Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky was told by a newly married yeshivah student that his wife wanted him to take out the garbage every day. The young talmid chacham complained that it was beneath his dignity to perform such a degrading task. Rav Yaakov heard what he had to say, and agreed that he should not take out the garbage.
That evening, that same yeshivah student answered a knock at his door. To his astonishment, he beheld the revered Rav Yaakov standing there. The rav requested to take out the garbage in order not to degrade the honor of the husband! The young talmid chacham understood the deeper meaning of his visit, and from then on was careful to take out the garbage every day. One of the most unpopular household chores is taking out the garbage. Generally, by process of elimination, this task will wind up being the job of the husband. Can a husband take out the garbage in the morning on the way to prayer?
Chazal only forbid one to take care of one’s own needs when it requires some effort and could divert one’s attention from tefillah. Merely throwing a bag of garbage into the bin is a simple act and therefore is permitted. The same is true of other small household tasks, such as putting laundry in the washing machine and making the beds (Rav Shlomo Zalman Aeurbach as cited in Halichos Shlomo 2,5).
Refusing to take out the garbage could cause strife between a husband and wife. Since marital tranquility is a mitzvah, a husband can consider taking out the garbage cheftzei Shamayim and a permissible task before tefillah. However, a wife should be careful not to burden her husband with too many chores before tefillah, so that her husband can pray properly (heard from Rav Ezriel Auerbach).
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org