To Marry and to Escape It
By Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
To Marry and to Escape It is about an Orthodox Jewish woman who marries an Orthodox Jewish man with Kiddushin and then finds that her marriage is a mistake. She may not remarry without receiving a GET divorce document from her husband, given willingly, or if her husband dies. She may leave her husband but not remarry. See footnotes about this problem and what I recommend as a solution, namely, not to marry with Kiddushin but to marry with Pilegesh, a marriage recognized by the Talmud in Sanhedrin 21A and the Shulchan Aruch in the beginning of the Laws of Kiddushin.
The gemora above brings it and great authorities permit and encourage it, such as the Ramban in his name and the name of the Rambam as long as the couple behaves in a proper marital manner and not zenuse[i]. Rav Yaacov Emden son of the Chacham Tsvi is enthusiastic about it. See Shailess Yayvetz II:15 especially at the end of the lengthy teshuva, for his enthusiastic encouragement of Pilegesh. He also indicates that refusal to marry with Pilegesh can result in problems.
Despite this, my main enthusiasm for Pilegesh is because today women who want to leave their husbands are often encouraged by certain rabbis to do things such as forcing their husbands to give them a GET or recently to leave their husbands and remarry with no GET. The majority of Torah authorities consider either of these invalid to the extent that the children born from the new husband are likely mamzerim. A mamzer who marries a Jewish woman produces more mamzerim, for all generations. So I say better Pilegesh than mamzerim, even if there may be some quibbling about Pilegesh. Again, the gemora in Sanhedrin 21A quoted by the Vilna Gaon clearly states that Pilegesh is a Torah marriage. The Shulchan Aruch quoted above mentions that some forbid Pilegesh because the woman may be ashamed to go to the Mikva. But if she is encouraged by the husband or local rabbis to go to the Mikva there is nothing wrong with it. And I feel that even if here and there somebody disagrees with Pilegesh, better to do that with all who back it, and not make mamzerim. Just ask the children who will be mamzerim.
Now I want to talk a bit about the problems faced by married people and those who simply are not marrying.
Briefly stated, we have many people even Orthodox Jews, who refuse to marry. We also have many people, including Orthodox Jews, who divorce. We also have many people of various ages whose biology give them no peace, and they end up doing serious sins. Young people are boiling with biology. If I was their age, and not seventy-five years old, I would probably sin also. I have spoken to rabbis who are familiar with the situation and they tell me that entire sections of the Orthodox community have adapted a lifestyle that is the opposite of kedusho.
There is a man well known who has worked for years on trying to get divorced Jews to remarry. He told me he failed to find success in that, despite great efforts. Briefly, the Torah gives us laws of when to marry and how to marry. If parents are involved with getting their children married, and find the proper mates before the age of twenty, and do the necessary checking of the prospective mates, there is hope. If we are too busy to follow the Torah, we are in trouble.
How a husband engages in having children and how he treats his wife is taught in the Torah and the Talmud. It is the first subject taught in the Code of Laws (Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer) about marriage laws. What the Code of Laws says are direct quotes from the Talmud with references from the Torah. Therefore, let us begin with the beginning of the Code of Laws about marriage.
We quote the Shulchan Aruch there, “The Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying. Chapter One – The Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying and the Sin of Being Without a Wife: 14 paragraphs.”
Note the two things here. First, “the Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying.” Two is “the Sin of Being Without a Wife.” First we will deal with the mitsvah to be fruitful and multiply.
“Every man is obligated to marry a woman in order to be fruitful and multiply. And anyone who is not active in being fruitful and multiplying is as one who poured blood and shrinks the Image of G‑d and causes the Divine Presence Shechina to depart from the Jews.
This is from a gemora in Yevomose 63b. There it explains more than is explained in the brevity of the Code of Laws. The language in the gemora is: “Tanyo, we have learned in the name of Rabbi Eliezar: Anyone who is not involved in being fruitful and multiplying is as one who spills blood. As it is said, ‘One who spills the blood of a person in the person, his blood will be spilled. After this it says, ‘And you be fruitful and multiply.’” The Maharsho in his commentary there explains that HaShem created the first man, Adam, to come into the world. Adam came into the world together with the souls of those who had to be born. This birth came about by people being fruitful and multiplying. Thus, anyone who does not practice being fruitful and multiplying has caused the body of Adam to be missing that part of him that could have grown into a human being and helped fill the world with people. Thus in a sense it means that a person who does not fulfill this potential of creating human life is as one who destroys the potential of souls that could have become human beings if a human would have practiced being fruitful and multiply.
