I was having a discussion with a friend, some weeks back, about adultery in Torah. The discussion hinged on the Christian understanding being incorrect (that is to say, that both the man and woman are chayav for adultery). My friend pointed to the language in Devarim 23:18 to disprove both to prove that the peshat is like the Christian understanding (he's quite a fromm Jew) and that pre-marital relations are not specifically assur.

Does this passuk actually serve as a proof that pre-marital relations are assur ?

Ki Seitzei 23:18

לֹא־תִֽהְיֶ֥ה קְדֵשָׁ֖ה מִבְּנ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹא־יִֽהְיֶ֥ה קָדֵ֖שׁ מִבְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:


3 Answers 3


Rav Hirsch explains that the term קדוש is the complete surrender to the moral good while קדש is the complete surrender to the morally bad. As a result, he says that this forbids all forms of sexual immorality, which would include premarital sex.

In fact, While one of the standard translations of

Ki Seitzei 23:18

לֹא־תִֽהְיֶ֥ה קְדֵשָׁ֖ה מִבְּנ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹא־יִֽהְיֶ֥ה קָדֵ֖שׁ מִבְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

There shall not be a prostitute of the daughters of Israel, and there shall not be a male prostitute of the sons of Israel.

Rav Hirsch translates this pasuk as

There shall be no one dedicated to immorality of the daughters of Israel, and no one dedicated to immorality of the sons of Israel.

He then explains

Just as קדוש is the complete surrender to what is morally good, קדש is the surrender to what is morally low and bad.


Immorality is every sexual intercourse which has not had the dedication of קידושין, hence also the so-called marriages of people who are not eligible for קידושין, שאין קידושין טופתים בהם, as then Onkelos translates the concept קדשה and קדש by concrete examples אתתא מבנות ישראל לגבר עבד and לא יסב גברא מבני ישראל אתתא אמתא. The wording of our text demands the same degree of chaste morality in its sons as it does in its daughters, and in their keeping such chaste morality recognizes the justification for the name "children of Israel".


Your friend is right that there is no biblical prohibition rather only a Rabbinical prohibition for premarital relations and the Christian understanding is based on the Jewish understanding.

לֹא־תִהְיֶ֥ה קְדֵשָׁ֖ה מִבְּנ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֥ה קָדֵ֖שׁ מִבְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
according to Halacha translates Like Targum Onkles: "A woman should not marry a canaanite slave (who's accepted mitzvos as he's had Tevila and mila see Yevamos 46a) and a man should likewise not marry a Canaanite slavewoman (who's accepted mitzvos as she's had Tevila see Yevamos 46a)." (This is the reason why a Mamzer can marry a slave woman as he is already a product of an illegitimate relationship see Kiddushin 59a, see Rashi there, and Rambam Issurei bia 15,3. and Shulchan aruch Even haezer 4,20.)

The Rambam in Hilchos Naara 2,17 says:

חייבה תורה לאונס ולמפתה ממון ולא מלקות בשאירע הדבר מקרה שלא מדעת אביה ולא הכינה עצמה לכך שדבר זה אינו הווה תמיד ואינו מצוי. אבל אם הניח בתו הבתולה מוכנת לכל מי שיבוא עליה גורם שתמלא הארץ זמה ונמצא האב נושא בתו והאח נושא אחותו שאם תתעבר ותלד לא יודע בן מי הוא והמכין בתו לכך הרי היא קדשה ולוקה הבועל והנבעלת משום לא תהיה קדשה-
The Torah demands monetary compensation when relations were against her will or with her consent but against her fathers will (her father has dominion over her till she is about 12 and a half). If she consents (against her fathers will) to relations by chance i.e to 1 person (e.g she has a boy friend) they do not get Malkus from the Torah (But of course there is a Rabbinical prohibition of Kallo Belo brocho assura lebaala kenida in Masechet כלה 1,1.) There is only a Torah prohibition which is chayav Malkus (lashes) if she or her father makes herself into a harlot who is available to many men...

A Torah prohibition is therefore not applicable if it is a casual relations with a boyfriend not intended for the sake of prostitution.

Accoring to the Kesef Mishna (ibid) this prohibition of prostitution for many men is based on the sifri and the Raavad agrees with the Rambam that there is a Biblical prohibition for a prostitute available many men but not to 1 man by chance.
However the Ramban in Hasogos sefer hamitzvos lo saase 355 holds even prostitution is only rabbinically forbidden (and premarital relations with one man is definitely not prohibited from the Torah) because prostitution is only prohibitted mideoraisa (biblically) to a gentile, canaanite slave/slavewoman, ervah,yisroel to mamzer(es), cohein to divorcee cohein Gadol to widow, petzua dakka and crus shophcho with a yisraelis.

Based on this Every opinion holds that there is no prohibition from the Torah on premarital relations for which the woman is planning on marrying that man and she is not available to other men, but there is a rabbinical prohibition*.

However a Nidda (woman who has a menstrual cycle and not immersed in a mikva) is forbidden Min Hatorah.This applies to a regular unmarried woman is a nidda unless she has immersed to a "mikva" (ritual bath) to purify herself and is forbidden from the Torah (Leviticus 18,19).

*Note:Those who think rabbinical prohibitions are not serious are sinners who will be stumbled by the Torah ופושעים יכשלו בם


This is a Machloket between Rambam and Raava"d in the very beginning of the Ilchos Ishus: Rambam sees it as a negative commandment to have relations outside a wedlock, where Raava"d sees no such prohibition.

  • this prohibition of the Rambam only applies to prostitution (setting oneself availlable for many men) not premarital relations to a man one is intending to marry. Even then there is only a machlokes about if she needs to be in a brothel or not see here hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?mfid=83142&rid=3946
    – user15464
    Jan 13, 2018 at 23:17
  • Not true at all. The machloket is whether "ללא קידושין" is the main point or "לשם זנות" as Rambam uses both. Raavad brings Pileges that does not have Kiddushin as a proof. So I think there's no single definition for Znut either.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 14, 2018 at 0:37
  • this is the kesef mishna in the rambam hilchos Naaro 2,17 explaining the rambamin the begning of Ishus משמע מדברי רבינו הכא דאינו לוקה משום קדשה אא"כ היא מוכנת לכך ובפ"א מאישות כתב כל הבועל אשה לשם זנות בלא קידושין לוקה מן התורה לפי שבעל קדשה וצריך לדחוק שסמך שם על מה שכתב כאן:- the rambam in hilchos Ishus (that you quote) that says a person gets Malkus without kiddushhin is relying upon the rambam in hilchos Naaroh to explain that this is only in the case of prostitution not just any case of relations
    – user15464
    Jan 14, 2018 at 6:51

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