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Marriage

Martha, daughter of Boethus

Martha, daughter of Boethus, was a widow from the respected Boethus family of Jerusalem who remarried a future High Priest of Israel. According to tradition, she paid a large sum of money to buy the position for her betrothed, Joshua ben Gamla, from King Yannai (BT Yevamot 61a). In the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:418]Tannaitic[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (mishnaic) tradition, the marriage of Martha daughter of Boethus and the High Priest Joshua ben Gamla (first century c.e.) is tied to a change in the laws of marital status pertaining to the High Priest. “[A priest who] betrothed a widow, and was subsequently appointed High Priest, may consummate the marriage. It once happened with Joshua b. Gamla that he betrothed Martha the daughter of Boethus, and the King appointed him High Priest, and he consummated the marriage.” ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:361]Mishnah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Yevamot 6:4; Sifra, Emor 2:6). A High Priest may not marry a widow, but Joshua ben Gamla and Martha are an example of a High Priest married to a widow, although he betrothed her prior to becoming a High Priest. It can be assumed that Martha saw to it that her future husband achieved a high position, and perhaps even used her wealth to bring about the change in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:317]halakhah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary].

Mariamme I The Hasmonean

Mariamme was the daughter of Alexander, Aristobulus II’s son, and Alexandra, Hyrcanus II’s daughter. Her grandfathers were the two rival Hasmoneans who invited Rome to intervene in Judaean internal affairs and eventually brought about the downfall of the Hasmonean kingdom. Abraham Schalit calculates that her father and mother could have been married only between 55 and 49 B.C.E., after Alexander’s revolt against Rome was crushed and before his own execution at the hands of the Romans (Ant. 14:125). She was thus probably born in 54 B.C.E.

Levant: Women in the Jewish Communities after the Ottoman Conquest of 1517

Far-reaching changes began to take place in the Jewish world at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Following the expulsion from Spain in 1492 there was a period of wandering and political, demographic and social upheaval. On the one hand, this led to an encounter between the Jews who had left Spain and Portugal and the traditions of Ashkenaz, North Africa, Italy and the Orient; it also led to many personal crises, sundered families, and other disasters, which left women as agunot and widows.

Legal-Religious Status of the Virgin

The basic [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:339]ketubbah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] of a virgin (two hundred maneh [one maneh=fifty shekels]) was double that of a non-virgin (one hundred maneh) ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:361]Mishnah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Ketubbot 1:2). Those who were divorced or widowed while betrothed but before marriage retain their status of virgin. This difference was doubled in the case of the daughter of a priest who was a virgin, whose basic ketubbah was four hundred maneh (Mishnah Ketubbot 1:5). This distinction emphasizes the value of virginity and the significance of sexual exclusivity on the part of the woman to her husband and, in the case of the priest, the value of caste status. A number of situations were described biblically which deal with the seduction or the rape of a virgin who is either unattached or betrothed. Consensual sexual intercourse of the betrothed or married woman with someone other than her husband would put both the woman and her paramour in the category of adulterers. Seduction is considered to be consensual but the cases discussed in the Bible according to rabbinic interpretation were dealing with minor girls who did not have the legal right of consent. [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:383]Rambam[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] covers this material in Hilkhot Na’arah Betulah.

Legal-Religious Status of the Suspected Adulteress (Sotah)

Perhaps one of the most embarrassing and humiliating situations for a man, particularly in the Middle East, is infidelity on the part of his wife. Suspicion of infidelity creates a similar dynamics in the Jewish legal system but is moderated by issues of doubt. A man’s suspicion of infidelity on the part of his wife is one of the most prejudicial legal situations for women, clearly demonstrating inequality in the marriage relationship. When a man acquires a woman as his wife, he acquires exclusive rights to her sexuality. The reverse, of course, is not true, since a man (until the decree of Rabbenu Gershom [c. 960–1028] for Ashkenazic Jews and the rise of the State of Israel also for Sephardic Jews, with some anomalous situations still existing) is permitted to have more than one wife as well as concubines, and his legal status is unprejudiced by fornication.

Legal-Religious Status of the Moredet (Rebellious Wife)

A [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:365]moredet[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] is defined as a married woman who refuses to have sexual relations with her husband (the most normal case), or refuses to do the assigned work of the wife ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:361]Mishnah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Ketubbot 5:5), a betrothed girl or woman whose set time for marriage has arrived and who refuses to marry, or a [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:430]yevamah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] who refuses to undergo [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:431]yibbum[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:349]levirate marriage[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]) with the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:429]yavam[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (levir). The cases of the married woman refusing sexual relations and the yevamah refusing yibbum demonstrate that the legal concept of a married woman includes the idea that she has given ongoing and permanent consent to sexual relations and that refusal thus constitutes rebellion.

Legal-Religious Status of the Married Woman

The rabbis established the criteria necessary for legal marriage. These include the man’s acquiring (purchasing) the woman with a formula that indicates that he is the purchaser, the sole active party in the marriage process: payment of the appropriate minimum amount of money; or a document with the appropriate formula; or sexual relations for the sake of marital acquisition ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:383]Rambam[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], Ishut 3: 2–5). There must be two valid witnesses. The acquisition must be done with the woman’s consent and any document must be written specifically in her name. There must be two valid witnesses to the seclusion of the couple for marriage by sexual relations, the man must state that it is for marriage through sexual relations, and he must complete a sexual act even if it is not vaginal intercourse. Although sexual relations for the sake of marriage constitute legal marriage, it was considered inappropriate behavior and the man was flogged for performing this type of marriage (ibid. 3:21). Casual giving of goods using a marriage formula is not considered marriage since it must be part of a serious conversation with marriage as its purpose (ibid. 3:7). The father may betroth his minor and maiden daughter to a Jewish man without her consent, but if she is subsequently divorced or widowed as a minor, she is considered an orphan in his lifetime and he no longer has the right to marry her off (ibid. 3: 11–12). A minor girl cannot arrange her own marriage. Marriage can be accomplished by agency from both the husband’s side and the wife’s side, but it is considered a [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:362]mitzvah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] for the man to see the woman prior to marriage lest he find something repulsive in her that the agent would not notice. The woman is not obligated to see the man before marriage because of the rabbinic understanding that she would prefer to be married even if the man was not appealing (ibid. 3:15, 19). A blessing (birkat erusin) should be recited (ibid. 3:24).

Legal-Religious Status of the Female According to Age

[jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:361]Mishnah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:373]Niddah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] 3:7 gives no status to the embryo prior to forty days from conception: it is considered “mere water.” At three months after conception, the pregnancy is considered recognizable (Niddah 2:4). This does not explicitly change the legal status of the fetus but rather that of the mother in terms of legal presumptions concerning her purity status. Some poskim do make a distinction in reference to abortion between the first forty days and three months.

Kurdish Women

The history of the community began well before the destruction of the First Temple and continued for many generations. Ancient tradition has it that Jews were settled in Kurdistan 2,800 years ago, part of the Ten Tribes dispersed by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser. Kurdish Jews identify themselves as amongst those described in the Prophets: “…the king of Assyria captured Samaria. He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah, at the [River] Habor, at the River Gozan…” (2 Kings 17:6), places which are in fact within the Kurdistan region.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

The basic approach of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook to women corresponds with his hierarchical approach to existence and to humankind (Yaron 1974; Bin Nun 1988): “I cannot make absolute divisions between entities, but only divisions according to rank” (Sarid 1998, 144).

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Marriage." (Viewed on September 26, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/marriage>.

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