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Dear Dr. Yael

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Dear Dr. Yael: As a husband and longtime admirer of your column, I respectfully submit that your answer to A Sleep-Deprived Wife (The Magazine, 12-23-2011) missed the mark. Your response begins as follows:

“The easy answer to your tough predicament is to tell your husband that he cannot continue to do this to you, and that he needs to daven in a later minyan. However, I am not a rav and thus cannot give you such a response.”

I do not understand why one would need to consult a rav in order to be able to address the husband in a much firmer fashion. Major poskim have ruled that a minyan on a plane should be dispensed with when it causes a disturbance to other passengers (see www.torahweb.org). Is a wife less of a human being than fellow airplane passengers?

Moreover, the very fact that this husband sleeps through the first alarm and disturbs his wife a second time when the snooze alarm goes off; bangs cabinets and drawers while getting ready for minyan; and occasionally wakes up the baby demonstrates a much more fundamental problem of religious hubris. Does Mr. Holiness think that he can trample all over his wife’s feelings and health just because he gets up to daven vasikin? Does he really think G-d is listening to any of his tefillos while his wife is suffering all day long?

The husband should be advised in no uncertain terms that the onus is entirely on him to fix the problem in a way that is painless for his wife, and that if this means finding a different time and place to daven – so be it. If this “tzaddik” is so intent on performing mitzvos, let him start with the midrash that states that a man is supposed to forever be vigilant in matters involving his wife’s wellbeing (Bava Metzia 59a).

Sincerely, T.F.

Dear T.F.: I appreciate your knowledgeable letter and admit that I have often been accused of saying, “Consult daas Torah.” I felt the same as you do about this situation, but not knowing the couple and fearing the possibility of causing shalom bayis problems, I thought that some practical suggestions would elucidate to the husband the importance of respecting his wife’s sleep. Furthermore, you can never go wrong when asking daas Torah, as we never know the best action to take. Something that may seem to have an easy solution may not, in fact, be the correct one. Perhaps a rav, especially one who knows the husband, will have a way of addressing the issue that could make both spouses happy. Either way, as I said, it does not hurt to speak to a rav, especially if the letter writer’s husband will listen to what the rav says.

If you regularly read my column, you may sense that my nature is to avoid conflict whenever possible. I think the healthiest derech for people in any relationship is to find a peaceful solution. The critical letters I often receive to my responses have the same theme: “Dr. Respler, you missed the mark.” It is not that I am missing the mark, but rather choose to try to answer – in a diplomatic manner – the often challenging and difficult questions and issues presented.

Without knowing any further details, I agree with your view and hope that the husband in question reads your words of wisdom, studies the laws of geneivas sheinah (stealing sleep), and realizes that his behavior reflects poor middos. It is said that Hashem treats us the way we treat other people. Therefore, we should attempt to never hurt others and to treat other people well.

I really appreciate your astute letter that reflects that you are a talmid chacham. We hope that your letter will inspire others to – in all ways – be considerate to their spouses, children and all of their loved ones. Unfortunately, we often treat those that we love in a more painful manner than we treat strangers.

In my public speeches or in treating my clients, I say, “Treat your spouse and children like guests, and I am sure you will have more shalom bayis.” Think about this: if a guest comes to your house uninvited at an inconvenient time, somehow you will put on a smile and greet them nicely – even offering them drink or food. But too often that is not the way in which we greet our spouses and children. If your spouse calls when you are in a lousy mood, you will say, “Oh, it’s you,” in a disappointed tone or maybe “I am busy now,” or “I have work to do.” But if a potential customer, friend or acquaintance calls and you are in the same awful mood or situation, you will likely greet them with enthusiasm.

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