What example is there in the Torah about (lichatchila i.e a priori according to halacha) marrying a wife that is years older than you?

  • 1
    Also, when you say "in the Torah" it may be interpreted as meaning in the 5 books of Moses. If you meant in Jewish literature in general, you may want to make it more clear. Welcome! Mar 17, 2014 at 19:46
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    Allow me to second (third?) msh210 in welcoming you to the site. As far as I know, Jewish literature doesn't say much about the subject until the early 21st century. The earliest source I can think of is the US Yated Ne'eman in about 2006. Shortly afterwards, an organization called NASI was started to promote the practice. If any such sources exist, that would be the first place to look.
    – Yitzchak
    Mar 17, 2014 at 20:19
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    I know there is a saying in the Talmud about marrying a divorced woman. And depending on the age, there might be an issue if a man does not yet have children to the extent that they fulfil the commandment, (girl and boy), and the woman cannot have children anymore. Other than that, Yebamoth discusses marrying women who are already mothers, mothers-in-law, even grandmothers. That would be a place to look.
    – Baby Seal
    Mar 17, 2014 at 21:16
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    I rolled back the most recent edit as it changed the question.
    – Alex
    Jan 16, 2019 at 15:53
  • 4
    it's forbidden to marry a wife. you can marry a single woman only
    – michael
    Jan 17, 2019 at 22:48

8 Answers 8


In Ish HaAshkolos, there is a story of an 11 year old Rabbi Weissmandel. His father brought him to Rabbi Dushinsky to receive a blessing.

While he was there, someone asked the young 11 year old if one may suggest a marriage if the bride is older than the groom. He proved the it would be okay from the following sources.

Tosafos in Bava Metzia 84a says that Reish Laksish married Rabbi Yochanan's sister.

לקמן מוכח דנסבה

In Kidushin 31b is says Rabbi Yochanan's father died during his mother's pregnancy, and his mother died in childbirth. Therefore, Rabbi Yochanan's sister was old than him.

רבי יוחנן כי עברתו אמו מת אביו ילדתו מתה אמו

In Meilah 7b, Rabbi Yochanan calls Reish Lakish 'yenukah', little one, and the commentary explains that Reish Lakish was younger than him. Therefore, it comes out that Reish Lakish was younger than his wife, and he married her anyways.
(Succession of ages: Rabbi Yochanan's sister>Rabbi Yochanan>Reish Lakish)

ר"ל קרי ינוקא לפי שהיה בחור ממנו

When the Rabbi heard this, he kissed him on his head.

  • Does this make it lechatchila?
    – Alex
    Jan 17, 2019 at 15:56

I'm not aware of a particular source for marrying older -- or younger, for that matter.

But I'll throw in a nice quote I heard from a Rabbi Pesach Krohn lecture. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch married someone who was older. He commented -- "there's a lot I'm trying to accomplish in life, I can't do it if my spouse is a baby."

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    I LOVE it, and I agree. I married an older woman. It was against my mom's, grandma's and close friends' advices. I didn't listen, and after many years, I say it was the best going=against-other-people's-advice decision that I ever made.
    – DanF
    Aug 6, 2015 at 20:35
  • @DanF how can you be so sure?
    – michael
    Jan 18, 2019 at 8:47
  • @michael 27 years of a happy stable marriage long after my parents and grandparents have passed onward makes me quite certain that it was the best decision made against someone else's advice. Unfortunately these relatives can't share the simchot of their grandchildren, but I sense they would approve. As for those friends who advised against it, some apologized to various degrees. The rest haven't been my friends almost since then, and I'm not sorry to have disposed the friendship. Need any more proof?
    – DanF
    Jan 21, 2019 at 3:31
  • maybe now good. but perhaps later it will be harder in old age
    – michael
    Feb 3, 2019 at 21:38
  • This should be a comment Feb 10, 2019 at 2:20

According to the Medrash Sechel Tov - Shemos 6:15 Moshe was 24 years old when his father Amram passed away at the age of 137. That means that Moshe was born when Amram was 113 years old. His mother Yocheved was 130 when she gave birth to Moshe - Abarbanel. That proves that Yocheved was older than Amram.

It is also known that the Chofetz Chaim's first wife was at least 10 years older than him.

