A topic addressed in today’s daf (Nazir 21b) concerns a situation where a woman declares “I am hereby a Nezirah” and her husband responds by saying “and I”.
To be clear, both this scenario, as well as its inverse (where a husband declares “I am hereby a Nazir” and his wife responds “and I”), were previously presented in the Mishna (Nazir 4:1) in Nazir 20b. And in terms of the discussion in today’s daf, it is primarily concerned with the halachic impact of the spouse responding “and I” vis-à-vis their ability to annul the vow of Nezirut.
However, I would like to use these statements as a springboard to explore a related topic where one spouse wishes to undertake some form of religious change or spiritual upgrade, and how the other spouse responds.
Admittedly, there are certain things (eg. the choice to recite a daily Tehillim) which are entirely private and which, for the most part, have no direct bearing on one’s spouse. Additionally, there are things which one person can adopt (eg. to change from keeping three hours between eating meat and dairy to keeping six hours) to which their spouse can simply say – in whichever way they wish – “Good luck but I’m not doing that!”.
But there are also various religious and spiritual lifestyle changes which can affect a couple to such an extent that they require some meaningful level of buy-in by both husband and wife – even when just one of them is the driving force (i.e. leader) for this change. The problem is that when a couple are not only not on the same page but are, to extend the metaphor, on completely different chapters, this can cause significant strain in their relationship.
In terms of the halachic mechanics of “and I” vis-à-vis the laws of Nezirut, we were taught in yesterday’s daf that this response is only effective if said תוֹךְ כְּדֵי דִיבּוּר – within a few seconds of the previous statement. In contrast, where one member of a couple wishes to undertake a significant change which relies on the other, though the speed of an affirmative response of the other may well reflect their support and enthusiasm, there are situations when significant time is needed to consider and process the possibility of such a change.
Through my work as #theVirtualRabbi, this issue is something that I’ve encountered and assisted with in various forms. And though every situation is different, all I can say is that if you feel that you are being encouraged to adopt a religious/spiritual lifestyle change, don’t feel pressurized to do so תוֹךְ כְּדֵי דִיבּוּר. Instead, take the time to independently learn about the mitzvah or practice that you are being asked to take on, because while we do things for those we love, we should do our best to love what we do.