I have a very demanding work schedule which often requires me to stay late at work and miss dinner at home. My wife is understanding but does not like the fact that on such nights I buy and eat dinner by my workplace and come home and not eat dinner with my wife. She says dinner is the one time during the day that we can spend time with each other while eating and she therefore would prefer that I eat a snack while at work so I don’t come home hungry, and then join her for dinner later when I come home. I told her I would think about the suggestion, but would like to know from you as to whether I have any Halachic obligations in this matter.
You should comply by your wife’s request and save eating dinner for when you get home from work so you can eat together with your wife. This may be considered an actual Halachic obligation if you are an Ashkenazi, and would be recommended for you to follow even if you are Sephardi.
Explanation: One of the scriptural obligations that the husband has towards his wife is called Sheira, which is that a husband must provide food for his wife. The Mishneh in Miseches Kesubos states that included in this obligation is not just for the husband to provide food for his wife but for him to actually eat with her once a week on Friday night. The Rishonim explain that the reason for this once a week eating together obligation is in order to draw closeness and intimacy between the couple. This ruling is recorded in the Rambam and Michaber in his Shulchan Aruch, although implies that the husband is not required to eat a meal together with his wife on other nights. However, from the Talmud Yerushalmi it is implied that the husband is required to eat together with his wife every single day, and so rule many of the Rishonim, and Poskim, including the Rama, who concludes that a husband is only relieved of this duty if his wife forgives this right and allows her husband to leave her to eat by herself without his presence. The reason behind their ruling is because it would be considered shameful for one to leave his life to eat alone. Ideally, the ruling for Ashkenazim follow the ruling of the Rama while the ruling of the Sephardim would follow the ruling of the Michaber and Rambam. However, in truth there is room to learn that even according to Ashkenazim and the Rama, the obligation is not that the husband physically eat together with his wife, but that he simply spends time with her when she eats so that she does not eat her meal alone, and hence so long as he is present by the table when she’s eating her meal, it suffices. [However, from some Poskim it seems clear that the intent is that the husband literally eat his meal together with his wife, when his wife eats, and not that he simply be present when she eats, and so is the simple implication of the ruling of the Rama, which goes on the ruling of the Michaber and Mishneh that the husband is to “eat with her every Friday night” which implies that it does not suffice for him to simply be present by the meal without eating his meal.] Another issue to consider is the fact that the husband is away at work, and even according to the ruling of the Rama, the Rishonim on which his opinion is based on explain that if the husband is out of the city, there is no obligation for him to eat together with his wife daily, and this obligation is only when he is anyways at home. Accordingly, while there is room to learn that an Ashkenazi would be required to save his eating of dinner until he comes back from work so he can eat together with his wife, this matter is not conclusive from the Poskim. Nonetheless, since one’s wife is making the request, it is proper for the husband to abide by it and take the most stringent Halachic approach and save dinner to eat with his wife when he comes back from work, and if someone is stringent in other matters of Jewish law, certainly he should be stringent in matters of Shalom Bayis and the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael.
Sources: See Michaber and Rama E.H. 70:2; Tur E.H. 70:1; Beis Yosef 70; Nesiv Hamishpacha 2:5; Ish Veisha Shezachu 2:23-25; Chevel Nachalaso 11:26; Opinions who rule that the husband must also eat the meals together with his wife: Rama E.H. 70:2; Tur 70 in name of Yerushalmi and Rosh; Beis Yosef 70 in name of Rashba; Yerushalmi Kesubos 7:1; Rosh Kesubios 7:4; Rashba Kesubos 70b in name of Raavad; Teshuvos Harshaba Meyuchasos to Ramban 7:104; Meiri Kesubos 64b; Ran Kesubos 28; Rashbatz 2:68; Maggid Mishneh Ishus 12:10; Levush 70:2; Beis Yaakov 70:2; Igros Moshe O.C. 4:101-2; Mishneh Halachos Opinions who rule that one is only required to eat with his wife [only] once a week on Friday night: Michaber E.H. 70:2; Tur 70 in name of Rambam; Rambam Ishus 12:12; Mishneh Kesubos 64b and Kesubos 65b; Shoel Unishal 5:42;