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Having multiple wives


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#1 Michoel

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 03:05 PM

I am looking for a good explanation on how the Torah allowed men to have more than one wife. My main source of confusion is the premium we put on a relationship where two people become as one. How, then, do we explain the Torah allowing men to have more than one wife ? It seems to have multiple spouses would cheapen the relationships. Also, how would you address the concern that many of the Jewish leadership had many, many, wives? Thank you.

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 29 October 2011 - 08:23 PM

The "becoming one" idea is spiritual, not social. It has to do with Neshamos, not relationships.

#3 FS613

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 05:36 PM

L'Chvod Rabbi Shapiro:

Why did Rabbeinu Gershom make a Cherem that a man can have only one wife?

Thank you.

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 07:45 PM

Because difficulties in Sholom Bayis were developing, particularly because of jealousy between the wives.

#5 FS613

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 07:07 AM

Regarding the Rabbi's 1st post, above:

So if a person is C"V widowed or C"V divorced and then B"H re-marries:

Is that person's Neshama unified with the 1st spouse's Neshama

and then split up after C"V the marriage is over

and then unified with the 2nd spouse's Neshama?

Thank you.

#6 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 08:13 AM

Yes.

#7 Michoel

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 10:22 AM

When it was mutar to marry more than one woman, did the wife have to approve of her husband's new desired lady before he was allowed to marry her?

#8 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 07:27 PM

There is no law that requires that per se. But there is also no law that says the wife has to approve of any lifestyle choice the husband makes before he makes it. However, there is always common sense as well as אוהבה כגופו ומכבדה יותר מגופו which would require him to consider her position even more seriously than a legal mandate would demand.

#9 eidel

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 12:35 AM

To me it seems reasonable to permit multiple wives so that the man can have more children... Avoiding jealousy outweighed this benefit? Was this change because the nature of women changed, or was it considered better to have only one wife in the olden days as well but there just wasn't a prohibition?

#10 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 12:07 PM

To me it seems reasonable to permit multiple wives so that the man can have more children... Avoiding jealousy outweighed this benefit? Was this change because the nature of women changed, or was it considered better to have only one wife in the olden days as well but there just wasn't a prohibition?

The wives got a long better in those days.

But your question is a good one, and there is a big lesson to learn from it. The GRA is quoted as saying that if it were up to him, he would not have prohibited multiple wives, because indeed it reduces the amount of children in the world and that postpones Moshiach's coming, since Chazal say Moshiach will not come until after all those who are destined to be born, will.

But Rabbeinu Gershon, who decreed the prohibition of multiple wives, apparently held that indeed even so, it is more important to prevent hurting others than it is to bring Moshiach. There is a big lesson in this. And it is not very startling. Our job on this world is to fulfill the Torah. An Aveirah, such as jealousy, is prohibited, and there is no heter to do it just because it brings Moshiach faster.

The Brisker Rav brought a proof to this from Chazal. Moshiach cannot come on Shabbos or Yom Tov because of the Techum. Now theoretically if there is a time for Moshiahc to come and that time passes, Moshiach could be postponed for a very long time before he is able to come again. Still, said the Brisker Rav, if his coming involves and Aveirah, he will not come.

The lesson is, our job is to make sure we follow the Torah. Sometimes people think it is worth violating the Torah for some long term benefit. We are not allowed to do that. Our job is to keep the Torah The fate of the world is Hashem's job.

#11 Menorah

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 01:09 PM

Non-Ashkenazim, including Sefardim and Teimanim, were never subject Rabbeinu Gershom's cherem against more than one wife. And, indeed, even recently they have had multiple wives. Some moved to Eretz Yisroel in the 1950's and '60's with several wives. Even today they can do so, but generally don't only because they should not get into trouble with the secular authorities.

#12 eidel

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 09:41 PM

How about the men? Were the men back then also more capable of getting along with multiple wives than they would be now?

I thank the Rav very much for answering my question of many years!!

Actually, when my friend's husband called me (to help me, but she didn't know the details of my problem, what a difficult situation I was in) my friend was very jealous to find out. And my female teacher says, "A Jewish wife does not want her husband to talk to other women (even if her husband is a rabbi!)." I myself would want my husband to take multiple wives (if he likes, of course only frum ladies, and if it were permitted), but if I'm attracted to a married man I say to myself, "If his wife doesn't want it, neither should I!"

