Sunday, November 21, 2004

It seems Zev was looking for a response from me with his post below, "Kinsey on Haredim".

My first response: Zev, you are big fat idiot, and nobody loves you.

Second, as far as halacha is concerned, polygamy is mutar. There are rules about polygamy (this isn't, after all, vietnam) but Yemenites were practicing this even into this century. There is nothing in the kesubah that we use today which prohibits this, as far as I know, and only cherem keeps ashkenazi men from marrying multiple women. I haven't looked into the matter, to be honest, but we could all perhaps pull a ginsbu and marry ourserves a harem of docile Persian teenagers.

More to the point, and to answer your question: No, it is not immoral. At least it wasn't for the Avos, and the way your question was framed, it can only be interpreted as attempting to refer to some universal extra-halachic morality (because as pointed out above, the halachic answer is obvious) - implying that if it is immoral today, it was immoral for them, and I think you're frummer than to try and imply that.

I could say more, but that'll do for now. Here's some unnecessarily transparent song lyrics:
Sonic Youth
"Diamond Sea"

Time takes its crazy toll
and how does your mirror grow
you better watch yourself when you jump into it
'cause the mirror's gonna steal your soul

I wonder how it came to be my friend
that someone just like you has come again
you'll never, never know how close you came
until you fall in love with the diamond rain

throw all his trash away
look out he's here to stay
your mirror's gonna crack when he breaks into it
and you'll never never be the same

look into his eyes and you can see
why all the little kids are dressed in dreams
I wonder how he's gonna make it back
when he sees that you just know it's make-belief

blood crystalized as sand
and now I hope you'll understand
you reflected into his looking glass soul
and now the mirror is your only friend

look into his eyes and you will see
that men are not alone on the diamond sea
sail into the heart of the lonely storm
and tell her that you'll love her eternally

time takes its crazy toll
mirror fallin' off the wall
you better look out for the looking glass girl
'cause she's gonna take you for a fall

look into his eyes and you shall see
why everything is quiet and nothing's free
I wonder how he's gonna make her smile
when love is running wild on the diamond sea

Have a good week everybody, and send some love.


Zev said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Zev said...

Ok, I will use the comment section to address this instead of getting a full rejoinder going.
1. Menuval bereshut hatorah- yes, there is an extra-halachik morality. But no, it is not stagnant. On the issue of polygamy, I do believe moral attitudes can change.
2. The avot married with tacit or explicit consent from their wives, they did not go about it surreptitiously. Sarah gave Avraham Hagar and Rachel helped Leah marry Yaakov. So in those cases at least there was most certainly consent by the other party. I claim, that in Haredi marriages, because sex is a secondary concern, and not primary, one spouse need not get the consent from the other.
3. And what about wives, pray tell? Why is it somehow morally wrong for wives to cheat, but not their husbands?
4. I will not respond to the ad homonym attacks here.

ginsbu said...

While I'm certainly honored that I have inspired Oren to inaugurate the phrase "pull a ginsbu" — sephardi-ism for all, I say! — I would like to note for the record that I haven't marry myself a harem just yet and, given that I lack any discernible love life, the notion that I'll will do seems a bit fanciful, wouldn't you say?

Regardless, as to the subject at hand, (to paraphrase Rabbi Brovender) I have two answers: one, I don't know; and two, yes there is within judaism an extra-halachic morality or value system (contrary to Yeshayahu Leibovitz) which serves a number of purposes: (1) to guide conduct in areas where halacha is not explicit, (2) to invest halachic conduct with moral intention (where halacha has such intention), and (3) to guide halachic decisors in weighing other extra-halachic factors, e.g. sociological, in arriving at p'sak for their communities. This shouldn't be controversial. There are a number of books on the halachic system and process that deal with these issues, including by Ephraim Urbach, Eliezer Berkovitz and Joel Roth — if you don't believe me, read!

There is a further question as to whether this extra-halachic jewish morality or value system evolves or remains static. I don't know if there is any substantial consensus on this, but it may depend on the form this extra-halachic morality or value system takes, i.e. whether it (like halacha) is itself a rule-based ethic or whether it is a virtue ethic, etc. Rabbi Yitzchak Blau has an article that deals with some of these issues titled "The Implications of a Jewish Virtue Ethic", available at:

Whether it is static or evolving, changing attitudes to polygamy within judaism can be interpreted to fit. One could say that the extra-halachic morality evolved and polygamy is no longer compatible with it. Alternatively, one could say something like that following: it is an unchanging extra-halachic value that jewish practice should not be seen to permit what is generally regarded (outside Yemen and similar places) as immoral when the practice is not halachically demanded; as polygamy is not obligatory (under any circumstance that I know of), judaism should not permit polygamy today (outside Yemen maybe). Or one could say that it is virtually impossible for the halachic requirements to allow polygamy (there are some) to be satisfied today so, in the absence of any extra-halachic need to allow polygamy in a small minority of permissible cases, there is an imperative to disallow it in all cases based on the extra-halachic psycho-social prediction that otherwise people would erroneously engage in polygamy without meeting the halachic requirements. I'm sure you could come up with other interpretations too — theology and meta-legal theorizing both allow plenty of room for creativity.

Jose said...

I think there is perhaps a distinction to be drawn between wife-swapping and polygamy. In polygamy a man is able to marry mulitiple wives. However, what was going on in _Kinsey_ was more akin to "Open Marriages" in which both spouses were able to have sexual relationships with people to whom they were not married, without spousal consent regarding the specific partner that they chose to be with.
Is it legitimate to draw a distinction between these two types of non-exclusive sexual behaviours? I can't answer this question as my knowledge on this halakha is next to nothing.

Jose said...

oh and Zev, you were looking for "ad hominem", for while homonym is homonymous with hominem, homonym means "similar or like sounding" whereas hominem is the dative case for "man". Couldn't help it, it was too perfect.

Zev said...

Jose, you lose. Miriam pointed out my spelling error first.