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My understanding from Sanhedrin 82a is that there is no halachic construct of marriage by non-Jews and as such Potifar(a)'s "wife" should not have been forbidden to Yosef. It was only later during the times of the Chashmonaim that a decree was made against this type of adultery. Why then does Yosef say it would be a sin to God (Bereshis 39:9)?

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    There's definitely marriage by non-Jews. How else could adultery be one of the seven Mitzvot for Bnei Noach? (The six forbidden relationships are mother, step-mother, sister, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. Rambam Kings 9:5) – Double AA Jul 27 '17 at 13:48
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    Wouldn't it have been really mean to Potifar who had been nice to him? Is that not a sin? – Double AA Jul 27 '17 at 13:52
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    It's possible that Yosef was saying that it would be a sin to G-d in terms of unethical behavior. I.e., Potiphar placed full trust in Yosef to the point where he wasn't concerned about leaving him alone with his wife. Potiphar assumes, of course that Yosef wouldn't do anything with his wife. If he finds out that he did, that would be a betrayal of trust to his employer, and that is the sin to G-d. – DanF Jul 27 '17 at 14:03
  • I haven't yet read the Sanhedrin page. But see Rash"i and Ramba"n, in particular on the verse that you alluded to. They state that Bnei Noach was also forbidden to have such illicit relationships. Yosef's statement that it would be a sin, according to Ramba"n was referring to his betraying his employer, Potiphar, as I explained above. Your question is vague, BTW. Do you want to know halahc of this relationship or what Yosef meant by his statement? These are separate aspects. – DanF Jul 27 '17 at 15:47
  • @DoubleAA you probably want to bring his atention to chapter 9 halacha 7 which can be found here chabad.org/1188354 – hazoriz Dec 25 '17 at 19:11
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Yes, there is an issue of mitsvat asse in bne noach from which we can say that it have been a sin. See Talmud Bavli Kiddushin 21b:

וראית בשביה ת"ר וראית בשביה בשעת שביה אשת ואפילו אשת איש

Our Rabbis taught: 'And thou seest among the captives' - when taking her captive; a woman - even married.

See Tosfot there

אשת אפילו אשת איש. ואע"פ דאין אישות בכותית כדאיתא פ' ד' מיתות (סנהדרין נב:) מ"מ איכא עשה דכתיב (בראשית ב) ודבק באשתו ולא באשת חבירו.:‏

Tosfot explains that despite that in Sanhedrin gemara says that there is no marrital status among bene Noach, there is a prohibition, derivated from a positive mitsva. The mitsva is "Therefore shall a man l....... , and shall cleave to his wife"

So the gemara in Kiddushin taugh that the special situation of yefat toar, can counter this prohibition. Without this mitsva, it remains a sin.

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There's another side of a coin. Here's some reasons why it was not / could not be / could be not a sin:

  1. "Sin" is a matter of different perspectives. Remember Moses shattering the Luchot? Was it a sin? From our Halakhic perspective it was surely a sin of "לא תעשון כן לה"א" - a branch of idolatry (we're forbidden to loose Divrey Kodesh). But for Moses - it was a great merit (some other times he, however, greatly "failed"). So the situation with Yossef could turn out either way - either Hashem was praising Yossef for this idea, or scolding him - about 50% chance.

  2. Before Matan Torah, the "self-emerged" Jews enjoyed a special status: they left the status of gentiles and did not yet reach the status of full Jews (hence the dispute on their status in Gemorah). This situation allowed them to be technically exempt from obeying the Mitzvot, as those were yet given in verbal and explicit form. So Yosef being a Jew was Potur of having relations with a married gentile woman, and he was yet to be commanded all the late prohibitions, like "haBoel Aramis", "Le Titchatnu", etc.

  3. We hold Yosef to be a Tzadik not only in his deeds, but his intentions also. However (according to Shmuel), he had clear intentions to have sex with this woman as he saw in prophecy the two tribes (of his sons) coming from her descendants. If so I can conclude two possible explanations: either he didn't hold it to be a sin (as we wouldn't expect him to readily sin), or he had a better Mitzvah to do (see Yaakov with the two sisters, Yosef not honoring Yaakov for years etc).

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    "From our Halakhic perspective it was surely a sin of "לא תעשון כן לה"א" - a branch of idolatry (we're forbidden to loose Divrey Kodesh). But for Moses - it was a great merit" this smacks of sabbatian antinomianism. Judaism believes there is one law for everyone. A zaddiq can't sin, just because he's holy. Rishonim address lo taasun here. There is also the possibility of horaat shaa. Judaism doesn't believe that holy people can choose when they are above the law. – mevaqesh Dec 25 '17 at 19:08
  • "hence the dispute on their status in Gemorah" where is this alleged dispute? – mevaqesh Dec 25 '17 at 19:09
  • "We hold Yosef to be a Tzadik not only in his deeds, but his intentions also." Who is 'we'? Is this the royal we? – mevaqesh Dec 25 '17 at 19:11
  • My royal we stands for your "Judaism believes" :) – Al Berko Dec 25 '17 at 19:34
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    Well given that your are just some internet guy, your assertions about what Judaism believes are fairly useless, unless you can back them up. – mevaqesh Dec 25 '17 at 19:45

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