#13 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:52 AM

Non-Ashkenazim, including Sefardim and Teimanim, were never subject Rabbeinu Gershom's cherem against more than one wife. And, indeed, even recently they have had multiple wives. Some moved to Eretz Yisroel in the 1950's and '60's with several wives. Even today they can do so, but generally don't only because they should not get into trouble with the secular authorities.

They also often don;t because they recognize the problems that cause the Ashkenazim to prohibit. Plus many women simply will not marry someone knowing he may later marry someone else as well. In some Sefardishe Kesuvos, a commitment is included on the part of the husband that he will not marry additional wives.

#14 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:56 AM

How about the men? Were the men back then also more capable of getting along with multiple wives than they would be now?

I thank the Rav very much for answering my question of many years!!

Actually, when my friend's husband called me (to help me, but she didn't know the details of my problem, what a difficult situation I was in) my friend was very jealous to find out. And my female teacher says, "A Jewish wife does not want her husband to talk to other women (even if her husband is a rabbi!)." I myself would want my husband to take multiple wives (if he likes, of course only frum ladies, and if it were permitted), but if I'm attracted to a married man I say to myself, "If his wife doesn't want it, neither should I!"

The problem was the women were jealous of how their shared husband treated them as compared to their "competition." That was not an issue for one man married to many wives.

What your Jewish teacher said does not apply if the other woman that the husband is talking to is his (additional) wife.

#15 Soulrebel

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 09:32 PM

The Chinese symbol for conflict happens to be "2 women under 1 roof" :)

Marriage back then was very different. Today, for nonbillionares and nonsupermodels, most people think of marriage as a union between 2 basically equal people who should have a connection in areas outside of the relationship (ie shared interests). Back then, the guy paid for everything, so the more $$$ they had, the more wives they had, because love wasn't a requirement back then- it was an extra. Back in the day, friends were the ones you shared your soul with most of the time, as poetry from back then illustrates.

Most people could only afford one wife, leading to widespread monogamy. Think about the guys with many wives- they were kings, or their primary wife couldn't have kids, so they'd have another wife to have their heir (sort of like the concept of an egg donor).

Then we get to Rabbeinu Gershom. He realized that in a European society, polygamy was creating a chillul Hashem. Also, the Jews couldn't survive the kind of shallow gene pool that results from, say, 30 families with half-siblings living cooped up in the same safe-for-now pocket of Europe with no newcomers settling there. You're looking at harmful genetic mutations in the making- people back then knew about things like that.

So even without the wives' fighting, there were good reasons for the cherem

#16 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 09:43 AM

The Chinese symbol for conflict happens to be "2 women under 1 roof" :)

Marriage back then was very different. Today, for nonbillionares and nonsupermodels, most people think of marriage as a union between 2 basically equal people who should have a connection in areas outside of the relationship (ie shared interests). Back then, the guy paid for everything, so the more $$$ they had, the more wives they had, because love wasn't a requirement back then- it was an extra. Back in the day, friends were the ones you shared your soul with most of the time, as poetry from back then illustrates.

Most people could only afford one wife, leading to widespread monogamy. Think about the guys with many wives- they were kings, or their primary wife couldn't have kids, so they'd have another wife to have their heir (sort of like the concept of an egg donor).

Then we get to Rabbeinu Gershom. He realized that in a European society, polygamy was creating a chillul Hashem. Also, the Jews couldn't survive the kind of shallow gene pool that results from, say, 30 families with half-siblings living cooped up in the same safe-for-now pocket of Europe with no newcomers settling there. You're looking at harmful genetic mutations in the making- people back then knew about things like that.

So even without the wives' fighting, there were good reasons for the cherem

Soulrebel,

Can you please tell me where you heard those "reasons" for the Cherem? I do not believe they are correct. In fact, the first one, the idea that polygamy was creating a Chilul Hashem, I don't see how that can be true at all. It is not a Chilul Hashem to live our lives in a way that Goyish culture does not approve of. It would not be a Chilul Hashem, for example, to eat meat in vegetarian society. We do not acquiesce to non-Jewish values, even in terms of what people will say. In fact, Rav Yaakov Emden (Sheilas Yaavetz 2:15) goes out of his way to establish that requiring monogamy is Halachicly permitted, because one could theoretically argue that it is Chukas Akum - following non-Jewish customs.

