Does anyone know where I can find the actual text of the Gezeira of Rabbeinu Gershom? It keeps popping up in my learning, but only as being referenced, I would like to read that actual text.
The earliest printed sources that mention the bans of Rabbeinu Gershom ben Yehuda, one of which is the ban on polygamy, appear to be the Machzor Vitry (§575) and two teshuvot of the Maharam of Rotenberg (§153 and §1022). A much easier source to find (and read) is the anonymously-authored Sefer Kol Bo, which was probably composed in the 14th century. There you will find a section entitled דין תקנת רבינו גרשום וגזרת קדמונים ז"ל (Sefer Kol Bo §116; in modern editions, Volume III:5). Within that section is the following ruling:
והחרם ששם רבינו גרשון, שלא לישא שתי נשים, אין להתירו, רק במאה אנשים, מג' קהילות, ומג' ארצות, כגון ארגו"ן [ארגו"ב], למברדי"א [נורמנדיא"ה], וצרפת. גם הם לא יסכימו, עד שיראו טעם מבורר להתיר, וגם באותו ענין שתהא מבורר
The sections in parentheses reflect what is found in the mss. My translation is as follows:
And as for the ban that Rabbeinu Gershon [sic] enacted, that one may not marry two women, this may only be undone with one hundred people, from three communities [kehillot] and from three lands - such as Aragon, Normandy and France. Even they may not agree unless they see a clear reason to undo it, and in only those areas where they can so explain it.
According to the biography on Rabbeinu Gershon found in his Responsa, the most complete list of his takanot is found at the end of a hand written manuscript of Talmud Bavli from Munich (Shtark Leiden Collection 1912). It opens with the words, "These are the takanot of Rabbeinu Gershom, Meor HaGolah, N'E".
In those responsa is one letter dealing with a question from an individual who actually married two women. In the notes quoting the Sefer Ohr Zarua, it says that Rabbeinu Gershon's decree was not a blanket ban for all situations.
You mean his ban on polygamy?
I was told that we don't actually have its text today; hence so much debate as to its contents and limitations.
The following is a source that I am aware of.
Be'er HaGola at the end of Yorah Deah 334
There is no "book" of the rulings of Rabbeinu Gershom. Many items are referenced by later Rishonim in Ashkenaz as takkanot (rulings) of Rabbeinu Gershom, but there is no authoritative list in any one place. There is also no English translation for most of the following, which may be why no one has quoted them:
The earliest attributions to Rabbeinu Gershom are found in the Sefer Ma'asei HaGeonim which you can find edited by Epstein. Sefer HaPardes also has many attributions. Not to be confused with the much later kabbalah book by Cordovero.
In the early law codes, Rabbeinu Gershom is cited in the Sefer Ra'avan, Sefer Ra'aviyah and the 'Or Zarua.
By the time you get to the Sefer Hasidim and the Roke'ach, the quotes are less reliable, and a little more mythological - that is to say "it was a takkanah of Rabbeinu Gershom" becomes a support for many things for which there is no other real support.
At the end of this period comes the Maharam of Rottenberg, and then from him into the Mordechai, the Rosh and on into Tur/Shulchan Arukh, etc., etc., etc.,
Until the Rosh leaves Rottenberg and arrives in Spain, and there meets widespread polygamy and concubinage in the sefardi halakhik community, this is a consistent Ashkenazi stream of tradition which accepts the "gezeira" of Rabbeinu Gershom, and prohibits polygamy.
If you can't find the text in either of these books:
- Rabbenu Gershom; Meor Hagolah, Light of the Exile.: Merkos L'inyonei Chinuch
- Petuchowski, Aaron M. Inconsistency for Good Reason: The Responsa of Rabbenu Gershom
and this guy (note: i don't agree with this page) doesn't have it either, you are going to have to go by the Rishonym who quote the Cheirim/Gezeira.
Upon further thought, there probably was not a formal document. Probably there was a series of Responsa that together became known as the "Gezeira". I'm pretty sure that not being able to divorce a woman against her will was a psak halacha and not a gezeira per se.