A relatively recent article by Dr. Tzvi Zohar in Akdamot has seemingly raised the whole pilagshut (concubinage) issue again, but, really, people have been talking about it for a while, now. Hirhurim notes a few other sources (and rebuttals), and I’m pretty sure R. Arthur Waskow was supporting this notion as a replacement for kiddushin a while back as well.

In short, a pilagesh is a woman permitted to sleep with a man, and (see Sanhedrin 21a) there’s no ketubah and no kiddushin involved. With no contract and no responsibility, there’s also no certainty of duration–the encounter can be for a night or a lifetime. The only thing that makes it “kosher” is that the woman can’t be in niddah (a state of menstrual “impurity”) and has to go to the mikveh after niddah and before intimate relations.

For some people, perhaps, there’s interest in making up an offical “pilgashut” agreement, wherein the woman becomes the pilegesh of the man, in lieu of kiddushin or its variations.

ADVANTAGES: Nobody gets bought, there’s no get issue, it’s a way of putting very modern idea into an ancient Jewish framework, it’s a way of giving a ritual a Jewish flavor if one primarily wants a civil/secular, rather than halakhic marriage.

DISADVANTAGES: There’s no ritual/legal binding, nobody is responsible or obligated to anyone else (which, at least to me, gives the thing a lot less weight and meaning, but I suppose others might see this as a pro), setting this up in a ritualized way is almost superfluous, since the whole point of pilagshut is that you don’t need the bells, whistles and contracts.


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5 responses to “Pilagshut

  1. Will

    See also the Hebrew article by Dr. Marc Shapiro in the most recent issue of Milin Havivin (a journal published by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah — you can contact them to get a free copy) called “Ha-im yesh maqom le-hatir et ha-pilegesh ke-pitaron helqi le-matzuqat ha-aguna ha-zekukah le-yibum? Iyyun histori-hilkhati me-hador ha-qodem” in which he cites a number of recent sources that suggest using pilagshut as a way to get around issues of rabbinically-forbidden relationships (e.g., kohen-giyoret).

  2. Amit

    You should point out that the Niddah-issue is a factor in every other relationship, and should be stressed to every couple who wishes to conduct their sex life in a halakhic manner.
    We – Ashkenazi American Jews – are bent up on marriage as the matir to sex, but the real matir for sex is the mikveh. Sex between partners in a state of niddah is the same as between siblings.
    The concepts and language, clearly, need cleaning up though

  3. Anthony

    I would be interested to know what Torah sources, particularly written Torah sources Professor Zohar the scholars would use to substantiate this claim of premarital sex. What is the difference between the modern secular practice of premarital sex and this except that the laws of nidah are adhered to? And what happens if the woman falls pregnant?

  4. Hi Anthony–

    You might want to check out this site: http://pilegesh.blogspot.com/
    It’s got a bunch of sources, and the first post is about Biblical sources.

    Whether or not you accept all of them, the text is pretty clear that Bilha was Yakov’s pilagesh (Bereishit 35:22), that Keturah was Avraham’s pilagesh (Bereishit 25:6) and that David HaMelech was all about the concubines ( 2Shmuel 5:13,2Shmuel 15:16-18). Whoever put up the site has a whole lot more, plus stuff from the Tur, Ramban, Rabbi Yaakov Emden. I don’t have the Zohar article in front of me so I can’t help you out there, but you’re welcome to track it down–go to the library!

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