It is true that we would not want the world to thik we are violating our own values - such as stealing or cheating - even if we are not , and if we cause others to think so it could constitute Chilul Hashem. But if the world sees that Jews do not accept their own contrived values - that is not Chilul Hashem.

There are many in today's society who consider having a lot of children just as primitive as having a lot of wives. I was once talking to a Conservative Jewish woman who was looking for a rabbi to do a radio show on religion. She said that she needs someone who has one or two, maybe 3 kids max, and not - this is a quote - "a litter" - because someone with too many kids would be considered primitive by secular listeners and would not be taken seriously.

We don't care about such things. BH we live in a free country and we are entitled to our beliefs, even if the secular world frowns on them. Nobody has a right to shove their values down our throat, and us not bowing to whatever secular society decides this week is right or wrong is not anything close to a Chilul Hashem.

It sounds to me like whoever taught you these reasons may have distorted real reasons brought down in our Seforim. Such as Rav Yaakov Emden (ibid) who said that because polygamy was against the values of European countries, it became a mortal danger for the Jews to practice it. We were afraid of pogroms. That is our only reluctance to live our life against non-Jewish values. It is not because of Chilul Hashem.

And as for the genetic mutations reason, that too, I would ask you where you got it from. It sounds like it may be a distortion of the reason given by the Shoel Umashiv (1:178) that we are concerned of half-siblings eventually marrying each other, thereby violating Torah law. But genetic mutations is not mentioned.

Regarding only the wealthy marrying multiple wives, one of the reasons given for the Cherem is indeed because we were concerned that the men would not be able to support all their wives (Maharam Padawa 15).

And then, of course, there is the reason of jealousy and fights among the wives, which is given in many Rishonim.

If I may make an observation. I could be wrong about this, but it sounds like the reasons you were given were designed to purposely make the Cherem - and Judaism - look Humanistic and Universalist (the Chilul Hashem reason) or that it was important to change our traditional way of life dues to scientific discovery (the gene pool reason). I say this because, besides this post, you also posted something about being taught that the Neshama is something to the effect of the conscience of society's values (although from your post about Shiduchim it seems like you're growing up in a more traditional environment).

If this is true, you will be experiencing a 180 degree paradigm shift on this site.

#17 Soulrebel

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:48 PM

I heard these things in school. I'm kind of really bad at languages, so I've never really dug through any actual teshuvos. Meaning, you're definitely right since you're an Orthodox rabbi, and Orthodox rabbis have to know Hebrew. When it came to the Chilul Hashem reason, I snorted for that exact reason, and our teacher said that back then making a Chilul Hashem like that could get you killed in a European society. As for genetic mutations, who knows where that was from- all I knew was that humans have been aware of them for thousands of years and that ancient nonjewish groups had rules against marrying close relatives like half-siblings. You are probably right that we were taught this to sound more humanistic and universalist.

The neshoma issue was not something I was taught. I just happened to notice that it's usually used in sentences like "the OTDer eating a cheeseburger? Their neshoma is totally crying, but they've just buried it under layers of apikorsus" versus "The marooned sailor's neshoma stirred in him at the beautiful sunrise" (these are extreme hypothetical examples that I've never heard). Only, I know that if I chose to break a societal rule, I'd still basically feel the same inside if I kept to my own moral code. Plus, whenever people I know broke major societal expectations, the exact moment they started feeling regret was when their shtick stopped working- no neshoma walloped them screaming "what are you doing?" when they were having fun.

I'm growing up and grew up in lots of places. So I get how it works for people who went out in a 7DS, people who met 2 times, people who secretly dated in hs, people who met on their own, people who went out with nonjews and other types of people. I'm already a little bit familiar with the philosophy of this site since I've been there too- I just like knowing that there are actual sources for everything- but I don't really have a paradigm to shift, I'm just kind of bumbling along.



#18 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:14 PM

"7DS" ?

#19 Soulrebel

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 08:16 PM

7- Date-Sequence. The way people who feel you should be either broken up or engaged after 7 dates typically date, with unwritten rules for when to bring up everything important to marriage

#20 AYidOnTheWayUp

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 04:46 PM

1. If you and your spouse are supposed to be 2 halves of one Neshama how can one have more than one "Bashert" and what happens when someone marries a second time after a divorce are they both 1/4th of that neshama or was the first or 2nd not his second half?

2. Do some people never marry their 2nd half or does the person you marry automatically become the 2nd half?