The gemora there continues and says, “Rabbi Yaacov says that one who does not practice being fruitful and multiplying it is as if he had made smaller the image of G‑d.” That is, “because people were created in the image of G‑d” which is followed by the passage “and you be fruitful and multiply.” Meaning, having children assures that there will be people in the image of G‑d. The more children coming into the world create those in the image of G‑d. And one who does not produce these children by refusing to be fruitful and multiplying is blamed for not creating a person in the image of G‑d.
The gemora on page 64A says that one who does not engage in having children causes the Schechina to depart from the world. The Schechina wants to rest upon Jewish children, and if there are not enough Jewish children, where does the Schechina go? To pieces of wood and the stones?
The Ramo Rabbi Moshe Iserles quotes a gemora in Yevomose 62b about bringing joy to one’s wife and self
The Shulchan Aruch then quotes the Ramo, who brings teachings for Ashkenazi Jews. We are still in chapter one paragraph one, but first comes the teaching of Rabbi Caro a Sefardi and then the teaching of Ramo who was an Ashkenazi.
“Rabbi Tanchum in the name of Rabbi Chaniloy says, ‘Any man who lives without a wife lives without happiness without blessing and without goodness. Without happiness as it is said, ‘And you should find happiness through you and your wife.’ Without blessing as it says, ‘to bring blessing to your house.’ Without goodness as it is said, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone.’ In Israel they would say, ‘Without Torah and without a wall (the wife protects her husband).’ Rovo bar Ulo says, ‘without peace.’” The gemora then discusses the obligation of the husband to have marital relations with his wife when appropriate, and that brings husband and wife happiness.
The gemora we quoted before now brings the topic of marital relations as a key to Shalom Bayis. This gemora is connected to the previous gemora that we quoted above about a wife bringing happiness, etc. And now we have the mitsvah upon the husband to make his wife happy with marital intimacy.
The gemora is that above in Yevomose 62b that discussed the need for a man to have a wife. Now the gemora expands this to explain the obligation of the husband to make his wife happy, an expansion of the gemora above saying that the wife made the husband happy. Now it goes in two directions. The wife makes the husband happy and the husband makes the wife happy. This is specifically mentioned in the gemora when the husband has marital relations with his wife, something crucial for Shalom Bayis and the happiness of the wife.
The gemora there begins by continuing the previous thread of how crucial a wife is for the happiness of the man. And now it talks about how crucial the man is to make the wife happy and to make Shalom Bayis in the family. This is done when the man fulfills his obligation to have intimacy with his wife on a regular basis.
The gemora brings a passage, “And you will know that there is peace in your tent, and you will visit your home (meaning you will have intimacy with your wife) and not sin.” This means, says the gemora, that a husband who refrains from having marital intimacy with his wife is a sinner.
The gemora there then expands on the obligations of the husband to his wife and says, “He who loves his wife as he loves himself, and who honors his wife more than himself, and he who raises his sons and daughters to go in the path of righteousness, and he who marries off his children just prior to the age of marriage, of him the passage says, ‘and you will know that there is peace in your tent.’”
The honoring of the wife more than himself is explained to pertain to spending money on the wife. Even though the husband needs to buy something he must defer to his wife and buy for her if there is only money for one of them to purchase. Rashi in the gemora there explains that a woman without the clothes and other things that women need suffers more than a man without those things, so the husband must first satisfy his wife with spending and only afterwards should he spend on himself.
The Raishise Chochmo mentioned below in the footnote explains, “And the husband must always honor her so she has enough money to buy what she needs and for her to have proper clothing, even if the husband has to spend more money on her than he can afford.” Of course, if the husband spends more on his wife than what he can afford, it means that he will have to make up the loss by sacrificing himself and not buying something that he needed.
We see here that although a wife provides a husband with the afore-mentioned gifts of happiness, etc., this comes about because the husband sacrifices for his wife and suffers loss of buying what he needs so that she can buy what she needs. This theme of the husband sacrificing for his wife is based upon a passage in the Torah.