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    I didn't know that. How do you know it?
    – Double AA
    Mar 18, 2014 at 16:49
  • tzadikim were on a different level than the masses.
    – ray
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:17
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    Umm... The passage in Abarbanel that you linked to actually argues exactly the opposite of your conclusion. Abarbanel there argues that while Amram was quite old at Moshe's birth, Yocheved at that time was "only" fifty to sixty years old, making her very much his junior.
    – jake
    Mar 18, 2014 at 18:09

When the Torah describes the yibum process, the following verse appears:

Deuteronomy 25:8

וְקָרְאוּ לוֹ זִקְנֵי עִירוֹ וְדִבְּרוּ אֵלָיו וְעָמַד וְאָמַר לֹא חָפַצְתִּי לְקַחְתָּהּ

Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him; and if he persists and says, I do not wish to take her; (Soncino translation)

The Talmud extrapolates several things from this verse:

Yevamot 44a

הרשות בידו ושבקי ליה והתניא וקראו לו זקני עירו הן ולא שלוחן ודברו אליו מלמד שמשיאין לו עצה הוגנת לו שאם היה הוא ילד והיא זקנה הוא זקן והיא ילדה אומרין לו מה לך אצל ילדה מה לך אצל זקנה כלך אצל שכמותך ואל תשים קטטה בביתך לא צריכא דאפשר ליה א"ה אפילו טובא נמי עצה טובה קמ"ל ד' אין טפי לא כי היכי דנמטייה עונה בחדש

MAY. And is he allowed? Surely it was taught: Then the elder's of his city shall call him, 'they' but not their representative; 'and speak unto him' teaches that he is given suitable advice. If he, for instance, was young and she old, or if he was old and she was young, he is told, 'What would you with a young woman'? or 'What would you with an old woman'? 'Go to one who is [of the same age] as yourself and create no strife in your house'! — This is applicable to that case only where he can afford it. If so, even more wives also! — Sound advice was given: Only four but no more, so that each may receive one marital visit a month. (Soncino translation, my emphasis)

Thus, the Talmudic interpretation of the verse recommends against lechatchila marrying a woman significantly older than oneself.

  • In the same way as significantly younger, note.
    – user15253
    Jan 16, 2019 at 21:33
  • @Orangesandlemons Yes. But the question only asked about older.
    – Alex
    Jan 16, 2019 at 21:33

I have heard of an opinion (don't remember the source) that based on what the Talmud (in Sotah 2a says that at conception (or 40 days before conception, depending on how you read it), a Bas Kol announces that So and so will marry the daughter of so and so, which implies that when the boy is conceived the girl isn't yet conceived, so she can only be referred to as the (future) daughter of.

However, the Kabbalistic understanding of that passage is that this only refers to the first time the soul descends into this world, and not subsequent reincarnations, so certainly according to that there cannot be such a deduction from the Talmud. In addition, other answers are proposed for the construction of daughter of which do not require such an understanding.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was just over a year younger than his wife, so there you have מעשה רב to not be concerned about the issue.

  • If you find the source, I would be interested. It seems that, for whatever reason, women were often (but not always) referred to in the Talmud as daughter of so and so, for example bas rav chisda. Mar 18, 2014 at 18:38
  • Tosfos there seems to not agree with your Diyuk Jan 12, 2018 at 6:27
  • @shmuel it is not my diyuk
    – Yishai
    Jan 12, 2018 at 16:03
  • It’s the Maharsha who makes that diyuk.
    – DonielF
    Jan 16, 2019 at 20:39

Tosfos to Sotah 2a (DH Kodem Yetziras Havelad) indicate that it doesn’t matter who’s older:

נראה לרבי קודם יצירת הזכר בין אם לא נולדה הנקיבה עדיין בין אם נולדה:

It appears to Rebbe [that the Bas Kol says “the daughter of so-and-so to so-and-so, etc.”] before the formation of the man, whether the woman hasn’t been born yet or whether she has.

Clearly indicating that sometimes the man is younger and sometimes the woman is.

  • Does that make it lechatchila?
    – Alex
    Jan 16, 2019 at 20:43

According to Rashi (Bereishis 4,21) quoting the Medrash Rabbah, the sister of Tuval kayin - who was born to Lemech before Lemech together with Tuval Kayin killed Kayin their antecedent - was Naama the wife of Noach.

נעמה היא אשתו של נח בב"ר

Naamah was born before Sheis who was born Bereishis 4,25, and Rashi says (see below) this is the chronological order because Lemech after having killed Kayin by mistake, caused his wives to separate from him. This led to a Din Torah in front of Adam who said they should go back to their husband. Lemech then persuaded Adam to go back with Chava after having separated 129 years, This resulted in the birth of Sheis When Adam was 130 years old.

וידע אדם וגו'" - בא לו למך אצל אדם הראשון וקבל על נשיו אמר להם וכי עליכם לדקדק על גזירתו של מקום אתם עשו מצותכם והוא יעשה את שלו אמרו לו קשוט עצמך תחלה והלא פרשת מאשתך זה מאה ושלשים שנה משנקנסה מיתה על ידך מיד וידע אדם

Noach was 600 in year 1656 when the flood happened (see artscroll timeline in the back of the tenach/Chumash) so He was born in year 1056.

