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This question does a great job of explaining the concept of polygamy in Jewish law and normative practice, past and present.

My question is:

What if a married (let's say Ashkenazi) Jewish man, married a (heretofore) single Jewish woman?

What punishment(s) does he incur?

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his punishment is two wives... (per the gemora) :) – avi Jan 29 '12 at 17:28
Two mothers-in-law. ☹ – J. C. Salomon Mar 2 '12 at 21:54

He would be excommunicated per the Cheirem D'Rabbeinu Gershom.

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Is that automatic: the cherem d'rabenu Gershom excommunicates him and all the lack of rights and privileges thereunto appertaining come into effect? Or does it merely give communities cause to excommunicate him? – msh210 Jan 29 '12 at 17:41
What is Cherem today? Synagogues won't count him in a minyan? Won't give him an aliyah l'torah? What is it? Is it at the discretion of each individual synagogue, nowadays when we don't have a Sanhedrin, or even a "rav ha ir" typically? – user1095 Jan 29 '12 at 19:32
@Will, on your last point, Rabbeinu Tam is known to have reissued these decrees for all time (this fact is mentioned in the Encyclopedia Talmudis article on the Cherem - will have to see if I can find an online source). – Alex Jan 29 '12 at 20:08
@Alex, AFAIK (IANAL), in the States, dina d'malchusa dina would outlaw polygamous legal marriages, not polygamous religious ones where no civil marriage is entered into. – msh210 Jan 30 '12 at 17:04
@Will: it's not all that rare for there to be an expiration. See Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh De'ah 1:19, who also cites several views that indeed there is no expiration date on it at all. (And, by the way, can you really be certain that in all that time we are the first generation to experience a "shidduch crisis" (not even getting into how much of a crisis it really is, ואכמ"ל)? I think that there must have been times that were far worse - times when unmarried girls were subject to the whims of local gentile rulers, for example.) – Alex Jan 30 '12 at 21:43

Nothing, because he wouldn't have done anything wrong according to Torah, halakha, nor any authoritative Jewish body which has any ability to rule any matter for any one of the major communities of the Jewish people. R Gershom ruled for the Jews of one city for a certain time. To try to say what he did has the apparent weight of the entire Sanhedrin is absolutely absurd and wrong.

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Why do you need the full weight of an entire Sanhedrin to put someone in Cherem? I'm pretty sure even any one Talmid Chacham can do it. – Double AA Mar 2 '12 at 13:51
Aside from @DoubleAA's objection to your answer, the ban was fully accepted by all of Ashkenazi Jewry - and even many parts of Sepharadi Jewry. It's codified. It's Halachah. It's a done deal. – Seth J Mar 2 '12 at 15:19
@SethJ while I agree that the one who wrote this answer is ignorant of the halachic process and disrespectful to it - see the extended discussion in the comments on Gershon Gold's answer re: "it's a done deal." – user1095 Mar 2 '12 at 15:28
I'm not denying the fact that some people dispute its legitimacy, but there is no mainstream Ashkenazi Posek today of any stripe who will go so far as to sanction and officiate a polygamous marriage. – Seth J Mar 2 '12 at 15:43
@Will you didn't bring a single Ashkenazi posek saying that one could marry multiple wives. – Rabbi Yaakov Mar 2 '12 at 16:51

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