Are women obligated to rejoice on the holidays?

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In Parshat Re’eh (Dvarim 16:14-17) we read:

V’samachta B’chagecha- Rejoice during your festival- you and your son and your daughter, and your male slave and your female slave, and the Levi and the convert and the orphan and the widow who are in your city. Seven days are you to be festive for HaShem, your God, in the place that HaShem chooses, for HaShem, your God will bless you in all your produce and in all your endeavors; and you shall experience pure joy. Three times a year are all your males to be seen in the presence of HaShem, your God, in the place that He chooses- on the festival of the Matzot, the festival of Shavuot and on the festival of Sukkot- and he shall not appear in God’s presence empty handed. Everyone according to the gift appropriate to his means, according to the blessing of HaShem, your God, that He gave you.

Since the wife is not mentioned here, does that mean that she is not supposed to be happy on the holidays?

In the Talmud, Kidushin34b, Abaye said: It is her husband that is duty bound to cause his wife to rejoice. This implies that the wife herself incurs no obligation to rejoice.

How is this derived? Rashi says that instead of reading the words “V’samachta B’chagecha”, “you are to rejoice on your holiday” they should be read “V’seemachta B’chagecha”, “you shall cause others to rejoice on your holiday” which means that the husband must cause the wife to rejoice, but she is not obligated to rejoice herself. How does he make her happy- by giving her food, drink and clothing made of linen.

Tosafot states that Rashi’s interpretation only works when the Beit HaMikdash is not standing.

We learn in the Talmud, Masechet Psachim 109a: The Rabbis taught in a Braita: A person is obligated to gladden his children and members of his household on the festivals, as it is stated “V’samachta B’chagecha.” With what does one gladden them- with wine. Rabbi Yehuda says: Men with what is suitable for them and women with what is suitable for them. Men are happy with wine and women in Babylonia are happy with colored clothing. Women in the Land of Israel are happy with linen clothing. Rabbi Yehuda ben Betira taught: When the Beit HaMikdash stands, happiness is with meat of an offering. But now that the Beit HaMikdash does not stand, rejoicing is in drinking wine.

When the Beit HaMikdash stood, the man would share the offering with his wife and in that way he would make her happy. Now that there is no Beit HaMikdash, according to the Shulchan Aruch, he must buy her new clothing and jewelry for the holiday (based on what they can afford) at the very least he should buy her a new pair of shoes, hoping that it will make her happy.

Although women do not have an obligation to be happy on the Shalosh Regalim, their husbands have to do what they can to make their wives happy as well as anyone else who he is sharing their table.

This Shabbat and Sunday, we will celebrate Rosh Chodesh Elul which means that the holidays are right around the corner. We must ask ourselves what we can do to try to help those around us have a happier holiday.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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