Is marriage without ketubah considered marriage, concubinage, or kiddushin she’einah re’uyah le’biah (marriage that cannot be consummated)? I have read a number of different things suggesting each of the three. In the discussion here about concubinage, it was suggested that concubinage=simply marriage without a ketubah, so marriage without a ketubah=concubinage. But I have also read that marriage may be contracted without a ketubah: either through biah or a ring. Finally, I have read one source suggesting that the couple may not have relations without a ketubah; thus, a marriage without a ketubah is a kiddushin she’einah re’uyah le’biah. Which is correct?

  • The source that you linked to regarding ketubah only says that a HUSBAND and WIFE can't live together without a ketubah. That source doesn't say anything about a man and his concubine. The ketubah is there to protect the wife financially. Actually, with modern divorce courts, and many observant woman working and earning their own money, it's kind of anachronistic - but, law is law, tradition is tradition, so for marriages, we do it.
    – user1095
    Feb 11, 2012 at 19:52
  • FWIW, my personal takeaway from the concubine (pilegesh) question that you cited is this: Really, a single Jewish man should be able to take a single Jewish woman as a pilegesh, and have a normal "dating" relationship, in the secular sense of the word. (Although they would have to keep all the strictures of niddah as we observe it today.) However - because, it seems, we don't have a recognized way to enter and exit such a relationship, no major halachic authority has endorsed the concept today. (If one did, he would have to provide details of enter / exit, and sources to back it up).
    – user1095
    Feb 11, 2012 at 19:57
  • @Will--re: your first comment--"The source that you linked to regarding ketubah only says that a HUSBAND and WIFE can't live together without a ketubah. That source doesn't say anything about a man and his concubine." Well, that's my question--similar to the one being tossed around on the pilegesh page. What, then, halachically differentiates the husband-wife relationship and the man-concubine relationship, assuming ketubah can be absent in both cases?
    – SAH
    Feb 11, 2012 at 22:50
  • taking a woman as a wife obligates the husband financially to the woman. Taking a woman as a pilegesh doesn't. That's the difference. Culturally, however, the difference would also be that one need not have a large, expensive ceremony with family and friends traveling long distances - simply to permit sexual relations with this woman.
    – user1095
    Feb 12, 2012 at 7:13
  • @Will I still don't understand what formally separates husband and wife from man and pilegesh, if not a ketubah. The "idea" of being husband and wife, and the connected idea of financial obligation, are, after all, only ideas.
    – SAH
    Feb 13, 2012 at 23:12

1 Answer 1


The presence or absence of a ketuba in an otherwise valid marriage has no effect on the validity of kiddushin. As such, it would be kiddushin she’einah re’uyah le’biah (marriage that cannot be consummated). The only reason such a marriage should not be consummated is a Tannaitic stringency of R' Meir in Ketubot (5th chapter). However, they are just as married without the ketuba.

Marriage as marriage, even absent a ketuba is different from concubinage. As a legal matter, no get is required for a concubine, and no ketuba either. As such, people say concubinage is like marriage without a ketuba, but that means no ketuba is needed, not that it is needed but absent. So having kiddushin & nisuin without a ketuba would not turn marriage into concubinage.

  • "it would be kiddushin she’einah re’uyah le’biah" Really? So Rava would Pasul the Kiddushin MiDeoraita??
    – Double AA
    Apr 16, 2015 at 14:59

You must log in to answer this question.

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