I would like to know what the din is on a husband raising his hand on his wife, or vice-a-versa. Furthermore, what is the din with the same matter as it applies to children?
pinchas, philadelphia, pa
This question must be split up into various parts.
(a) Does a husband ever have the Torah's permission to use physical force in order to stop his wife or children from sinning?
(b) Does a husband have the Torah's permission to use physical force in order to be Mechanech (educate) his children?
(c) Does a husband have some kind of dispensation from the Torah to hit his wife or children for no particular reason?
(a) IN ORDER TO STOP THEM FROM SINNING: The Gemara says in Shabbos that a person is held responsible for the sins of his household if he can mend their ways by giving them rebuke. The REMA (CM 421:13) says "And so someone who is under his influence, and he sees him that he is sinning, he is permitted to hit him and afflict him in order to separate him from sinning, and he does not have to bring him to Beis Din." The source of the Rema's remark is a Terumas Hadeshen, who said that a husband is allowed to hit his wife in order to make her stop cursing her parents, which is a Torah prohibition. Technically, the same would be true regarding a wife stopping a husband from sinning as well. This means that if a wife could stop her husband from sinning by hitting him with a frying pan, she technically could do so, since this Halachah extends far beyond a husband-wife-child relationship. However, this is beyond the scope of this discussion. If one wants to see more on the subject, he can look at the YAM SHEL SHLOMO in Bava Kama (3:9) and the pamphlet written by the LEV AVRAHAM (recently republished in TORAS HA'ADAM L'ADAM vol.4) titled SHALOM AL YISRAEL, who cites many sources on this issue.
HOWEVER, it is clear that there are many situations where this method should not be used as it will be ineffective and will only drive the person being hit further from Judaism. As the saying goes: "Just because one is right does not mean that he is correct." In additon, many Poskim teach that such an approach to rebuke is counterproductive nowadays and should never be used. In practice, one should ask his local orthodox rabbi or guidance counselor for advice about handling such situations.
(b) IN ORDER TO EDUCATE: Here too, it seems that a father has the Torah's permission to hit children, as is apparent from the Gemara in Makos (8b) which says that a person is allowed to hit his children in order to guide them in a Torah fashion (see also RASHI 8a,DH "ha'Av ha'Makeh Es Beno"), though this does not seem to apply to one's wife (especially today). However, there are at least four qualifications that must be kept in mind.
1. It is clear that there are many situations where this method should not be used, as it will be ineffective and will only drive the person being hit further from Judaism, as we noted above.
2. This is only true regarding one's younger children. The Gemara in Moed Katan (17a) says that a father should not hit his older son, as he transgresses Lifnei Iver (causing his son to hit him, transgressing hitting his father and mother, see SEFER HACHINUCH Mitzva 212).
3. Today there is an argument among Torah scholars whether a person should ever hit his child in this fashion. There are many prominent Torah scholars and educators who often quote RAV SHLOMO WOLBE zt"l's SEFER ZRIAH U'BINYAN BECHINUCH, saying that one should not hit his children for this purpose. One should read the book (or its English translation) in order to better understand this approach. One of the most outspoken Torah scholars who approved of hitting in this fashion, and said that it definitely should be done (albeit in a careful fashion where one is in control of his emotions and is doing so in order to educate his sons in a Torah fashion) was RAV AVIGDOR MILLER zt"l from whom I heard many times that children can benefit from being hit in this fashion (of course, not on a regular basis). This is really a question that one should ask of his Rav.
4. Even according to those who say one could hit children today for the purpose of educating them in a Torah fashion, there is an argument in the Poskim regarding how hard one can hit his child in this fashion. Some Poskim say that one is never allowed to actually cause an injury to his child when hitting him in this fashion (see ARUCH HASHULCHAN, C.M. 424:17).
(c) FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON: No. A father may not hit his child for no particular reason. See SHULCHAN ARUCH (C.M. 424:7) and ARUCH HASHULCHAN (C.M. 424:17) who discuss how a father must pay damages to a child whom he injured for no specific reason. It is similarly forbidden to hit one's wife in this fashion.
I must conclude by saying that this is a general overview of a very broad topic. I hope these basic sources help shed some light on the subject.