Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
What is Pilegesh? And should people marry with Pilegesh?
Pilegesh is a type of marriage mention in the Shulchan Aruch favorably by the Vilna Gaon and Beis Shmuel and Ramo, although some disagree. The Vilna Gaon brings a gemora that clearly permits Pilegesh. On the other hand, we for generations don't hear about people marrying without Kiddushin, and we don't hear about people marrying with Pilegesh.
Originally, almost all Jews respected the person who married with Kiddushin and did not respect the person who married with Pilegesh. Therefore, we don't hear about people marrying with Pilegesh, even though the greatest authorities and an open gemora permit it. But today, I believe, it is time to unlock the gate to Pilegesh. The reason is that today people don't honor Kiddushin as they must. We have prominent rabbis such as Rabbi Moshe Heinemann and Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky who are heavily involved in the effort to "free" women from their husbands with forced and invalid GETS. Shmuel Kaminetsky and his son are involved in getting a married woman to marry without a GET, based upon ridiculous ideas and "proofs." Rabbis Heinemann and Kaminetsky are "mamzer makers" and there are many others.
Here are the rules of marriage as I understand it.
1) Every Jew should marry with Kiddushin.
2) However, Kiddushin is a very strict marriage. The wife when married with Kiddushin can never be free of her husband without a kosher GET, meaning one that is not forced but given willingly. Because so many women are not ready to observe this, but insist on finding a rabbi such as Rabbi Heinemann and Kaminetsky who encourage women to leave their husbands without a kosher GET, we must declare publicly that any man or woman who is not ready to honor Kiddushin is forbidden to marry with Kiddushin. Otherwise, if the woman leaves her husband with an invalid or forced GET, the baby born in her next marriage will be mamzerim.
3) If Kiddushin is forbidden for a Jew, what kind of marriage can he/she have? The only answer is Pilegesh. Of course, some permit marrying with Kiddushin and stipulating that in a few months or few weeks the husband will give a GET. But what if the husband doesn't want to divorce his wife because he likes her? Then the woman has no escape. Unless she refuses Kiddushin and marries with Pilegesh.
4) Again, any Jew who cannot be positive about honoring Kiddushin may not marry with Kiddushin. Nor may such a Jew without Kiddushin remain alone and unmarried, because such a person tends to do terrible sins. Only a real marriage can save a person from terrible sins.
5) Therefore, today when a huge amount of Jews cannot accept Kiddushin, for them we must provide Pilegesh.
6) Pilegesh means that the husband and wife declare in front of kosher witnesses and preferably a Beth Din of three reliable people that they absolutely refuse to accept Kiddushin. They will only live together with Pilegesh and they declare in front of two witnesses that they in their relationship will never consider Kiddushin.
7) This is very important because in a Jewish neighborhood anyone seeing a man and woman living together and practicing the Torah assumes they are married with Kiddushin. If so, if the wife leaves without a kosher GET and remarries, her children are mamzerim, at least in the eyes of those who don't know that they are married not with Kiddushin but with Pilegesh.
8) I would prefer making a ceremony for Pilegesh mainly that they declare before two kosher witnesses who know them, that they are forbidden to marry with Kiddushin because they probably could not withstand the test of living alone without a Kosher GET. And furthermore to live without any marriage leads them to serious sins on a regular basis. Therefore, the proper thing for them is Pilegesh. I emphasize here that it is not necessary to be sure that the man or woman taking Pilegesh are absolutely sure they could not tolerate Kiddushin. The opposite is true. If they are not positive that they will keep Kiddushin all of their life, they are not allowed to take a chance and marry with Kiddushin at all! For everyone like that, the only solution is not singledom chas vishalom, and not taking a chance with Kiddushin, but Pilegesh. Pilegesh don't make mamzerim. And it is crucial that the two marrying in Pilegesh should declare before two reliable witnesses that they a absolutely refuse to accept Kiddushin, under any circumstances. Preferably, the husband and wife making Pilegesh marriage should have two witnesses who know them testify that Kiddushin would be a great test for them that they could possibly fail. Then a Beth Din, hearing this testimony, can declare that the husband and wife is forbidden to make Kiddushin, and is also forbidden to live alone without marriage, and therefore must marry with Pilegesh.
9) The main thing about a marriage of Pilegesh is for the husband and wife to refrain from intimacy or being alone with another man or woman not their spouse. If the husband and wife in Pilegesh violate this the Pilegesh marriage is in violation and Yayvetz demands an end to the Pilegesh marriage. Pilegesh is recognized by the Talmud and the Torah, but it is one way street. If the husband and wife need prostitution, nobody permits this.
10) The Yayvetz at the end of his teshuvo on Pilegesh makes statements some lenient and some strict. If I had to deal with Pilegesh, I might go easy on his leniences and some of his strictness, but even so, I would not get involved with somebody whose marriage features these matters. I would want a pure marriage whose major benefit is that if the husband refuses a GET the woman can leave and remarry. But this, if I was involved with that couple, would be done in a serious manner.