In Rambam, Hilchot Ishut, Chapter 14:1, he outlines a husband's obligations of onah (conjugal rights) to each wife based on his profession. So a sailor every 6 months, an in-town laborer twice per week and so on.

In applying this to a husband with multiple wives, one could say he must satisfy each wife this often, so a sailor with 4 wives must be with each every 6 months, a laborer with each wife twice/week (requiring more than 1 per day somewhere in that week) and so on. Alternatively, one could say he is obligated to provide conjugal rights to some wife this often, but each particular wife less frequently. This would mean that the sailor with 4 wives is only obligated to satisfy each only once in 2 years.

In thinking about clothes and food, clearly more wives mean the husband has more obligation. He can't provide them with the food for 1 wife and say they must share it. Similarly, he can't provide 1 dress and tell the other wives to go nude. This accords with Rambam in halacha 3 there, that he may have additional wives only so long as he can afford them all and doesn't reduce clothes, food, or conjugal rights.

This suggests that the obligation in onah is like the first option above, and a man with 4 wives is obligated in onah 4 times as often as a man with the same profession and 1 wife.

Yet in halacha 4, the Rambam says explicitly that it is like the second option and the husband of 4 wives has the same onah responsibility as the husband of 1, but that obligation is spread and divided between the wives. So a worker with 2 wives is obligated to each weekly (instead of twice/week) and if he had 4 wives, he would be obligated to each only once in 2 weeks.

How does this not contradict halacha 3, that he cannot take wives if it will reduce his food clothing or conjugal duties to the existing wives?

2 Answers 2


Rav Issur Zalman Meltzer in Even Haazel says to delete the word "Onah" (conjugal rights) in Ishus Halacha 14,3

שאר כסות ועונה כראוי לכל אחת ואחת. ועונה, נ. ב. לדעתי צריך למחוק תיבת ועונה, כי לפי מה שכתב בהל' ד' אינו חייב אלא לפי מנין הנשים שיש לו, וא"כ אינו נותן כראוי לכל אחת, ועוד דעיקר המקור הוא מהגמ' ביבמות דאיתא שם והוא דאית לי' למיזיינינהו

In my opinion one must emend the Rambam to not include the word Onah, as he clearly states in Halacha 4 that one can marry more wives and reduce the amount of conjugal rights to each existing wife, also the Gemara states Yevamos 65a all he needs is enough food in order to marry more wives (i.e no problem of reducing conjugal rights)

The Maggid Mishna seems to have this emended version like the Even Haazel as he Says Rambam Paskens like Rovo (Yevamos 65a) that a woman cannot demand a divorce when a man marries another wife despite reducing conjugal rights, as long as he provides food*

*Note the Nimukei Yosef (and Ramach) argues with the Rambam:
זה לא נאמר אלא ביבמות דכיון דקי"ל אשה שהקנו לו מן השמים צריכה בע"כ להמתין אבל בשאר נשים חייב הוא לקיים מצות עונה עם כל אחת כאילו היא לבדה
This rule of that one can reduce conjugal rights was was only said with a Yevama as she was aquired to him by G-d, so his existing wife cannot complain its his fault and has to now wait extra long between relations, but a normal wife among multiple wives has the conjugal rights as if she was the only wife (i.e one cannot reduce conjugal rights)


How does this not contradict halacha 3, that he cannot take wives if it will reduce his food clothing or conjugal duties to the existing wives?

Because the Rambam only listed conjugal duties along with the other spousal responsibilities since they still exist. He is clarifying in the next Halacha that they don't exist to the extent the other spousal responsibilities still do.

The Rambam is based on the Gemorah Yevomos 65A which says

רבא אמר נושא אדם כמה נשים והוא דאית ליה למיזיינינהו

A person can marry many wives as long as he can support them all.

The Gemorah mentions support but not conjugal responsibilities explicitly. (This inference is my own and it is questionable)

The Maaseh Rekach says that implicit in being able to marry a second wife is permission to somewhat diminish conjugal obligations. While it is possible for one husband to financially support many wives a person is not going to be able to multiply his conjugal activities by the number of wives he marries. Therefore if he can marry more than one wife he must also be allowed to diminish his conjugal obligations (but not abolish them)

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