Suppose a Jewish man and Jewish woman end up stranded on an island in the South Pacific as a result of a plane crash or ship wreck, with no other survivors, and no hope of rescue. In fact, respective families had already said Kaddish for them.

As a result of struggling to survive over the years, the two eventually fall in love.

Is there any way they can declare themselves married in God's eyes alone?


"Married in G-d's eyes" is an awfully hazy phrase. We believe that G-d gave us laws that tell us what marriage is (and isn't).

What effects marriage between a Jewish man and woman, in theory, could be relations, but that would require intent and witnesses (well witnessing seclusion). Maimonides, Laws of Husbandry Ch. 3

And the Talmud says this is a theoretical, and imposed lashes on anyone who tries this crazy stunt. Giving a ring (or anything else intrinsically worth a dollar, for that matter) before two adult, Jewish male witnesses is the way to go.

And no, "everyone knows they're shipwrecked" doesn't mean there are witnesses to seclusion, that means people assume they're dead. (If everyone on the street sees Joe & Jane living as a family unit for a year, that's a very different story.)

But without witnesses, no there is no "lifeboat option." There's a famous story of a Jewish man and woman who are taken as slaves by the Romans and put in a room together to reproduce; as there was no possibility of marriage, he didn't touch her.

We have a system of laws, and they are what they are. Trying to to somehow creatively squeeze the law into legitimizing our actions really smells of hubris. Recall how King Saul kept insisting, through all sorts of contortions and rationalizations, that he followed the law when he hadn't (I Samuel 15:20), and this caused him to lose the throne. King David, on the other hand, (II Samuel 12:13), has the courage to admit "yes I messed up." -- and he's able to survive his failure.

Regarding the shipwreck case or whatever, I can theoretically point out that premarital relations are less-seriously prohibited than most other prohibited relations (e.g. adultery bears a theoretical death penalty, whereas premarital relations are at most lashes), and I have no idea how G-d would judge particular people in particular situations. But don't try to play games saying that this is within the boundaries of the law.

(As for "what about the commandment of procreation?" The occasional situation can come up in which well, you can't always fulfil every "yes-do" commandment. If there's a mean guy who bought every Etrog in a thousand mile radius just before Sukkot and won't share them, no you are not allowed to steal one of his -- you just turn to G-d and say "I tried my best but couldn't hold an Etrog this year", and if it was truly and legitimately beyond our control, we're not held to task for it -- just as the Torah makes clear that we never blame a rape victim.)

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    Not particularly relevant to your answer, but your famous story is, I think, of R' Tzadok in Avot deRebi Natan? If so, his reason for not wanting to have sex with the woman was not because he cannot marry her but because it will lead to his making mamzerim (שמא אבוא עליה והרביתי ממזרים בישראל; ARN 16). It's an interesting passage, but it's not the halakha. Obviously, we pasken that there's no risk of mamzerim, but prohibit intermarriage on other grounds. – Shimon bM Jul 8 '13 at 10:39
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    @Aule Who says that these are formalities? This is how we effect a marriage. – Daniel Jul 9 '13 at 4:01
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    Comments pruned: comments are for seeking or providing clarification to the answer, not for new questions and extended conversations. If the answer to one question prompts you to wonder about something else, please ask a new question. – Monica Cellio Jul 9 '13 at 16:13
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    @Shalom I think you're stuck up on you're first comment ישרים דרכי so you're making it a tough luck situation - so therefore you're going to use the word "marriage" as a weapon, but in his comments he brings the Mitzvah of פרו ורבו which means he wants to know is there a way out of the normal marriage process in a catch22 situation. (I don't think he cares if we call it marriage or potatoes.) – Meir Zirkind Jul 9 '13 at 19:27
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    @ShimonbM: I believe the story he is referring to is in Gitin 57a, "מעשה בארוס וארוסתו שנשבו לבין העובדי כוכבים והשיאום זה לזה אמרה לו בבקשה ממך אל תגע בי שאין לי כתובה ממך ולא נגע בה עד יום מותו וכשמת אמרה להן סיפדו לזה שפטפט ביצרו יותר מיוסף דאילו ביוסף לא הוה אלא חדא שעתא והאי כל יומא ויומא ואילו יוסף לאו בחדא מטה והאי בחדא מטה ואילו יוסף לאו אשתו והא אשתו" – Menachem Oct 14 '13 at 0:33

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