The Wife of the Husband who Sings Off Key

The Wife of the Husband who Sings Off Key

For the last few Saturday nights, about 100 Jewish mothers and I have crammed into the community center hall to hear popular lecturer Chedva Vasly talk about marriage.

Last week, she was talking about how most women don’t know how to receive from their husbands:

“We women know how to give. That’s our specialty. We give non-stop to our kids, our communities, our husbands. And when our husbands try to give us something, to make us happy, we don’t know how to receive…And without knowing it, we break their hearts.

“I once met a woman who was a saleslady at a jewelry store. She told me how sad it makes her, to see a young husband come in and search for an hour for the perfect bracelet for his new wife. This young man considers all the options, and then chooses the one he thinks his wife will love.

“‘And then I count the days,’ the saleslady says, ‘until this wife walks into the store with the bracelet and the exchange slip.”

“We wives are very good at giving. But we don’t understand that sometimes we need to give by receiving, even if it’s not exactly what we wanted, with a smile…”

“A woman once told me that her husband was at the supermarket, and he saw there was a sale–spend $50, receive a free fish head. This husband was so excited, a free fish head! That would surely make his wife so happy. He even went up to another couple pushing around a full shopping cart and asked them whether they were going to claim their free fish head…When they said they weren’t, the husband asked if he could please take theirs.”

“When the husband came home and presented the 2 fish heads to his wife, telling her with pride that he had received them for free, this wife, an expert at giving through receiving, gushed over them like a dozen roses.”

This week, Chedva was talking about accepting our husbands, faults and all. “Are you so absolutely perfect? You have no faults whatsoever, so you can’t accept your husband’s? Believe me, if you’ve tried and tried to get your husband to change, and he hasn’t budged, then do yourself and him a favor, and just accept him, as is. Often, if you manage to fully accept him, weaknesses and all, he will actually surprise you–and change!”

One exasperated woman raised her hand, “I hear what you are saying, but I am a musical person, and my husband sings terribly off key! At the Shabbat table, I am going crazy!”

Another woman suggested “Why don’t you go on a walk around your house during the singing, wash a few dishes, so you don’t have to hear him?”

But another woman gave her a different suggestion, which I thought was so wonderful. She said, “Listen, I hear you. I am also a musical person. My husband also sings very off key. It used to bother be very much.

“But then I noticed that he really pours out his heart and soul when he sings, with so much emotion and sincerity. And now, when he sings, I love it.”


  1. couldn’t disagree more! I find it very disrespectful to treat our husbands like little children who seek our approval and appreciation. do you really believe that when you don’t like something that your husband does – he doesn’t get it? I believe a good relationship should be based on mutual trust and friendship. when he sings off-key or gets you a present you don’t like, it’s perfectly fine to discuss it openly and even have a good laugh on it. would you really wear something you don’t like or train yourself to “like” his singing in order “to make him happy”? is your relationship really that fragile that you cannot be honest with each other? my husband and I have completely different tastes. we NEVER surprise each other with gifts that might put us in an awkward situation. we tell each other exactly what we like. his gifts are absolutely THE BEST!

  2. Beautiful story. I also am a musical person-(sang in the synagogue choir for years before we became orthodox). We have been married for 36 years – I really think he is tone deaf- seriously, when he was in hebrew school, the cantor told him to just mouth the words, but not to sing because it was throwing the whole class off. When he sings birkat hamazon, guests totally can’t even follow the ‘tune’.

    I do appreciate his efforts, but it is such a joy to be able to sing on key with other musical people.

    So what’s the point? This article really made me stop to think and to appreciate him for who he is, but its hard to come to terms with this.

    When we go to a concert, he suffers through it, but its not like enjoying it with other music lovers. Baruch Hashem, the majority of my children are musically gifted, so we try to sing and enjoy that way.

  3. This is very thought provoking Jenny!
    Wouldn’t another solution be simply to register the fact that singing is an area where he’s hopeless? “Husbands” to need to be good or even slightly good at everything, neither do wives or “homemakers”.
    Part 2 of this solution would be to search inside oneself and notice where she’s “off key”. For example: what if HER Shabbos cooking is “off-taste” (or at least not the husband’s favorite flavours), and while he’s singing off key at the table he’s tolerating her cooking at the same time? Now–they’re even. 😉

  4. I can see both sides. There is an advantage to being honest as per Dvorah and there is an advantage to doing it Noga’s way. Maybe both ways are good at different times.

  5. Beth Berman

    This reminded me of a “Dear Abby” I read as a young girl that I have always carried with me in my heart. The subject is snoring, not singing, and although we know today that snoring can be associated with more serious medical conditions, back then it was just annoying. A wife whose husband snored had been complaining, and another wife responded that her husband also snored, and she suffered for many years, but he had since passed away, and the wife said she would give anything to have him back snoring beside her at night. Whenever one of my husbands “faults” really gets to me, in addition to remembering that I have faults too and after thirty years of marriage some things are not going to change, I thank Hashem that he is my husband, faults and all, and that we have a wonderful marriage, and I would not give up even one day. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

  6. The story of ladies exchanging the jewelry is heartbreaking. Maybe husbands should take their wives to choose?

  7. I agree that husbands and wives should be honest with each other, but when it comes to a gift, and in particular jewelry, honesty is not what matters, it is the thought behind it.
    I am married for more then 20 years and have very unique taste in cloths and jewelry, so my husband never trusted himself in trying to buy me anything, but since about 10 years ago when I heard Rabanit Yemima Mizrahi describe what a showering of blessings comes down to a home when a husband gives jewelry for Yom Tov to his wife and how the husband, when choosing the piece should try to imagine his wife wearing it and how beautiful she will look in it…I have been sending my husband on his own to pick my jewelry, and some of the times, I really did not like what he chose, but when wearing it, reminded myself of the intent behind it which makes me feel loved, and being taken care of… and that makes me feel much better then wearing a piece I like.
    I think it is more for us as learning how to be receiving then making the husband feel good, it is to make us grow, not to make our husband’s childish, it is not that our husband’s need our approval, it is us who need to be approving.

    • Nechama I like your outlook. Lately I have been trying to be more receving, with graciousness. You’re right, it’s about changing myself. Turning me into a more appreciative person, appreciating my husband for who he is, appreciating his care for me.

    • Nechama, what a nice perspective you have. I really appreciate you sharing this.

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