Shulhan Aruch Even HaEzer 21 and 22 records the Halacha against men and women touching each other (especially Derech Hiba; whether it is Deorayta or Derabanan is a Mahloket Rishonim between Rambam and Ramban).

So my question is, how did Dawid Hamelech take a woman (Melachim 1:1-5) to comfort him and keep him warm when he wasn't married to her (as far as I know)?

  • 4
    Maybe it wasn't derech chiba?
    – Double AA
    Feb 6, 2012 at 2:20
  • 1
    @DoubleAA 1) even if it isn't it is still Asur. 2) I think it clearly was. Feb 6, 2012 at 2:21
  • 1
    @Vram well that kinda is Soter the idea of the Maan DaAmar that the shaking one's hand in a business setting is "Yehareg VeAl Yaavor." Feb 6, 2012 at 3:23
  • 1
    Probably wasn't assur back then. Derabannan from later.
    – ALK
    Feb 6, 2012 at 7:13
  • 2
    @HachamGabriel Yes but Negia is only assur with an erva. A penuya tehora is not an erva.
    – Double AA
    Jul 5, 2012 at 2:06

3 Answers 3


The answer lies in the first verse of the same verses in 1 Kings quoted above.

"Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he could get no heat." (1 Kings 1:1)

David was an frail man at this point. He couldn't touch a woman "affectionately" (b'derech chiba) if he tried!

The fourth verse explicitly tells us that there was no romantic encounter between David and his live-in nurse.

"And the damsel was very fair; and she became a companion unto the king, and ministered to him; but the king knew her not." (1 Kings 1:4)

The law of nagia is the same today. No one thinks twice about a young woman, working in a nursing home, tending to an old, observant Jewish man. Yes, they touch. She might even give him a sponge bath, and see his private areas; but the vast majority of old men who can no longer bathe themselves, are also incapable of any intimate relations, forbidden or permitted.

Therefore, one cannot bring a proof from these verses that the laws of nagia were different then than they are now.

  • 1
    What about Pilegeshim? How could they exist without kiddushin and without breaking negiah??
    – ALK
    Feb 6, 2012 at 17:16
  • +1. Do you have a source for the reason you give for their lack of sexual intimacy? (I believe it: I seem to recall some m'far'shim mention it. But do you have a citation?)
    – msh210
    Feb 6, 2012 at 17:21
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    The Talmud (Sanhedrin 22A) tells us that David did not have relations for religious reasons, not because of lack of ability. The Talmud there says that he had relations with BatSheva 13 times, to show that he could.
    – Menachem
    Feb 6, 2012 at 17:56
  • @ALK: Pilagshim are discussed in detail on this webpage, vbm-torah.org/archive/kiddushin/01kiddushin.htm . from there: "On the other hand, Rambam writes that a halakhic kinyan, a legally recognized acquisition, is necessary to acquire a pilegesh, just as one is required to actualize marriage. Furthermore, Rambam compares pilegesh to the case of yi'ud (the process in which a master takes his maid-servant as a wife), which is a clearly defined halakhic framework....
    – Menachem
    Feb 6, 2012 at 18:16
  • ....The conclusion to be reached is simple. Pilegesh is an independent halakhic institution. Although it is not a form of marriage, it is, nonetheless, a recognized legal framework. Therefore, even though no kiddushin is involved in the case of pilegesh, some form of legal acquisition is required." @ALK
    – Menachem
    Feb 6, 2012 at 18:18

Not a complete answer, but here's what the Talmud (Sanhedrin 22A) says (Rashi brought in נrackets):

אמר רב שמן בר אבא בוא וראה כמה קשין גירושין שהרי דוד המלך התירו לו לייחד [עם אבישג ואע"פ שנאסר ייחוד של פנויה] ולא התירו לו לגרש [אחת מי"ח וישאנה]‏

R' Shaman bar Aba said: Come and See how harsh divorce is. They gave permission to King David to be alone [with Avishag, even though it was forbidden to be alone with an unmarried woman], but did not let him divorce [one of his 18 wives to marry her].

According to this, he had dispensation from "They" (which I'm assuming are the Rabbis of that time). It doesn't say why they gave this dispensation, but I'm guessing it was for health reasons.

  • It is interesting to note that the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 36B) says that Yichud with an unmarried Israelite woman was prohibited in the time of King David (after the incident with Amnon and Tamar). Perhaps that is why the Talmud says "They". Perhaps it means They who forbade it, made an exception for King David. - hebrewbooks.org/…
    – Menachem
    Feb 6, 2012 at 21:04
  • 3
    I find my typo in the word brackets to be quite funny in fact considering the biblical brackets.
    – Double AA
    Nov 13, 2012 at 2:13

I once heard a fascinating answer in the name of Rav Shimon Schwab: The Gemara in Shabbat (86) says that through battling one's yetzer hara, one becomes warmed up. David, however, says R' Schwab, had no Yetzer Hara ("velibi challal bekirbi") so he became cold since there was nothing to battle. Thus, the only way to re-warm him would be to arouse his yetzer hara again. Therefore, they brought a woman to stand in his room (which was allowed since Yichud was waived for David), but not to touch him (since, according to R' Schwab, Negiah would surely not be waived). The battle of seeing the woman in his room and making rationalizations, etc. would be the inner struggle which would help heat him up.

Rav Schwab adds that even though the Pasuk says "She will lie in your bosom," this was just the advice of the doctors to David, and David did not necessarily follow this advice.

  • So he had no free will?
    – Double AA
    Jan 23, 2013 at 19:00
  • I don't see how else to interpret R' Schwab. But again, I didn't see it inside; I just heard this answer in a Navi class once, so I could be missing some facts or important details.
    – AEML
    Jan 23, 2013 at 19:05

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