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Temporary Marriage (Muta3h) in Judaism

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Whenever Rab came to Darshi he would announce: Who would be mine for a day?5 Whenever R. Nahman would come to Shekunzib he would have it announced: Who will be mine for a day? But has it not been taught: No man should marry a woman in one country and then go and marry a woman in another country lest they [their children] might marry one another with the result that a brother would marry his sister or a father his daughter, and one fill all the world with bastardy to which the scriptural passage refers: And the land become full of lewdness? — I will tell you: [The affairs of] the Rabbis are well-known. But did not Raba say: If one has proposed marriage to a woman and she has consented then she must await seven clean days? — The Rabbis informed them before by sending their messenger earlier. Or, if you like, say: They only arranged for private meetings with them, because ‘You cannot compare one who has bread in his basket with one who has no bread in his basket’.

Understanding the Above:

The above Talmudic section is about two rabbis who engaged in the practice of “temporary marriage” such a practice was commonplace in the ancient eastern world. The Above Rabbinical sages no doubt drew upon the pre-islamic Persian custom of temporary marriage. The only objections raised by the practises of Rav and R. Nathan is not that they engage in temporary marriage but rather they do so in other countries, the fear being that people may not know who they are related to and half siblings might marry because of the distance if a child was to result.. This is quickly countered by the fact that these rabbis were well known and so this would never be a problem. The next objection is that it was impossible to have temporary marriage for just a day because there is a 7 day waiting period for a woman to be purified, however this is countered by the fact that one could send someone 7 days before one’s arrival to announce the temporary marriage. None of the objections are towards temporary marriage but rather at marriage being done in foreign lands and temporary marriage for less than 7 days, but all objections are easily defeated. We are then given an analogy about a bread in a basket, which demonstrates why the rabbis engaged in such a practice. We are informed that having bread in a basket (having a wife available to ones self) prevents the cravings that accompany an empty basket (having no lawful woman in which to have intercourse); in other words “having a temporary wife to have intercourse with is better than having no wife and fornicating outside of marriage.

(Babylonian Talmud Yoma 18b)

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