I was recently learning Pirkei Avot and came across Perek 1-5, where it says: ”do not engage in idle chatter with your wife, and for sure to another man’s wife” ”or it will lead you to forget torah learning, and bring evil upon you” and I couldn’t understand how it’s forbidden to have a schmooze with a lady every now and then, for example a few weeks back, I had women around my shabbos table – people I have never met before, and we were schmoozing for around 2 hours! Never had I imagined that this is forbidden! And even more so, if there is ONE person in the WHOLE WORLD that a man should be able to talk to whenever he wants for however long he wants, that 1 person should be his wife! Please help me understand.
You are asking an important question that needs to be addressed, but let’s divide it into levels and categories, idle chatter with foreign women, and talking with one’s wife.
Living in western society, where just about everything is permitted, and society is dealing with issues of why should someone get married in the first place, just have a life of promiscuity being single, and doing whatever you want to whomever you want. Our society is even troubled with the question of who is considered an eligible candidate to create a marriage. Let alone that in secular society, with consent, one may touch anyone else in any way they like, and so on, so hearing that the Torah doesn’t allow idle chatter with foreign women, is hard to comprehend. On the other hand, if we look at the sorry state of our society, with the amount of infidelity, divorce, broken homes, pornography, drugs, suicide, people feeling alone, depression, anxiety and the percentage of people that need psychological help, obviously something is wrong.
In great contrast to this, the Torah wants us to live a life of inner happiness, stability, with marital harmony and a strong family base. One of the main elements to marital harmony is that the couple are happy with each other, and live their life, in their home with the feeling that their marital partner is the only person that they have on their mind. The more that a man has other women in his mind, and the more that a woman has other men on her mind, all of a sudden, the ‘special” person they choose to live with isn’t as special as originally thought. This is very detrimental to the home, the person’s feeling of wellbeing, and to the person’s overall morality. Therefore the Torah does not want us to have unnecessary interaction with foreign women, and we all know- talking is the beginning of a relationship. Of course it doesn’t always lead to a relationship, but it still puts thoughts of other women inside the man’s head, which is not at all helpful. Therefore the Torah does not want a man to engage in idle chatter with foreign women when it is not needed. Again, this does not mean that a man may not talk to women at all, the terminology of the Mishna is “Do not talk with women in excess”. Talking what is needed and a purposeful conversation is not considered in excess, and permitted. However when it isn’t for a purpose, it leads to no good things.
Regarding talking to one’s wife, according to what we just explained one should specifically talk and schmooze with his wife. Yes it is permitted, recommended, and even a commandment, that a man give his wife time to talk so that the two can bind together. In fact any time that he spends with his wife that will help build their relationship is a mitzva. What the Mishna is referring to here again, is when it is not needed, and it isn’t building their relationship. Talking to one’s wife, when it isn’t going to help their relationship, (just to kill time), is a shame says the Mishna, because the man could be using his precious time for Torah study, and instead he is squandering it. This is what the Mishna means, spend your time talking with your wife, because that will help build your home, but when it isn’t, don’t just waste time.
I hope that now this is understood