Sunday, March 19, 2006

Premarital Relations

It seems enough buzz has been created by Dr. Zvi Zohar's recent article in the journal Akdamot about premarital relations and the pilegesh (concubine) status (link to Jerusalem Post article) that I should add a few words.

1. I don't understand what the big deal is. This is old news. There are dozens of articles on this subject, both academic and halakhic. For example, in the 1997-8 issue of Dine Israel, the late Prof. Meir Simcha Feldblum of Bar Ilan University proposed a modified form of concubinage to solve the agunah and mamzer crises. His proposal was roundly rejected. See R. J. David Bleich, "Can There Be Marriage Without Marriage?" in Tradition, Winter 1999. The rabbi of the synagogue I attended as a teenager, R. Ephraim Kanarfogel, wrote about these medieval issues in his article in the 1992 Orthodox Forum book, R. Jacob J. Schacter ed., Jewish Tradition and the Non-Traditional Jew.

2. Just because there exist medieval or even rare modern views on a certain subject does not mean that those views are normative and may be implemented.

3. The responsa literature on the subject is full of very different communal settings and problems, and leaders of those communities struggling to find the best solutions for their community. From a public policy perspective, instituting any form of permitted premarital relations in today's society would be disastrous. No responsible community leader thinks this is a good idea.

4. I certainly would not want my daughter to be a pilegesh. She deserves to be a Sarah and not a Hagar.

UPDATE: It is worth noting that the issue of Akdamot (link) has three rebuttals to Dr. Zohar's proposal by R. Yehuda Henkin, R. Shmuel Ariel, and R. Mikhel Tukaczinsky and Rachel Sperber Frankel.

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