Rav Avigdor Miller on Jewish Wives and Irish Wives



I know a very religious man who works all day and then he spends his nights in the beis medrash learning and he doesn’t give a lot of time to his wife and children. And his wife and children complain about it. What do you think about that?


Let’s talk about a not very religious man.  Let’s say Mr. John Howards.  He’s an Irishman, let’s say, who lives on East 16th Street.  I never checked that it’s so, but imagine so.

Mr. John Howards has to get up early in the morning.  He’s not a professor and he has to do hard labor to pay his rent and therefore he’s on the job early in the morning.  When he comes home, he’s pretty tired.

Now he can’t sit at home and just waste his life, so in the evening he goes to a saloon; there’s a bar-room on Avenue N and Coney Island Avenue.  Let’s imagine there’s a bar-room there.  And there he has friends, Irish friends of his, and they sit together and drink a little bit and play cards; nothing so terrible.  And then he comes home late at night.

Now his wife might complain.  She says, “Look, a man like you, you’re busy all day long. Why don’t we have a little of your company?”

So what does he answer? “What do you mean company?” he says.  “That I can’t live?  Don’t forget I’m giving for you my whole life.  I’m sacrificing.  I get up early in the morning.  I work all day long. So what do you want of me?  I need some recreation.”

So an Irish wife understands that. Her husband needs some recreation. She’s happy he doesn’t bum around.  He’s not immoral.  Sometimes he gets a black eye in the bar-room.  Sometimes he drinks so much that they find he doesn’t get home at night.  In the morning he’s still sleeping on the sidewalk outside the bar-room.  That’s alright by them. He can boast about it too.  He says, “Boy, did I drink a lot last night!”  He tells it to all his friends.  No shame.

I pass by sometimes early in the morning and I see them lying on the ground; well dressed Irishmen. He’s not ashamed.  A little later in the day he’ll get up. And he’ll boast about it to his grandchildren.  “Boy,” he says, “That day, I took a lot.” His wife won’t blame him much.

But here’s a man who doesn’t go to a bar-room.  He goes to a beis hamedrash at night and he’s learning Gemara.  He doesn’t get any black eyes in the beis hamedrash.  You never find him asleep on the sidewalk outside the beis hamedrash.

What do you want of him?  He’s working all day long to support you. Isn’t it a wicked thing for a woman to claim, “My husband neglects me.  He’s a religious man and he neglects me”?  What do you mean he neglects you? He works all day long to pay the bills.  Besides the fact that when he’s sitting in the beis hamedrash and learning, it’s you learning because a wife gets 100% partnership in her husband’s learning.  And therefore, it’s a silly woman who makes such complaints.  On the contrary, she should encourage him.

Now an Irish woman wouldn’t encourage a husband to go to the bar-room, but at least she keeps quiet.  But if your husband is going to the beis hamedrash it’s a zechus for you. נשים במאי קא זכיין – how are women zocheh?  After all, women need the zchus of Torah too.  If they send their husbands to learn and they send their children to learn, that’s one of the merits of a kosher Jewish wife and she has a share in the Torah.

TAPE # 475 (September 1983)