Jun 22, 2009

Marrying a Second Wife

Here is an interesting situation...

We have all heard of the hetter mei'ah rabbonim - because Rabbeinu Gershom put a ban on marrying a second wife, and divorce can no longer be done against the will of the wife, if the husband wishes to dissolve a marriage, he can be held "hostage" by the wife's demands, just like she can be held hostage to his demands.

The hetter mei'ah rabbonim resolves the problem for the husband, because really he is allowed to marry a second wife, but we don't allow it by rabbinic decree. If the beis din can get 100 rabbis to agree, from countries spread out over three continents, the hetter will allow him to marry again, despite still being technically married to the first wife.

The hetter is used, though only rarely and in extreme cases.

It is famously known that the decrees of Rabbeinu Gershom only applied among Ashkenazic Jewry, and were never accepted in the Sefardic countries. That means there is no ban on marrying a second wife for sefardim, and no need for the hetter mei'ah rabbonim.

That leads to a recent case in which a husband in his seventies wanted to divorce his wife claiming she never took care of him and was mean to him, and was turning their kids against him.

She refuses to accept a divorce, claiming she loves him. This is despite the fact that they have been living separately for a number of years, have already divided up and split all possessions, and beis dins marriage counselor has established that there is no chance they will get back together. Yet she refuses the get.

because they are sefardic, Yemenites actually (note: some old Yemenites still have multiple wives, but I don't think any new marriages of multiple wives are allowed), they had no need to obtain a hetter mei'ah rabbonim. Rather all they needed was a decision by beis din to allow him to marry again.

And so they decided, based on the wife's adamant refusal to accept a get, to give the husband a hetter, without the need for 100 rabbis signatures, to marry another wife. (source: NRG)

So now it is up to the shadchanim to find him a [second] wife. get working!


  1. B"H

    1. If I remember correctly, with all due respect to Rabbenu Gershon, there wasn't little explanation behind this that survived {correct me if I'm wrong}. There was speculation that either he succumbed to Christian pressure.

    2. Important to point out that it was a taqanah, as he of course could not say it was not mutar to marry more than one wife.

    3. Why should Sephardim accepted his ruling? I know you weren't suggesting that they should. It's just an important question to ask. arrogant ethnocentricism {common all around, not just with Ashkinazim} dictates that they should.

    4. This clearly a taqanah mostly made for, by, and because of Galuth, and should have nor relevance in Eretz Yisrael.

    5. This idea of one man with only one wife is a Western-Christian concept, NOT at all a Jewish one. I find it both comical and disturbing when I hear that American Ashkinazim actually think that it is a Jewish concept.

    5. The time of the taqanah is up anyway. No one seems to care.

    6. More importantly, and more interesting {since I know that readers of my comments will bash and or laugh at the above} he Israeli government continues to show its hypocrisy when is allows all different kinds of sexual relations under the "law," yet cracks down on the "oppressive atrocity" of polygamy. Yet, it looks the other way when Bedouins do it.

    7. Maybe I should like the Mormons in the U. S., and register only one wife, then the other can get separate welfare for being a single mother.

    Thank you secular and religious European Jews.

    8. On another note, where the heck are all those unmarried over 30 yo women everyone keeps talking about?

    Will someone please introduce me?

  2. I can't handle one wife - how the heck is someone supposed to handle two or more??

    I guess the heter for sefardim to marry more than one wife goes hand in hand with the sefardi "custom" of wife-beating.

    Although, I guess any woman who is willing to be a second wife is already a pushover.

  3. You caught me.

    Everyone always tells me that I should try having one before I start talking about having more than one.


  4. ben - it is really moot considering we live in western countries and it is illegal.
    true, nobody officially re-accepted the ban, but nobody is working to overturn it either. Nobody (except jews in Arab countries which are very few) nowadays marries two wives, and it is going to take more than a ban quietly disappearing for that to begin happening.

    I thought he made the ban because of his personal experience. he had married a second wife and she ended up having an affair with a Roman (?) soldier, converted and left him.

    True, sefardim never accepted it. They probably never even heard of it until much later.

  5. I forgot to mention that the other speculation is that Jewish merchants had families in different ports, which caused a variety of problems.

    You could be right, though.

    It's only moot if you don't want to go to jail, I suppose.

    In Israel, it is a completely different story.

    Dina Malkhuth Dina does not apply in Eretz Yisrael. We

    On the other hand, if you tell me that there are many more injustices in Israel worth fighting against, before fighting for the right to marry multiple wives, then I would certainly agree with you.

