I’m an Italian noahide.

This question covers my exclusively intellectual curiosity, being an halachic case that does not concern the Gentiles but only the Jews.

We read in Mishneh Torah -Melachim uMilchamot 4:4 (English translation by Rabbi E. Touger):

“Similarly, he (the king of Israel) may take wives and concubines from the entire territory of Eretz Yisrael. The term 'wives' implies women who were married with A ketubah and kiddushin; concubines, women who were not given A ketubah and kiddushin. With the act of yichud alone, the king acquires her and relations with her are permitted him. A commoner is forbidden to have a concubine. The only similar relationship is the union with a Hebrew maid servant after she has been designated by her master.”

However, some Torah scholars have pointed out that:

  • The Nevi'îm report cases of Jewish men who, despite not being kings of Israel, had pilagshim;

  • Neither the Tanakh nor the Talmud report the prohibition of the pilegesh to a commoner.

Among these scholars there are very authoritative rabbis such as:

  • Ya'avetz (Rabbi Yaakov Emden;we can read the English translation of his responsum at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/faxes/RYE_pilegesh.pdf );

  • Ramban, as reported by his student Rahsba in Teshuvot haRashba Meyuchas LehaRamban No. 284 ,whose Hebrew text is here https://www.sefaria.org/Teshuvot_haRashba_Meyuchas_LehaRamban.284?lang=bi ( on the basis of this step, among other things, Nachmanides would have maintained that Rambam did not at all reserve the pilegesh for the only king of Israel, a position that creates considerable exegetical problems in relation to the text of Melachim uMilchamot 4: 4 in our possession;

  • The Vilna Gaon, commenting the beginning of the Laws of Kiddushin in the Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 26:1:6-7; also this master, like Nachmanides, says that Rambam allows the pilegesh to ordinary Jewish men.

It is clear that an extraordinary jurist like Rambam must have identified a precise halachic source to support his position: but what source do we talk about, if not even magnificent rabbis such as Ya'avetz, Ramban and the Vilna Gaon identified it?

The problem of why Nachmanides and the Vilna Gaon say that Rambam allows pilegesh to all men remains moreover open. The orthodox rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn supports a particular exegetical thesis about this question, accessible at the link http://torahhalacha.blogspot.com/2018/07/ramban-and-rambam-permit-pilegesh.html

but I don't know how much it is shared in the world Jewish.

  • Is your question specifically what the source for the Rambam's opinion is, or also how he deals with the proofs brought by "some Torah scholars"?
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 20:27
  • Mi sembri molto information. Dove hai imparato tutte queste cose?
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 23:31
  • @kouty my man, you forgot to turn on your Google translate...
    – user6591
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 1:07
  • I tried to write in Italian but my Google keyboard makes me an error at 4th word. I am very impressed by the level of knowledge of this question @6591
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 3:11
  • 2
    @Amos74 Ciao! Yes, that’s why I dropped it into your question. I don’t usually do that sort of thing, but figured you could use the assist based on your comments. I hope you don’t mind. To your surprise, Rambam didn’t provide the sources for most of his decisions in Mishnah Torah. He is purported to have regretted that & wanted to write a companion sefer with his sources but didn’t live long enough to accomplish that goal. Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


I personally develop an answer to my question, thanks to the advice that I requested and kindly obtained on the subject from Rav Dr. Ratzon Arusi, authoritative scholar of Rambam's thought, and pupil of the famous and renowned master Rav Yosef Qafih (Kapach).

Rav Dr Arusi told me that the common printed version of Mishneh Torah-Hilchot Melachim 4: 4, where we read that the pilagshim have neither ketubah nor kiddushin, is not the correct version.

In fact in the Yemeni manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah, unanimously considered the most reliable sources for the reconstruction of the original text of the work, Rambam states that the pilagshim are "without ketubah and kiddushin",that is "without ketubah and with kiddushin", in line with the position expressed by R. Meir in Yerushalmi (Ketubot 5: 2), and with the version of Gemara-Sanhedrin 21a possessed by other important masters such as Rashi. Rav Dr. Arusi told me that Rambam considers it lawful for the king alone to have pilagshim since, while the obligation of kiddushin is "de’oraita", deriving from the mitzva of Deuteronomy 23:18, and is therefore a precept that even the king must observe (and in fact the only act of yichud beetween the king and the woman has the juridical effect equivalent to kiddushin), the obligation of the ketubah is "derabbanan", having been instituted by the Sages of Israel to prevent the husband from divorcing his wife easily, as the fundamental requirement of the ketubah is the sum that the husband has to pay to his wife in case of divorce.But since the king of Israel is a rich man and is considered to be very generous, there is no need to protect his wife with the obligation of the ketubah; Halakhah therefore exempts the king from this obligation, also because the king's pilagshim, as Rambam always states in Hilchot Melachim 4: 4, are employed by the king himself as his workers, and therefore enjoy a salary. I then asked Rav Dr. Arusi why the Tanakh speaks of men who, although not kings of Israel, had pilagshim, and Rav. Dr. Arusi replied that they took pilagshim when the derabbanam obligation to stipulate ketubah with a woman was not yet in force, which made the pilagshut relationship lawful in those days also for non-kings.

  • So before the kesubah was enforced, this approach is saying that all regular wives in tanach had a kesubah which was voluntarily given, unlike those specified as pilagshim?
    – robev
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 17:52
  • @robev This is the logical conclusion of what Rav Dr. Ratzon Arusi told me
    – Amos74
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 18:50
  • Irrespective of the correct text of the Rambam, this is somewhat of a difficult read. The simple understanding of "Without ketubah and kiddushin" is without ketubah and without kiddushin.
    – tcdw
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 9:06
  • @tcdw Rav Yosef Qafih (Kapach), one of the greatest scholars of the works and thought of Maimonides, states, in his famous annotated edition of the Mishneh Torah, that the correct interpretation of this phrase is "pilagshim without ketubah and with kiddushin".
    – Amos74
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 9:24
  • @Amos74 I got that - but it remains a difficult read. I don't have his commentary on the Rambam in front of me, but it would be interesting to see what forced Rav Qafih into this interpretation.
    – tcdw
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 12:58

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