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I have some knowledge of Jewish law, but it seems ambiguous to me in some areas, either because there are differing opinions, or no one has really explained to me the reasons for the opinions to be favored over the opposing opinions.

We read in Deuteronomy 24, that a ספר כריתת must be given to a wife after a divorce. This implies, of course, that the couple is married. In fact, there is sufficient Rabbinical opinion that an unmarried female companion is a Pilegesh, or concubine, which is a separate legal status.

However, in the Mishnah (Kiddushin) it is specified right at the beginning that a wife may be acquired through money, a contract or sexual intercourse. Kiddushin seems to occur when the woman accepts the sexual intercourse and participates in it.

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/jewfaq/marriage.htm

Now, it's true that rabbis today do not consider sexual intercourse a valid way of acquiring a wife, but I'm not sure what gives them the authority to take away something that is written in the Talmud.

If I have relations with my girlfriends, and then we break up, should I be giving them a bill of divorcement? If we're not risking that her future relationships will be adulterous, it's only because of rabbinical pronouncements. Obviously Orthodox rabbis today aren't too concerned with non-virgins marrying their husbands, and don't inquire too much about the get from all their sexual partners. But I am not sure how all this came about.

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    You need witnesses to make Kiddushin happen. A ring given in private is no good, so too private consensual sex.
    – Double AA
    Nov 13, 2014 at 6:10
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    Even when acquiring a wife through sexual intercourse? What about during en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yichud#Laws_of_yichud ? Nov 13, 2014 at 6:12
  • Witnesses to a seclusion with the stated intent of intercourse for the purpose of Kiddushin count as witnesses to the intercourse. The principal is known as הן הן עדי יחוד הן הן עדי ביאה.
    – Double AA
    Nov 13, 2014 at 6:15
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    dupe? judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16102/759
    – Double AA
    Nov 13, 2014 at 6:18
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    So what? There is no rabbinic prohibition there. They aren't fully married enough to allow living together (or to allow her to sue him for food and clothing, etc.). There is even one opinion in Rishonim that if they had intercourse then without intending to effect Nisuin that they are both obligated in the death penalty for sleeping with a betrothed maiden.
    – Double AA
    Nov 13, 2014 at 6:24

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