properly?
(And do not tell me that in those days they had the custom of shacing women’s hair, because later in the very same Mishna Rabbi Meir has the opinion that the husband can object to her Nazir status for the very reason that at the end of her Nazirite period, she must fully shave her hair which would be ugly to him. Additionally, the Gemara (Nedarim 50a) Records in the story of Rachel and Rabbi Akiva, that straw was in her hair, causing him to promise her that one day when they have money he will buy her a golden crown to adorn her head.)
So what would he find ugly about her continuing in her state of nezirus? Rashi says, because she will not drink wine. The Shittah Mekubetzes, quoting the Rosh, elaborates on this point and says, “if she does not drink she will become pained, gaunt and ugly.” It would seem a certain amount of indulgence is necessary for healthy married life. Indeed, to enjoy sexual intimacy, a certain amount of healthy narcissism and comfort in pleasure is important for the woman to allow herself to experience.
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation
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