    Yemenites who already had more than one wife were not forced to divorce when they arrived. So, one strategy is to marry a second wife in Egypt or Jordan where it is "legal." Then register the marriage at Misrad HaPnim. I doubt that it would work, though.

    The main point I wanted to make was regarding the hypocrisy of the Western-assimilated, Israeli Government.

    BTW, it's "Ben-Yehudah" or "Ya'aqov," "ben" not being a name, but an adjectival noun {as you most certainly know}.

    :-} OK?

  6. I (jokingly) asked my wife if I could have a second wife.
    She said, "No problem...as long as she does floors, laundry, dishes, ..."

  7. Yaak's got a Really SMART wife!

  8. I tend to agree w/ Anonymous. One wife is already enough.

  9. RAFI:

    "from countries spread out over three continents"

    this doesn't make sense. are you sure?


    "Maybe I should like the Mormons in the U. S., and register only one wife, then the other can get separate welfare for being a single mother."

    or you can be like the frum jews in brooklyn who don't even register the first wife, and then she can get welfare for being a single mother.

    "This idea of one man with only one wife is a Western-Christian concept, NOT at all a Jewish one."

    how avraham avinu to the geonim, how many jews can you identify that had more than one wife

    "cracks down on the "oppressive atrocity" of polygamy"

    i assume you're defending here polygyny, not polygamy

  10. LOZ - I think I am correct. The idea is that it should not be too simple to obtain the signatures - a rabbi could just call a bunch of his buddies and get them to sign. if it has to be geographically spread out then it is more likely the signatures will only be obtained based on the merits of the case.

    BTW, I recently heard that the State of Israel (and the rabbanut) do not generally accept the hetter mei'ah rabbonim, considering it too wishy washy and unreliable.

  11. RAFI:

    i'm trying to imagine a rav living in northern euope in the 13th century trying to collect 100 signatures from 3 continents.

    in the early 1900s there was a question in america if the individual states were considered independent countries for the purpose of a heter meah rabbanim. the question revolved around the nature of american governance at a time when american states were thought of as independent entities.

  12. I have not heard a cogent argument as to why Rabenu Gershom's takana should still apply.

    Granted, in the vast majority of situations having two wives is inappropriate. A man must have the means (materially, emotionally) to support two wives/two families, and this is no trifling matter. But, in the cases in which it would be possible, the opposition to polygamy is really a form of hypocricy: we would find womans' rights groups up in arms, but the truth is that there are many women who are getting on in years and who want children who would benefit greatly from polygamy. It might go a long way to alleviating the shiduch crisis.

    The problem is really one of indoctrination and consciousness, not halacha, and not what's beneficial for klal Yisrael.

  13. Uh, BY, with an attitude like yours, I'm not sure how far you're going to get with even desperate 30 year old women

  14. LOZ:

    Not "Jews," but Yisrael. You're question is irrelevant. Who cares? It's still the halacha.


    Why should the guv'mint accept heter rabbanim at all? It's not in line with assimilationist/Western/Eruv Rav standards. ;-}

  15. Micha: Your comment makes the most sense, I think.

  16. The takkana is the takkana, but the real reason it binds to us is that the takkana was accepted so widely by Bnei Yisrael.

    We have a super-strong minhag of not taking a second wife. You can't rebel against your ancestors like that and still consider yourself a halachic Jew. It is not right for everyone to do what is "good in their eyes".

    Furthermore, not one Talmudic rabbi had more than one wife.

  17. Wrong. This is certainly not how minhagim work.

    What you choose to do in Galuth {that includes inside of your head, if you live in EY}, is of no concern of mine.

    Who's "we?" Several segments of Am Yisrael never accepted this taqanah in the first place. Oppression of halacha by the Israeli gov't does not count as "acceptance," either.

    Yemenites and others have an unbroken chain of tradition regarding second wives {I'm applying your reasoning here, too.}. This taqanah is irrelevant to them.

    But, of course, as I said above, minhaggei avoth are not in force, and one of the biggest Jewish shams that exists today. I defy you to show me a halachic {not hashqafic} source supporting this. {No, not Mishlei 1:8, and not the inaccurate girsha of the Yerushalmi - Arachin}

  18. There are cases in which the Talmud talks about the wives of the Hachamim, but there are many, many more hachamim mentioned whose wive(s) we know nothing about whatsoever. Why should I assume that none had two wives?


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