As discussed here, polygamy is permissible on a Torah level, though not encouraged. As discussed in the latter question, Rabbeinu Gershom instituted his ban because

It was instituted to prevent people from taking advantage of their wives.

It was intended to avoid potential infighting between rival wives, which may also lead to the transgression of a number of biblical violations.

Rabbi Gershom was concerned lest the husband be unable to provide properly for all his wives (especially during the difficult times of exile).

The ban is intended to avoid the inherent rivalry and hatred between rival wives.

There is a concern that a man may marry two wives in different locations, which may lead to forbidden relationships between offspring.


It would seem that polygamy is not, and never was, an ideal state. The mystical works are replete with references to husband and wife being two halves of one whole.

(Sources removed, and grammar edited. See there for original version.)

According to all of this, if polygamy isn't encouraged and is far from ideal, why was it ever permissible in the first place?

  • 2
    I can imagine a number of things which aren't outright prohibited which aren't encouraged or ideal. Why is this unique that you ask about it?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 3:30
  • @DoubleAA Such as? I just asked about this because I was thinking about it. What other such halachos could I have asked about?
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 3:40
  • 2
    Eating lots of transfats. Not prohibited but not encouraged. Not ideal. I'm sure you can come up with other examples.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 3:42
  • 1
    The mishna listed three things in particular not to engage in excessively even though they are permitted. Wives, owned items, and slaves.
    – user6591
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 4:30
  • 1
    @MichaBerger So is that the answer to the shidduch crisis?
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


Because it can be done correctly. If done correctly, none of the issues the OP listed would happen. The result could/would be a larger and happier family.

Notice the words used in your list of objections:

prevent, potential, may also lead, concerned lest, inherent, may lead. Those words are all "possible". It is also possible that eating too much tasty kosher food will cause overeating and obesity leading to heart attack. Kosher food is still allowed to be tasty. :)

Compare this to Levirate marriage (Yibum). The Torah grants a choice to perform Yibum or chalitzah. Some say that Chalitzah is the better option. However, Yibum is the greater mitzvah.

Just because the Torah allows something, doesn't mean it should be done under any and all circumstances. Just because the Sages warn against something, doesn't mean it cannot be done correctly.

  • @mevaqesh I might. But I do not feel it is relevant to the question at its level. I feel that what I wrote as is, is perfectly fine. If you have a better answer, feel free to write one. Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 7:54
  • 1
    Sources always strengthen an answer. See:judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1714/8775. Whether or not I write my own answer is completely irrelevant. If nothing else, noting a flaw in one post rarely constitutes a freestanding answer. In this case, for example, your answer is based on the dubious assumption that the Torah would never ban something that is merely usually problematic. If you cite a source for it, then even if other users suspect or know it to be wrong, there is good reason for them not to downvote. For that reason, as is almost always the case, sources are relevant.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 8:02
  • @mevaqesh The yibbum example shows that even though the Torah encourages Yibbum, there are opinions against it in favor of Chalitzah. It shows that you have a case where the Sages claim a mitzvah has "problems" yet the Torah even encourages it in the first place (not just makes it permissible). Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 9:08
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    @mevaqesh the sources are not needed, because my answer shows the OP to have already answered itself. By saying the later Sages found "potential" problems in polygamy shows that they admit there could be no problem at all. That means the OP already accepted in its premise that it "can be done correctly". So, bringing sources to that is beyond the scope of the OP and its proper answer IMHO. It would just confuse things. BTW, I did not make the claim: "the fact that something is sometimes appropriate would lead the Torah to not ban it". That sounds confusing amd its not part of the answer. Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 9:13
  • Even Abba Shaul agrees that originally yibbum was better. It was only then that yibbum was preferable. I am not sure how any of this relates to polygamy. For there to be some parallel, perhaps the Torah permitted polygamy since it used to be good, but circumstances have changed. I don't see this in your answer though.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 9:13

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