Deut. 22:29. The rapist must marry his victim if she is unwed. If I understand this commandment correctly, the woman is allowed to refuse said marriage. Furthermore, Jewish law does not forbid another Jew from marrying a woman who's been raped (excluding Cohens).

Therefore, it's possible for a rape victim to find another husband (other than her rapist), although it would have been exceedingly difficult considering most men would have shunned such a union during biblical times. Given that men were also the primary providers back then, forcing the rapist to take on the responsibility of marriage (if the woman agreed) can be viewed as helping her.

With that said, even though a Cohen can't marry a divorcee or a raped woman, I still don't understand why he must divorce his wife if she was raped. Is this halacha found in the Torah or Talmud? Even if it's rarely enforced, I still find it morally reprehensible.

Can anyone help me understand this halacha? I will not accept an answer that attributes the rape to anything the woman did (e.g. going to the wrong part of town).

  • 1
    Welcome to MiYodeya. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Sep 19, 2018 at 16:57
  • 3
    A Cohen may marry a rape victim, if the victim was unmarried at the time of the rape, and the rapist was someone who would have been permitted to marry her (and not a halal).
    – Joel K
    Sep 20, 2018 at 11:54
  • If there are conditions that allow a Cohen to marry a rape victim, are there certain conditions that allow him to stay with his wife if she was raped?
    – user27343
    Sep 21, 2018 at 3:32

1 Answer 1


What you describe is an explicit Mishna in Ketuboth 2:9 that says that a Cohen has to divorce his wife if there's fair ground to assume that she was raped.

The reason being, that rape victims are forbidden under the classified of זֹנָה - one of the women forbidden to a Cohen, as per Vayikra 21:7.

In a nutshell: Technically they are only suspected of possibly being a זֹנָה, but since it's a Torah law we are required to be stringent. But it's more intricate than that.

Point being, it's a Biblical law hinted to in the Written Law and explicit in the Oral Law - and thus we don't have to understand the reasoning behind it. I.e. Gcd said so, so we do it.

Your question then becomes: who is going to support this unfortunate victim?

The answer is in the Mishna: her ex-husband should support her! Sources:

מֻתָּר לְאָדָם לָזוּן גְרוּשָׁתוֹ, וּמִצְוָה הִיא יוֹתֵר מִבִּשְׁאָר עָנִי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, (ישעיה נ"ח:ז') וּמִבְּשָׂרְךָ לֹא תִתְעַלָּם. וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא לוֹ עֵסֶק עִמָּהּ, רַק יְזוּנָהּ עַל יְדֵי שְּׁלִיחַ.‏

A man is permitted to support his divorcee, and it is a greater mitzvah to do so more than to support any other poor person, for it is said, "Do not hide from your own flesh." But he may have no personal contact with her, and should send her support through an agent.

  • This answer would be better if you defined what a Zonah is in this context Halakhically
    – Double AA
    Sep 20, 2018 at 12:32
  • First off, that mishna is not the correct source and it is not 100% that she must be divorced(there must be certain conditions; he never has to divorce her because of safek). See Shulchan Aruch Even Ha'ezer 6:10-13. Sep 20, 2018 at 19:02
  • Chacham Nisan - What if there is no safek?
    – user27343
    Sep 21, 2018 at 3:26
  • @user27343 The she must be divorced; given certain conditions exist. Sep 21, 2018 at 8:18
  • @chachamNisan - the question isn't WHEN to divorce her, but 1. Where does this Halacha come from that sometimes she has to be divored, and 2. Who will feed this divorced lady? That is the answer I provided. Oct 2, 2018 at 14:23

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