Are relations between a Jewish married man with a non-Jewish woman either married or single considered adultery?

  • Welcome to MiYodeya Fred and thanks for this first question. Can I recommend you take the tour to get a sense of how the site works? Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Aug 1 at 7:41
  • This can't just be a duplicate of questions about adultery, polygamy, and sex with gentiles? – Double AA Aug 1 at 10:27

Adultery, or Arayot in Hebrew, in Jewish law is (according to yeshiva.co here)

the prohibited sexual relations a man or woman, married or not, can't have. The list appears in Torah, Vayikra 18 and 20. All those listed, will be punished with "Karet" and in addition, some carry the death penalty by Beth Din as well.

The prohibition is not only on the intercourse but any physical contact of affection and even non-physical affection contact is a rabbinic prohibition.

Among the list for men, are a married woman and a Niddah.

However non-Jewish women are not part of the definition of adultery. The Rambam (MT Issurei Biah 12:2) discusses the punishment for a Jewish man having relations with non-Jewish women

When, by contrast, one engages in relations with a gentile woman with a licentious intent, he is given "stripes for rebellious conduct" according to Rabbinic Law. [This is a] decree, lest this lead to marriage.

In other words relations with non-Jewish women are strictly forbidden for fear they will lead to marriage since intermarriage is forbidden (Devarim 7:3).

Regarding adultery with a Jewish woman, see here. And see also this related question: From where do we know that sexual intercourse with a non-jewish woman is forbidden?

  • I’m not sure that this quite answers the question. Arayot is a broader category than what is normally termed adultery in English. Most of the arayot would normally be described as incest, with adultery specifically used with reference to relations with someone who is married to another – Joel K Aug 1 at 8:12
  • @JoelK yes and my intent in the first half was to show that adultery/arayot was something else as you describe it. In the second half (from However) I address the case of the OP. Is this not coming out right? – mbloch Aug 1 at 8:16
  • @JoelK also arayot is broader than incest since it also includes relations with married non-relative women – mbloch Aug 1 at 8:17
  • 2
    The OP wants to know whether his case is ‘adultery’. You have defined ‘adultery’ as ‘arayot’, and shown that the OP’s case is not ‘arayot’. It is not clear to me, however, that the OP (who has not made clear in the question what he means by ‘adultery’) would agree with your definition of ‘adultery’. Maybe he had something else in mind, closer to the commons understanding of the word in English. – Joel K Aug 1 at 10:29

Because Judaism allowed a man to have more than one wife, until a thousand years ago, technically a married man could go find another woman without breaking halacha, and thus the strictest halachic definition of "adultery" only concerns relations between a married woman and a man who's not her husband.

Still, it should go without saying that for a married man to cheat on his wife is despicable, wrong, a violation to fellow human beings, and a sin to God. (At the bare minimum, all non-marital relations are prohibited.) The technical term "adultery" is not used, however.

A series of post-Biblical prohibitions (likely dating back to the Maccabees) exists concerning a Jewish man having promiscuous relations with a non-Jewish woman; see Avodah Zarah 36b. If the non-Jewish woman was married, there's an additional Biblical prohibition: it appears from the commentaries that the traditional thou-shalt-not was intended for relations between Jews as that was far more of a concern than some far-flung people who didn't speak your language; however it violates the thou-shalt of Genesis 2:24, therefore a man shall ... be united with his wife. (See Tos. Kiddushin 21a and Beis Shmuel E"H 16:1)

Short answer -- it's terrible and wrong. Can and does lead to the desecration of God's Name. All legalese aside, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman commented on one high-profile philanderer that a midrash reads: The pagan says "there is none above me." The thief says "there is no one parallel to me." The adulterer says "there is none at all but me."

  • Who is this Rabbi Feldman? It's a terrific expression. – DanF Aug 1 at 15:12
  • @DanF rabbi emeritus of Beth Jacob, Atlanta's biggest Orthodox synagogue. Edited Tradition in the late 90s/early aughts. Had been considered for UK chief rabbi many years ago. Has books such as Tales of a Shul. Older brother of Ner Israel's Rosh Yeshiva R' Aharon Feldman. Their father was the last chief rabbi of Baltimore. – Shalom Aug 1 at 22:24
  • @shalom And now has a regular column in Mishpacha magazine – Joel K Aug 2 at 8:47

Some sources to support @Mbloch's answer to understand the Sugya in full (Gemmorah Avodah Zara 36a).

In short, it is a [very severe] Rabbinical decree, since Rabbis compared all gentile women to ritually unclean (נידה) it can be [speculated] as adultery Derabanan. All other comparisons (mistress, gentile or prostitute) do not constitute adultery:

ישראל הבא על העובדת כוכבים הלכה למשה מסיני היא דאמר מר הבועל ארמית קנאין פוגעין בו

The Gemara rejects this: The prohibition concerning a Jew who engaged in intercourse with a gentile woman is a halakha transmitted to Moses from Sinai, not a rabbinic ordinance. As the Master said: With regard to one who engages in intercourse with an Aramean woman, zealots may attack him, as Pinehas did to Zimri in the wilderness (see Numbers 25:6–8).

א"ל דאורייתא בפרהסיא וכמעשה שהיה ואתו אינהו גזור אפילו בצינעא בצינעא נמי בית דינו של חשמונאי גזרו

He said to him: By Torah law intercourse with a gentile is prohibited in public, and only in situations like the incident that occurred, as described in Numbers, chapter 25. And the students of Shammai and Hillel came and decreed that the prohibition applies even in private. The Gemara raises another difficulty: This was also prohibited in private, as the court of the Hasmoneans decreed that it is prohibited.

[דכי אתא רב דימי אמר ב"ד של חשמונאי גזרו] ישראל הבא על העובדת כוכבים חייב משום נשג"א

As when Rav Dimi came from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia, he said: The court of the Hasmoneans decreed that a Jew who engaged in intercourse with a gentile woman bears liability for transgressing four prohibitions, represented by the mnemonic: Nun, shin, gimmel, alef. These letters stands for: Menstruating woman [nidda], maidservant [shifḥa], gentile [goya], and married woman [eshet ish]. By rabbinic law, a man who engages in intercourse with a gentile woman is considered to have violated the prohibitions involved in having intercourse with all four of these women.

כי אתא רבין אמר משום נשג"ז

And when Ravin came from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia, he said: He bears liability for four prohibitions represented by the mnemonic: Nun, shin, gimmel, zayin, which stands for: Menstruating woman [nidda], maidservant [shifḥa], gentile [goya], and prostitute [zona]. In any case, it is apparent that this decree was in force before the time of the students of Shammai and Hillel.

כי גזרו בית דינו של חשמונאי ביאה אבל ייחוד לא ואתו אינהו גזור אפי' ייחוד ייחוד נמי בית דינו של דוד גזרו

The Gemara answers: When the court of the Hasmoneans decreed, they prohibited only sexual intercourse, but with regard to seclusion with a gentile woman, no, they did not prohibit that. And the students of Shammai and Hillel came and decreed that even seclusion with a gentile woman is prohibited. The Gemara raises an objection: Seclusion was also prohibited earlier, as the court of King David decreed that with regard to this matter.

  • I do appreciate all the comments. Thus issue was in mind since last two weeks.. The parashot halal and purchase was dealing with adultry and worship of peor! – Fred Aug 2 at 16:57

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