See Devorim 24:5, “When a man takes a new wife….he will make his wife that he took rejoice.” Rashi notes that the obligation on the husband to make his wife rejoice means that she rejoices, not him. The same is taught in the Zohar that emphasizes the need for the husband to make his wife rejoice not that he rejoices. The husband must sacrifice to make his wife happy. As the Zohar says, “This rejoicing is not for the husband to rejoice but for his wife to rejoice, as it is written ‘and he shall make his wife rejoice.’” Here we see the husband sacrificing to make his wife happy.
The Shulchan Aruch and commentators suggest that a boy should marry at the age when he begins his eighteenth year meaning when the seventeenth year has turned into the beginning of the eighteenth year. We must keep in mind that this is appropriate for families when the parents are in charge of finding a mate for the boy. If a boy has parents who are not involved with his marriage, as we sometimes find, this can be a problem.
Parents who struggle with finding the right mate for a child sometimes just get worn out and quit. If that happens a child may have friends who suggest a match, or a shadchon. But to marry young is advisable mainly when parents are heavily involved. Of course, the choice must be the choice of the child not the parents. And yet, without heavy parental efforts in finding the right mate, there can be problems.
We find in that paragraph, “Under no circumstances should one be over the age of twenty and not marry.” This is surely not the custom in the Yeshiva world, as some are busy learning and don’t want to get married at the age of twenty. Also, if somebody is looking hard for a shidduch but didn’t find the right one, this is not so serious. But if somebody just refuses to look for a shidduch, that is serious, unless the person is busy learning Torah and doesn’t want to stop learning.
There is a story I heard about a young man who was not marrying, and he spoke to his rebbe. He explained that he found some appropriate candidates for marriage, but he thinks he could do better. The rebbe told him, “The people you saw last year and two years ago, those are the people you will see later on.”
I once learned in a Yeshiva where a student was a great learner and very handsome. But for some reason he didn’t get married. I want over to him and asked him if he knew what HEFSED MERUBO meant. He surely knew what that meant. It means “a great loss.” That is, sometimes a rabbi is asked a question about Jewish law, and it is possible to want to be strict about the problem and forbid it. But if there is a great loss by being strict a prominent rabbi might rule that we should be lenient.
I continued: Tell me, I said, you have been involved in shidduchim a few years and no marriage. Each year that goes by and you don’t marry, you could have married and had a child. Is that not a great loss? Soon he was married.
A young man called up his father and said, “Dad, mazel tov!” The father had no idea what that meant. It seems that the father was one of those parents who just gave up the struggle to find his child a shidduch. So he let his son float. The son waited and waited, and finally found a shidduch on his own. He then called up his father and said “mazel tov!” The father was surprised, and he deserved to be surprised. Yes, a parent suffers to find the right mate for a child. But that doesn’t mean that you just drop it. There are shadchonim. There are other people who have contacts with the kind of people you are looking for. But just to drop your child in the middle of getting married?
A Person Who Had a Boy and a Girl Has Fulfilled Pru Urevu but Should Preferably Marry and also Continue to Have More Children
A Jewish person is supposed to be married and is supposed to have children. The mitsvah in the Torah is PRU URVU be fruitful and multiply.
Another mitsvah is taught in the Beis Shmuel chapter One paragraph 1. Even somebody who already has children has another mitsvah לערב אל תנח את ידך meaning even if you had children in your younger years, as you get older, you still have a mitsvah to increase with more children. This is not the mitsvah of pru urvu but it is another mitsvah “in the older phase of your life do not refuse to have more children.”
The world is created and designed to produce children. This is called "לשבת יצרה“.
See the Mishneh and gemora Yevomose 61B: “A man must not refrain from having more children unless he has children. Beis Shamai says two male children. And Beis Hillel says a male and a female, as it is says, ‘male and female He created them.’”
The gemora says, “We infer from this that if he has children he can refrain from being fruitful and multiplying. But this does not exempt him from the obligation to have a wife. This is a proof to Rav Nachman in the name of Shmuel who said, ‘even if a man has many children it is forbidden to be without a wife as it is said, ‘it is not good for a man to be alone.’” See also there the Tosfose Chad Mikamoi if two males are better than a male and a female. The plain teaching of the Mishneh seems to say that male and female to Beis Hillel is better than two males.
