I know the history, the gezerim, etc., but what I can't find is the practical halachot once one has multiple wives. Where can I find this?

  • 1
    In the laws about witchcraft. Because מַרְבֶּה נָשִׁים, מַרְבֶּה כְשָׁפִים
    – user6591
    May 14, 2019 at 15:03
  • @user6591 I like that citation. However, while there seems to be general consensus that many things in Pirkei Avot are considered halacha, this citation, I don't think is one of them. It seems pretty much an adage and a warning and certainly, no laws are implied either here nor any laws against polygamy mentioned in the Torah against the prohibition of witchcraft.
    – DanF
    May 14, 2019 at 15:28
  • @DanF This isn't really something to argue about. But. What about the next few lines? מַרְבֶּה שְׁפָחוֹת, מַרְבֶּה זִמָּה. מַרְבֶּה עֲבָדִים, מַרְבֶּה גָזֵל. I don't think you would call those an adage. And what about after that מַרְבֶּה תוֹרָה, מַרְבֶּה חַיִּים. מַרְבֶּה יְשִׁיבָה, מַרְבֶּה חָכְמָה. מַרְבֶּה עֵצָה, מַרְבֶּה תְבוּנָה. מַרְבֶּה צְדָקָה, מַרְבֶּה שָׁלוֹם. Turning that one line into an adage would be extremely suspect.
    – user6591
    May 14, 2019 at 15:35
  • @user6591 Maybe "adage" isn't the best term. But, they still seem more as behavioral / ethical "advice" and, in this case "cause and consequence". In the "positive" areas, e.g., one is not required to give tzedaka. One gains a mitzvah, and in this case, the benefit of increasing peace, as a result of doing so.
    – DanF
    May 14, 2019 at 15:41
  • @DanF Correct. And having too many maids leads to improper behavior. Too slaves leads to theft. Too many wives leads to witchcraft. I'm glad we've translated this mishna together and realize chazzal were trying to warn us to stay away from causing real sins. And to steer us towards gaining real benefits.
    – user6591
    May 14, 2019 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ishut 14:3-4;

נוֹשֵׂא אָדָם כַּמָּה נָשִׁים אֲפִלּוּ מֵאָה בֵּין בְּבַת אַחַת בֵּין בָּזוֹ אַחַר זוֹ וְאֵין אִשְׁתּוֹ יְכוֹלָה לְעַכֵּב. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה יָכוֹל לִתֵּן שְׁאֵר כְּסוּת וְעוֹנָה כָּרָאוּי לְכָל אַחַת וְאַחַת. וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לָכוֹף אוֹתָן לִשְׁכֹּן בְּחָצֵר אַחַת. אֶלָּא כָּל אַחַת וְאַחַת לְעַצְמָהּ:‏

וְכַמָּה הִיא עוֹנָתָן. לְפִי מִנְיָן. כֵּיצַד. פּוֹעֵל שֶׁהָיוּ לוֹ שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים יֵשׁ לָזוֹ עוֹנָה אַחַת בְּשַׁבָּת וְיֵשׁ לָזוֹ עוֹנָה אַחַת בְּשַׁבָּת. הָיוּ לוֹ אַרְבַּע נָשִׁים נִמְצָא עוֹנַת כָּל אַחַת מֵהֶן פַּעַם אַחַת בִּשְׁתֵּי שַׁבָּתוֹת. וְכֵן אִם הָיָה מַלָּח וְיֵשׁ לוֹ אַרְבַּע נָשִׁים תִּהְיֶה עוֹנַת כָּל אַחַת מֵהֶן פַּעַם אַחַת בִּשְׁתֵּי שָׁנִים. לְפִיכָךְ צִוּוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁלֹּא יִשָּׂא אָדָם יוֹתֵר עַל אַרְבַּע נָשִׁים אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מָמוֹן הַרְבֵּה כְּדֵי שֶׁתַּגִּיעַ לָהֶן עוֹנָה פַּעַם אַחַת בְּחֹדֶשׁ:‏

A man [has the prerogative of] marrying several wives - even 100, whether at one time or one after the other. His wife may not object to this, provided he has the means to provide each [wife] with her subsistence, clothing and conjugal rights as befits her. He may not, however, compel his wives to live in the same courtyard. Instead, each one is entitled to her own household.

What are [his obligations with regard to his wives'] conjugal rights? [They are determined according to] the number [of wives he has.]

What is implied? If a worker has two wives, he is obligated to fulfill his duties towards each one once a week. If he has four wives, he is obligated to fulfill his duties towards each one once every two weeks. Similarly, a seaman who has four wives is obligated to fulfill his duties towards each one once every two years.

Therefore, our Sages commanded that a person should not marry more than four wives, although he has ample financial resources, so that he will be able to fulfill his conjugal obligations towards each one once a month.

(Translation courtesy of chabad.org)

This topic is discussed more fully in Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 1:9-12 as well as 76:7-8.

Also relevant is 2:11 which forbids keeping multiple wives in different cities.

Finally, see Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ishut 17:1-3,8,12 regarding rules of priority when paying ketubot to multiple wives.

  • Very interesting! Rarely does Ramba"m cite sources. I'm curious if he or any of the commentaries explain how Ramba"m determined the "proportional math" here.
    – DanF
    May 14, 2019 at 15:35
  • @DanF Maggid Mishnah there points to Yevamot 44a as the source
    – Joel K
    May 14, 2019 at 16:08
  • @JoelK I don't know if I should ask the following as a separate question, but about the topic of "A man [has the prerogative of] marrying several wives" - True enough; but does the wife have the prerogative whether she should conceive or have a baby or not?
    – ninamag
    Feb 17, 2023 at 12:28
  • @ninamag Seems like it would warrant a separate question. But why ask it in this context? Couldn’t you ask the same question regarding a monogamous marriage?
    – Joel K
    Feb 17, 2023 at 14:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .