04. The Status of a Woman who Married a Man from a Different Community

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The status of a woman who married a man from a different ethnic community is similar to that of one who migrates to a place where local custom differs from what he is accustomed to: if he intends to live there forever, he must cease practicing his earlier customs and accept the local custom (based on SA YD 214:2; OĤ 468:4; MB 14). Likewise, a woman who marries a member of a different ethnic community is considered to be moving into his home permanently, and she must adopt his customs. For instance, if the custom of her husband’s community is to eat kitniyot on Pesaĥ, she eats them too, and if it is not to eat them, she may not. If they wait six hours between meat and milk, she waits six, and if they wait an hour, she waits an hour. As R. Shimon b. Tzemaĥ Duran (Tashbetz 3:179) writes, it is inconceivable that they regularly eat at the same table, and what is permitted to one is forbidden to the other. Therefore, a woman must follow her husband’s customs, for one’s wife is like himself.

A widow who had a child from her husband continues to follow her late husband’s customs. However, if they did not have children, she returns to her ancestral customs. 1

Similarly, a woman must recite prayers and berakhot according to her husband’s nusaĥ, so that there will not be two different sets of customs in the same household. However, if it does not upset her husband, and it is difficult for her to change her nusaĥ, she may continue praying silently in her own nusaĥ, but she may not pray or recite a berakha aloud in a nusaĥ other than that of her husband. When her children reach the age of education, she must teach them to pray in her husband’s nusaĥ. Therefore, even if her husband agrees that she may praying and recite berakhot in the nusaĥ to which she is accustomed, when her children reach the age of education she should preferably switch to her husband’s nusaĥ so that it is easier for her to teach her children how to recite prayers and berakhot. 2

  1. We see a similar principle in the Torah: if a woman who is not from a family of Kohanim marries a Kohen, she may eat teruma like a Kohen. If her husband dies and she has a child from him, she continues eating teruma. If she subsequently marries a non-Kohen, she may no longer eat teruma. Igrot Moshe OĤ 1:158 further demonstrates that this principle derives from the Torah, as the Torah exempts a married woman from the mitzva of honoring her parents since this mitzva entails going to dress them and feed them if necessary. Since a woman’s obligation to the household she and her husband are establishing takes precedence, the Torah exempts her from this obligation (SA YD 240:17). Thus, the Torah views a woman’s place as her husband’s house. (When there is no clash, a married woman has a mitzva honor her parents.)

    Igrot Moshe further states that a married woman does need not perform hatarat nedarim (annulment of vows) in order to take on her husband’s customs. This is implicit in MB 468:14 as well, which states that since halakha mandates that one who moves from one location to another must adopt the practices of the new community, he does not require hatarat nedarim. So states Kaf Ha-ĥayim 468:43. Though some say that she requires hatarat nedarim (see Peninei Halakha: Pesaĥ, chapter 9 n. 1), in practice, we do not require it, because when she first started practicing her parents’ customs, it was clear that if she marries someone from a different ethnic community she would adopt his customs. Hence, it was clear that she did not intend to follow her parents’ customs all her life, as brought by Halikhot Shlomo: Prayer, ch. 1 n. 8.

  2. As we learned, the prohibition on multiple prayers rites being used in one place is intended to avoid disputes. Since the custom of the home is determined by the husband, this issue depends on him, and he may agree that his wife may continue praying according to her ancestral custom. Halikhot Shlomo: Prayer 1:7 states that a husband may allow his wife to follow her ancestral customs and that it is accepted in many households that the husband agrees that his wife continues praying according to her ancestral rite. It further states that if a wife follows her ancestral custom at the beginning of her marriage and later wishes to switch to her husband’s custom, she must perform hatarat nedarim. Nevertheless, in matters of kashrut it seems that there are no grounds to tolerate divergent customs within a single household, as the divergence would be obvious and constitutes a violation of “lo titgodedu.” Moreover, such practices can disturb domestic harmony. I therefore wrote that a woman must not pray or recite berakhot aloud in a nusaĥ that differs from her husband’s. See Tefila Ke-hilkhata, 4 n. 4, which states in the name of R. Elyashiv that technically she must switch to her husband’s nusaĥ, but she cannot be obligated to do so immediately, since she is already accustomed to her own nusaĥ. Nevertheless, she must try to switch to her husband’s nusaĥ before the children reach the age where they begin learning to pray.

    A ba’al teshuva who marries a religious woman who comes from a religious family may adopt her customs over his ancestral customs, since from the standpoint of religious practice he is joining her family. It is best to ask a rabbi about this matter.

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