If I recall correctly there was somebody who had a lot of boys but no girls. The question is if he had to divorce his wife as he had not achieved a boy and a girl. I understand that the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l blocked him from divorcing his wife even though he had no female but many boys. The plain meaning of the Mishneh above is that two children means a boy and a girl but not two boys. And this is the basic understanding of Tosfose Chad Mikamoi. However, see Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter one paragraph 5, “When a man has a boy and a girl he has fulfilled the mitsvah of being fruitful and multiplying.” The Bi’are HaGola there#40 says, “The source is a Mishneh in Yevomose 61B according to the opinion of Beis Hillel.” It doesn’t say that two boys are also good. However, to divorce a wife for having too many boys and no girls is also a problem because divorce isn’t just a bandaid, it is a disaster, unless the wife is completely unable to have children, and even then we could discuss the situation. See Ramo in Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter one paragraph 3 that for many generations we have not kept to the custom of forcing a divorce on a woman who cannot have children. (See also the Gro there 1:10 Lo Nohadu other opinions.)
See Beraishis II:18, “And HaShem Elokim said, ‘It is not good that a man should be alone. I will make for him a helpmate opposite him.” We see that a man alone is “not good.” The plain understanding is that it is not good, not because the wife produces children, but because the man himself needs a “helpmate opposite him.” The two of them are one. This is born out in subsequent passages that Adam was alone and unhappy until HaShem brought to Adam part of his body that became his wife. Then Adam rejoiced and said, ‘And man said, ‘this time there is bone from my bones,and flesh from my flesh. To this shall be called “woman” because this is taken from a man.’” (In Hebrew it is understood better. ISH is man and ISHO is woman. They are similar. They are one.)
See chapter one paragraph 13: A woman is not commanded to be fruitful and multiply. Nonetheless, some say she should not live alone lest people suspect her of having relations with men not her husband. The Vilna Gaon brings there a gemora in Bovo Metsiah 71A that a woman who lives alone and has men living in her building can sin with them when she doesn’t expect them to publicize her sin. If so, any woman who is not married and has men in her building can be suspected of sinning, even though the gemora does not say this but rather says that a woman is possibly suspected when she buys a servant who will not publicize her sinning with him. But if she does not buy a servant it is not definite that we suspect her. However, living alone obviously is a biological test for a woman and she may be tempted to sin.
 The vast majority of Orthodox women men and women marry with Kiddushin. This creates the above situation that the wife cannot leave the marriage unless the husband gives her a document called GET willingly or dies. Whereas many women are bitter at this and some leave Orthodox Judaism, I propose that women consider marrying with Pilegesh, a permitted kind of marriage that does not penalize a spouse for leaving the marriage, and it is a valid Orthodox marriage. For information about this contact me at 845-578-1917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
 See Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer Laws of Kiddushin 26:1 and various commentators especially lengthy comments by Vilna Gaon.
 See Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer Laws of Being Fruitful and Multiplying chapter one paragraph one the Shulchan Aruch and the Ramo.
 The Shulchan Aruch has three sections. One is the teaching of Rabbi Yosef Caro called Shulchan Aruch. Then we have the comments of Rabbi Moshe Isserless, who adds teaching pertaining to Ashkenazim to offset the sefardic teachings of Rabbi Caro. The third section are the various latter commentators.
 Raishise Chochmo page 266b דרך ארץ האיש עם אשתו.
 volume III page 277b in the parsha of Saitsai.
 Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer chapter One paragraph 3 see Beis Shmuel and Chelkas Mechokake.
 There are discussions in the above paragraph about forcing older people to marry. Some want to force and some refuse to force. There is also a discussion in paragraph 4 about somebody who only wants to learn Torah and not marry.
 See chapter one paragraph 8. There is a question in the Beis Shmuel if marrying to have more children is a dirabonon or a diorayso.
 Beraishis II:18
 In the gemora there Yevomose 61B the gemora says that a man without children must marry a woman who can have children. But one who has children is not so forced to marry a woman who can have children. See the discussion there if one can sell a Torah scroll to merit having children. See also the Tosfose there NAFKO MINO.
[i] Ramban is in the volume of Rashbo called Meyucheses. Some of the responsum there is signed clearly by the Ramban, including number 283 and 284. In 2843 he deals with Pilegesh. The vast majority of the material the volume called Meyucheses is not signed by the Ramban and is not signed at all. We must therefore assume that the signed teshuvose are surely from the Ramban, and the unsigned teshuvose are possibly not from the Ramban but maybe the Rashbo. The volume is titled שו"ת הרשב"א המיוחסות להרמב"ן.