Suppose a married woman goes her own way and leaves (but not divorces) her husband. She engages in sexual relationships with other men.

But after a year, she realizes the error of her ways and does teshuva. She desires to reconcile and return with her husband. And the husband -- though he is aware of his wife's infidelity -- forgives her and welcomes her back.

In the Orthodox Jewish opinion, would such a situation be frowned upon?

Two potential mitzvot come to mind, the stoning of adulterers (Lev 20) and the law regarding the wife who must not return to her ex-husband (Deut 24).

For adulterers, we don't carry out such penalties today. But does Deuteronomy 24 apply? In Deuteronomy 24, the mitzvah states that a woman who divorces and remarries cannot ever return to the first husband. Would this apply to the woman, even though no divorce was issued?


2 Answers 2


Maimonides writes in Laws of Divorce 11:14 that Deuteronomy 24 does indeed apply in the case of a married woman willingly committing adultery, such that she is then forbidden from returning to her husband, even in the absence of any divorce.


To just quote the Rambam on this halacha does not serve any justice.

This is a very, very complicated question that can have many nuances, and it is discussed at length in dozens of tshuvos in the acharonim. In smaller than a nutshell, it depends how the husband knows this and if he believes it, if the husband was informed by his wife, the adulterer or someone else. Sometimes the husband is permitted to continue living with his wife, but in essence she is not allowed to live with him although a Beis Din (jewish court) may allow her. Without going into any depth, a man is only forbidden to his wife if there are 2 witnesses or if he believes a single witness or his wife like 2 witnesses. He is not obligated to believe his wife if she says she committed adultery since it is possible she is lying and wants to re-marry, she only said this in order for him to be forced to divorce her. Additionally there is a תקנת רבינו גרשם which stipulates for Beis Din to force a man to stay married even if he believes her, for the reason just mentioned - otherwise any woman who wants a divorce will just tell her husband she committed adultery and then he would be forced to divorce her. This תקנה was initially implemented when the wife later reverts from her claim, however some poskim hold a man may rely on this תקנה and therefore the wife should not say anything to her husband, since he is not obligated to believe her and even if he would, he might not necessarily become forbidden to her.

Just to cite a few- נודע ביהודה קמא עא, ותנינא יב , כא

חכם צבי ס' קנ

מנחת שלמה ח"ג ס' ק"ב

קובץ תשובות חלק ה ' ס' רטו'

תשובות והנהגות

There is also a major argument in the acharonim if the Beis Din encourages the woman or adulterer to inform the husband or not. Some hold the adulterer may reframe himself from informing the husband because of כבוד הבריות.

See -

הנודע ביהודה (מהדו"ק או"ח סי' לה)

דברי חיים חלק או"ח סי' ל"ה

שו"ת שבט הלוי (ח"ח סי' רפז)

ספר חפץ חיים - הלכות אסורי לשון הרע - כלל ד

שו"ת יביע אומר חלק ב - אבן העזר סימן ב

  • 1
    Ben, thank you for the scholarly reply and welcome to J.SE. Fundamentally the question asked here was "can repentance undo the prohibition?", and the halachic answer to that is a resounding "no." You're addressing the standard of evidence to establish said prohibition, or the obligation to speak up or notify people about it. That is a different question, which should be addressed separately. Feel free to ask it separately and answer it too! But the angles you discuss, as they stand here, are going to confuse a lot of newcomers just reading the question above as posed. Hatzlacha Rabba!
    – Shalom
    Sep 4, 2023 at 10:18
  • @Shalom I completely disagree what you described is the underlying question being asked. I quote "In Deuteronomy 24, the mitzvah states that a woman who divorces and remarries cannot ever return to the first husband. Would this apply to the woman, even though no divorce was issued?". This is a halachic question if she is forbidden to her husband in the scenario described.
    – Ben
    Sep 4, 2023 at 14:06
  • read just the top line of the question please; and then there is this: And the husband -- though he is aware of his wife's infidelity -- ... That certainly rules out the Noda Bihuda's case, and I would read the hypothetical as "assuming he is 100% certain of it."
    – Shalom
    Sep 4, 2023 at 19:07
  • @Shalom Incorrect. There are poskim who would permit even in the case if he knew about it - presumably from her. I mentioned this at the end, that even if he would believe her he might not become forbidden since there is תקנת רבינו גרשום not to force a divorce and chazal held a husband should not believe her. See the end of משכיל לדוד ס' מה.
    – Ben
    Sep 5, 2023 at 11:12
  • thanks, hm ... is that the same Maskil LeDavid with the Rashi perush, from Sarajevo?
    – Shalom
    Sep 5, 2023 at 12:30

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