Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ein Bissel Torah (A Little Torah)

Shabbat lunch last week. Host is telling a joke based on the halacha of kiddushin (betrothal)–or how a man acquires a woman to be his wife. Joke goes over my head. Hostess kindly provides background.

Hostess: There are three ways the man can acquire a wife. The first way is pay for her—to give her money. Today we give a ring. The second way is to sign a contract—that is the ketubah.

Me: Okay…. (So far this is all familiar).

Hostess: The third way is to have sex with her.

Me: You break it, you buy it?

Hostess: Exactly.

Now, if I understood Hostess correctly, if a Jewish man has sex with a Jewish woman, he has bought her. They are married. Maybe it is just me, but that is a bit worrying. What happens when our friendly neighborhood Jewish Taliban picks up on this, and starts to demand strict application of this particular bit of halacha? At least in my neighborhood, to do so would mean that the number of children deemed mamzerim would increase exponentially. Because while there certainly are people who do not have sex before marriage (the official kind of marriage), there are also quite a few who have engaged in payment-option number three long before they ever made it to the chuppah. And with people other than their eventual chuppah partner.

On the other hand, one does have to admit that a strict application would do wonders for solving the singles crisis in the Jewish community.


Anonymous said...

Now, if I understood Hostess correctly, if a Jewish man has sex with a Jewish woman, he has bought her. They are married.

Er, not quite. He has to have had sex with her with the intent of marrying her, and she has to agree. Plus there have to be two kosher witnesses (I never understood quite how that worked in practice for this option).

It's the same with option number one: you aren't automatically married to any man that gave you money :)

Gamba Yisrael said...

The third option is encapsulated in the 'Yichud' at Ashkenazi weddings -- the witnessed entrance of the couple into a closed room.
Since this means that witnessing any 'enclosing' of a couple is equivalent to witnessing their having had intercourse, you can understand why the ultra-O get so hot under the collar about such mundane things as elevators and taxis.
Anon - unfortunately there is a Talmudic dictum (or perhaps dick-tum!) that a man does not have intercourse for the purpose of prostitution; therefore a 'get safek' is required (divorce just-in-case).

JewishGal said...

Yes, with the sex option there has to be witnesses and intent. Like with the money or the ring, the intent has to be marriage. If not, any time a man gives a woman anything worth more than the minimum (1c or something?) or pays for a meal or movie ticket, they could be married :)

Anonymous said...

The determination between whether it is beliat znut or not is whether the lady went to the mikveh beforehand.

If the woman did not go the mikveh, they cannot be married through relations.

If the woman did go to the mikveh... it would be best to get a get.