So if Naama Noach's wife was born before year 130 and Noach was born in 1056 Naama was at least 927 years older than Noach.

But in those days women didn't reach their menopause so quickly as Naamah had Shem Cham and Yefes at around age 1427.

Rambam (Hilchos Ishus 15:7):

לא ישא אדם עקרה וזקנה ואילונית וקטנה שאינה ראויה לילד אלא אם כן קיים מצות פריה ורביה או שהיתה לו אשה אחרת לפרות ולרבות ממנה
A man may not marry a woman who is sterile, too old (to conceive), an Ailonis or a minor unless he fulfilled Peru u'Rvu or he had another wife who can conceive.

Indeed the Teshuvos HoRivash 15 when asked about marrying an older woman

על דבר האיש אנשמואל עראמה שרצה לישא זקנה אחת
he replied: מי שאין לו בנים אין לו לישא אשה אלא בת בנים A person who has no children should marry a woman who can have children.

So as long as a woman can still bear children age does not matter and a man can marry a woman older lechatchila(except with regards to a Cohein Gadol who can only marry a Naara which is usually a girl bellow the age of 12 and a half {if he was not already married before his annointment} see Rambam Issurei bia 17,13)

  • Why does the general guidance of "marry someone who can have children" mean that it's lechatchila to marry anyone that can have children?
    – Alex
    Jan 17, 2019 at 20:25
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    @alex i think that a Woman still having regular periods means shes still releasing eggs apparently a woman can go to the doctor and check, i'm sure if someone truly wanted to marry a 45 year old they could consult both the Doctor and the Posek to arrange such a marriage!
    – user15464
    Jan 17, 2019 at 20:45
  • But the question asked about marrying a woman "years older than you". Even if we limit "years" to at least 10 years (as opposed to two years which would technically be "years") one could still easily find a woman that much older than him who is still well within her childbearing years.
    – Alex
    Jan 17, 2019 at 20:53
  • @Alex i am quoting a source that permits any range of "years" older than the Man so long as the woman can childbare. I must say i'm impressed with your sportsmanship but i think by your comments my answer is not up to your standards, so good luck to you!
    – user15464
    Jan 17, 2019 at 21:08
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    I think the Rivosh is defining what is Lechatchila. if you look at the Meforshim in Yevamos a woman can't meyabem to an older Man because she might think he is unattractive and Mezaneh because she can't marry anyone else at the same time. a man can marry a younger woman at the same this is Pas Besalo where the Yetzer Hora is not strong to be mezane as he can marry another woman. So the only prohibition is meyabem an older woman where she wouldn't have children and he won't build a Bayis for his brother . also marrying an older woman who can't have Children as explained rambam in my post
    – user15464
    Jan 17, 2019 at 21:26

only major halachic problem i can see is that you might be embarassed to show her to your friends/family, or even be embarassed yourself and then come to hate her. thereby transgressing "love your fellow as yourself" and other negative commandments. and even if not now, then 20 years down the road.

I have seen this happen. It's a serious consideration.

  • see also this q/a by Rabbi Leff where he seemed to have discouraged it in the following special case: QUESTION hi i accidentally came acroos this website, and i have a very difficult question... im in love with a guy 20 years older than me, we have a very strong relationship, and im getting married in less than a week, i really like my fiance but for some reason i love this other guy alot more...and i feel confused and lost...my fiance doesnt mind that i talk to the other guy and he knows i love the other guy yet for some reason he is still crazy about me and wants me..i want to so
    – ray
    Mar 18, 2014 at 8:10
  • badly be good, i just dont know how to continue from here..i know i'm in a tough situation.. —Anonymous, Israel ANSWER: rabbileff.net/shiurim/answers/1750-1999/1928.mp3
    – ray
    Mar 18, 2014 at 8:11
  • the Talmud uses this reasoning -- don't marry someone you'll despise -- as the reason you have to meet the person first to make sure you find them attractive. What you're describing is a result of social pressures in some circumstances, I find that sad.
    – Shalom
    Mar 18, 2014 at 8:20
  • social pressure is very powerful as the rambam wrote regarding where to live. and it's not just social pressures. but like i wrote "even be embarassed yourself", i.e. that you may find her old age repulsive sooner or later - and physical attraction is very important in a marriage
    – ray
    Mar 18, 2014 at 8:56
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    You're right about the rambam about social pressure -- if you live in a place where people are wicked, get out! Hence: if you live in a place where people are ridiculously obsessed with marrying a twig-thin teenager, get out!
    – Shalom
    Mar 19, 2014 at 8:57

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