I am an Italian noahide.

My question expresses a purely intellectual curiosity, concerning the Jews and not the Gentiles.

I cannot understand what is the exact definition of "kedesha" by Rambam , as it seems to me that this great master gives two different definitions of this status, not easily reconciled with each other

In Sefer Hamitzvot, kedesha appears defined as any unmarried woman who has relations with a man:

“The 355th prohibition is that we are forbidden from having relations with a woman without [giving her] a Kesubah and acquiring her (Kiddushin). The source of this commandment is G d's statement (exalted be He),” "There shall not be a kedesha among the daughters of Israel”. This same commandment is repeated, but using a different expression, in G d's statement (exalted be He),” You shall not defile your daughter by making her a harlot”. The Sifra says, " 'You shall not defile your daughter' — this command is directed towards a man who hands over his unmarried daughter for sexual intercourses without marriage, as well as a girl who herself has relations without marriage." (……….) This prohibition, i.e. the prohibition of [having relations with] an unmarried woman, is punishable by lashes."

In Mishneh Torah however, it seems to me that Rambam defines kedesha not generically as an unmarried woman who has relations with a man, but more limited in terms of a sexually promiscuous unmarried woman, i.e. an unmarried woman available to have sex with more men in the same period. In this sense, the two steps below seem to be oriented:

Hilchot Ishut 1:4

"Before the Torah was given, when a man would meet a woman in the marketplace, and he and she desired, he could give her payment, engage in relations with her wherever they desired, and then depart. Such a woman is referred to as a kedesha When the Torah was given, [relations with] a kedesha became forbidden, as [Deuteronomy 23:18] states: "There shall not be a kedesha among the daughters of Israel”. Therefore, a person who has relations with a woman “leshem zenut”, without kiddushin, receives lashes as prescribed by the Torah, because he had relations with a kedesha.”

Hilchot Naarah Betulah 2:17

"I maintain that [the intent of] the Torah's statement [Leviticus 19:29], “),” You shall not defile your daughter by making her a harlot”, is that a father should not say: "Since the obligation of the Torah for a seducer or a rapist was solely that he should give the father money, I will hire my virgin daughter to someone to have relations with her for whatever price I desire, or I will allow him to have relations for her without charge. For a man has the right to forgo monetary rights to him to any person he desires." To counter such thoughts, it is written: "Do not defile your daughter." The Torah obligates a rapist and a seducer to pay money rather than be punished by lashes when the matter happened by chance, without the knowledge of [the girl's] father, and she did not ready herself for [the relations]. For this is an extraordinary and uncommon matter. If, however, a person leaves his virgin daughter accessible for anyone to engage in relations with her, this will cause the entire earth to be filled with sexual immorality. For [ultimately], a father will marry his daughter and a brother his sister, [for in a sexually permissive society] a [girl] may become pregnant and give birth without knowing who the child's father is. When a person has his daughter act in this manner, she is considered to be a harlot, and both the man and the girl who engage in relations should be punished by lashes, as [Deuteronomy 23:18] states: "There shall not be a kedesha."

From these passages of the Mishneh Torah it would seem to deduce that, contrary to what Rambam himself stated in Sefer Hamitzvot, an unmarried woman who has relations exclusively with one man, without therefore promiscuous sexuality, would not be qualified as a kedesha, regardless of whether or not such a woman can fit in the figure of the "pilegesh".Obviously, if the woman and the man were not halachically entitled to marry each other, the relations between them would make the woman a "zonah".

How can these two apparently very divergent Rambam’s positions be reconciled?

  • I don't see any contradiction at first glance
    – kouty
    Feb 2, 2020 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


The Kesef Mishna (Rav Yosef Karo 15-16 century author of the Shulchan Aruch) qualifies when out of wedlock relations would be liable to Lashes in Naara Besula 2,17:

יש לדקדק דמשמע מדברי רבינו הכא דאינו לוקה משום קדשה אא"כ היא מוכנת לכך ובפ"א מאישות כתב כל הבועל אשה לשם זנות בלא קידושין לוקה מן התורה לפי שבעל קדשה וצריך לדחוק שסמך שם על מה שכתב כאן

From here we deduce that they only gets lashes if she is set aside as a harlot, but in Ishus the Rambam writes any woman who has casual relations with one man outside wedlock for the sake of Zenus receives lashes, so the Rambam chose not to go into detail in Hilchos Ishus 1,4 which is about general marriage until he expounded in detail on the subject of an unmarried girl here in Naara Besula.

Accordingly, if she was set aside to be a Harlot even one casual relation she is liable to lashes regardless whether she folds from her practice henceforth.

Another explanation is given by the Tevuas Shamesh (רבי מאיר מגזע צבי Great-grandson of Shach commentary on Shulchan Aruch 18th century) Only a man is liable to lashes for relations outside wedlock if the woman didn't designate herself as a Harlot in Ishus 1,4 (and in Sefer Hamitzvos quoted in question):

כאן כתב רבינו לוקה הנבעלת משא"כ בהלכות אישות כתב רבינו שלוקה הוא לבד: Over Here (Naara Besula 2,17) she (because set herself aside a a Harlot) gets lashes, whereas over there (Ishus 1,4 where she was not a designated Harlot) only He gets lashes.

  • So, please correct me if I misunderstood, according to the commentators cited by you, Rambam considers as kedesha an unmarried woman who knowingly has occasional and / or promiscuous sexual relations
    – Amos74
    Feb 4, 2020 at 20:08
  • @Amos74 yes, this would exclude if a woman got seduced but is not actively a prostitute for which the rules of Mefate apply see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/104060/…
    – user15464
    Feb 12, 2020 at 13:27
  • sorry again: I did not understand who is the author of the "Tevuas Shamesh" you mentioned it
    – Amos74
    Feb 13, 2020 at 18:21
  • @Amos74 Rabbi Meir migeza Zvi greatgrandson of Rabbi Shabtai Cohein author of the Shach" commentary on the Shulchan Aruch halachic compendium by Rabbi Yosef Caro
    – user15464
    Feb 17, 2020 at 8:36

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