In a shiur, I learned that if secular or non-observant Jews have a halachically binding wedding, then if they separate and don't manage to perform a get (as a get may even seem irrelevant to them), then they would technically remain married even while they have subsequent relationships. That subsequent relationship would technically be adulterous. A child born of that subsequent relationship might then be considered a mamzer.

What do the poskim say? Do some say that it is preferable for a rabbi to refrain from officiating at a wedding of a non-observant couple?

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    Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Aug 22, 2018 at 15:46
  • Very related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/85491/5151
    – Scimonster
    Aug 22, 2018 at 17:32
  • Fwiw, I was once asked to be a witness at a wedding just like this. I asked my rabbi and he told me that I should not do so if I believed that they would not be following the laws of family purity since I shouldn't "facilitate" that transgression.
    – Daniel
    Aug 22, 2018 at 18:43
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    @Daniel Niddah applies whether or not the couple is married. "Family" is a euphemism.
    – Double AA
    Aug 22, 2018 at 18:50
  • @DoubleAA He used air-quotes when he said it to me. The way I understood it, his point was that by my acting as a witness, I was facilitating their marriage. And anybody who knows anything about religious Jews know we don't support sexual relations before marriage but that we consider it an important part of a healthy marriage. So it seems to them that my participation in this wedding indicates my approval of their status as married and everything that goes along with that status.
    – Daniel
    Aug 22, 2018 at 22:26

2 Answers 2


You pretty much hit the nail on the head here. If a couple is Halachically married, and they don't get a Halachic separation, they remain married and all further relations are adulterous (with all the negative results that come with it).

This is a straightforward Mishnah (first one in Kiddushin) and no later authorities disagree. The Mishnah says (stripped down to the relevant parts):

הָאִשָּׁה נִקְנֵית בְּשָׁלשׁ דְּרָכִים, וְקוֹנָה אֶת עַצְמָהּ בִּשְׁתֵּי דְרָכִים. נִקְנֵית בְּכֶסֶף, בִּשְׁטָר, וּבְבִיאָה. [...] וְקוֹנָה אֶת עַצְמָהּ בְּגֵט וּבְמִיתַת הַבָּעַל.

A woman is acquired [for marriage] in three ways, and she acquires herself in two ways. She is acquired through money, through a document, or through sexual intercourse. [...] And she acquires herself through a bill of divorce or through the death of the husband.

The Mishnah is pretty straightforward: if a woman is Halachically married, the only way she could Hlachically un-marry is by a Get or becoming a widow.

Some have argued that if a woman never Halachically gets married, then she doesn't need to get unmarried through a Get. Indeed, I believe it was R' Moshe Feinstein who argued this opinion. When Jewish members of the Soviet Union started arriving not having had any formal Halachic marriage/divorce, he ruled that there was no issue of Mamzerim with those marriages since there was never a Halachic marriage to begin with.

As a result, there are opinions that argue if one is attending/officiating a wedding of an irreligious couple, there may be a long-term benefit in ensuring that the marriage is not done in a Halachically correct manner, to prevent any future possible occurance of Mamzerim.

However, not all opinions agree with that approach. If you look back at the Mishnah, you'll see that the third manner in which a woman can be married is through marital relations. Some authorities (among them R' Yosef Eliyahu Henkin and R' Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, I believe) felt that the fact that a couple was living together as husband and wife was enough of a proof that they intend to be married as a husband and wife, and therefore are considered Halachically married.

According to this opinion, even if the couple never married in a 'formal' Halachic ceremony, they are still Halachically married, and as a result can only divorce through a Get. Therefore, there is no benefit to not having a Halachically correct ceremony, so if one is attending/officiating at such a wedding, might as well make the ceremony as 'correct' as possible. Any problems that may occur in the future would be a problem anyways, so there is no benefit to not having a proper wedding now.

  • Hope to edit in more concrete sources later as I get them, although unortunately history has shown that it sometimes takes me a while to follow up... Aug 22, 2018 at 16:57
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    "As a result, there are opinions that argue..." The OP knew everything else and asked if there are these opinions. You said yes without any basis. Of what value is this answer? (All your provided sources are just for side points.)
    – Double AA
    Aug 22, 2018 at 17:13
  • Whether or not you accept R Henkin doesn't determine if you support defrauding well-intentioned Jews who seek holiness in their lives and relegating them to lives of perpetual sin and alienation from Judaism. Many who reject R Henkin would still shudder at the above.
    – Double AA
    Aug 22, 2018 at 17:15

I feel an obligation to address the title:

  1. To your first paragraph: It should be clear that the Jewish Halachah makes no difference between religious or non-religious Jews in marital Laws. Religiosity is not a fixed feature, a person can switch back and forth momentarily (by Teshuvah or a sin).

  2. To your last question: theoretically, the sages could take measures to invalidate a marriage that went sideways, like simply making a condition. So if the husband says "You're married to me on a condition that you will not cheat on me" - they are married as long as she's faithful, but once she cheats (he can always cheat :() the marriage is invalidated retroactively as they were never married.

So it was a tough choice, between letting Mamzerim and keeping marriages or the opposite. And they've chosen the first, as the later will lead automatically to licentiousness and frivolity, as nobody will take marriage seriously.

  • Numbr 1 has nothing to do with the question.
    – DonielF
    Aug 23, 2018 at 0:46
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    @DonielF neither did most of the other also-unsourced answer, but that still got some upvotes...
    – Double AA
    Aug 23, 2018 at 11:39

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