Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pedophilia and the Talmud


[cover from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov]

Some people claim that Orthodox Judaism permits adult men to have sex with little girls. Actually, this is true. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’ezer section 37 is entitled “All the Laws of Betrothing a Little Girl”. However, certain stringent conditions must be met before this union is condoned by Talmudic law.

First of all, the couple must be married. There must be a legally binding, publicly committed, long term relationship between the man and the girl. Offering her candy and driving away with her is not allowed.

Second of all, her father must consent to the union and participate in the betrothal ceremony.

Thirdly, a man is not allowed to have sex with his wife without her consent, as is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim section 240:3.

Considering this, how frequent are sexual relations between adult Orthodox Jewish men and little girls, with the blessings of the rabbis? Not very. I know of no Jewish bride in modern times who was under 17. In ancient times, my impression is that typically brides were 12 while the grooms were 18. In fact, the Talmud Tractate Kiddushin 41a states “It is prohibited for a father to betroth his daughter in marriage until she matures and declares that she wishes to marry the groom.” Tosafos however does qualify that by saying that in a situation of extreme poverty and economic uncertainty, as was the case for Jews in medieval France, a man may marry off his small daughter if he is afraid that later he will not have the financial means to do so and she will therefore remain a lifelong spinster.

In conclusion, based upon the available documentation, a sexual relationship between an adult man and a little girl, with the consent of the rabbis, seems to have been a rarity which was permitted in some unusual, emergency situations in medieval Europe. Today it is unimaginable.

33 comments:

NoLiveGod said...

"In conclusion, based upon the available documentation, a sexual relationship between an adult man and a little girl, with the consent of the rabbis, seems to have been a rarity which was permitted in some unusual, emergency situations in medieval Europe. Today it is unimaginable. "

But is it prohibited?

What is said about sexual relations between adult Orthodox Jewish men and little boys?

Mahla said...

Whoa, that just blew my mind! :^O I had never heard anything about this before.

jewish philosopher said...

"But is it prohibited?"

No. Although in the United States you'll probably land in prison. Check out Warren Jeffs for details. He's serving 10 to life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Jeffs

"What is said about sexual relations between adult Orthodox Jewish men and little boys?"

And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0320.htm#13

"that just blew my mind!"

I understand that in rural areas, child brides are common in Iran.

http://www.parstimes.com/women/child_marriage.html

NC said...

Your explaining away of child marriage is no better than explaining away levirate marriage, slavery, raping captives of war, an eye for an eye, stoning adulterers and burning idolators.

These things were part of the ethics at the time, which the Bible reflects and advocates. Later, these things were considered morally unacceptable, even by the rabbis, so they found ways to change Judaism, while rationalizing the passages in the Torah with reinterpretation.

This is much as today rabbis rationalize violating the sabbath to save non-Jews, even though classic halachic sources, including the shulchan aruch, clearly prohibit it.

Mahla, it is important that you not get the impression that JP in any way represents mainstream Jewish or Orthodox though. He does not.

jewish philosopher said...

Slavery was not necessarily a bad thing, as I've explained here.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/04/slavery-is-it-evil.html

The net result of slavery over history has probably been positive.

It is true that the Talmud does sometimes contradict the Torah, as I've explained here

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/05/eternal-torah.html

However never the less, I regard the Oral Law as being clearly authentic

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2010/03/jewish-literature-seeing-effects-of.html

"He does not."

So who does? Anonymous teenagers blogging in their basements?

NC said...

"So who does? Anonymous teenagers blogging in their basements?"

By definition, "mainstream" means
"the principal or dominant course, tendency, or trend" or "belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, movement, style, etc."
(Dictionary.com)

Definitely not you. Probably lies somewhere near Conservative Judaism. That you consider anything other than extreme anti-science ultra-orthodox as illegitimate has no bearing on this. Kind of like Wahhabi Muslims who think everybody else is a heretic.

jewish philosopher said...

I would say I represent the mainstream of Orthodox Judaism, which, until about about 1850 or so was just known as "Judaism".

NC said...

"I would say I represent the mainstream of Orthodox Judaism,"

Fortunately, you lie.


"Mainstream Orthodoxy" does not advocate the death penalty for homosexuals, or expelling heretics by breaking up families. Just look at the OU or Agudah web sites. Nor does it say that skeptics will "burn in hell".

Anonymous said...

ת״ר הגרים והמשחקין בתינוקות מעכבין את המשיח

The above from Talmud Tractate Niddah 13b: "Converts and those who have intercourse (literally "sport") with minors block the arrival of the messiah.

The Talmud disapproved of marrying minors, based on this, although your blog post maintains that it was not outright prohibited. I have not done an extensive survey of the commentators on this statement in Nidda, but Rashi explains the objection as based on the inability to produce children from such a union, which is not the primary reason why a modern person might object to such behavior. Psychological trauma to the minor is not mentioned by Rashi, although this statement of disapproval refers to marriages. Rape--meaning forceful sexual intercourse, would be regarded as a crime, regardless of the age of the victim. "Seduction" would be as well.

The juxtaposition with converts is a bit jarring, although this observation has more to do with converts behaving inappropriately, based on lapsing into former habits, or ignorance of required standards of behavior under Jewish law, and thus setting a poor example for other(unknowledgeable) Jews to emulate.

I would gainsay that in modern times such behavior would be considered a Hillul Hashem, based on advancing standards of morality in this area, although many ancient societies allowed children to be married off young.

Anonymous said...

Biblical slavery actually a form of criminal justice. If a person stole and couldn't repay, he was sold. He lived with law abiding people. He did useful labor,and at the end of seven years he went free with lvestock, so he could make a fresh start. I think it was more humane than our modern practise of locking a criminal up with hundreds of other criminals where he might be raped and beaten.

And war is hell, and soldiers rape. Rules and regulations don't seem to help much. So the Torah's prescription of allowing someone to violate a captive only if he makes her his wife seems like a good idea. It is making the best of a bad situation.

Anonymous said...

""But is it prohibited?""

"No."

JP, I checked your source in Kiddushin, and I'd like you to correct me if I'm wrong. It seems that the normative halachah would be that it is prohibited, except under emergency cirumstances:

האיש מקדש את בתו כשהיא נערה: כשהיא נערה אין כשהיא קטנה לא מסייע ליה לרב דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב ואיתימא רבי אלעזר אסור לאדם שיקדש את בתו כשהיא קטנה עד שתגדל ותאמר בפלוני אני רוצה:

Mishnah: "A man can marry his daughter when she is an adolescent." The Gemara qualifies: When she is an adolescent--yes, when she is a minor (under 12)--no. This is supported by the statement of Rabbi Jehuda (and some say Rabbi Eleazer): It is FORBIDDEN for a man to marry off his daughter while she is a minor, until she matures (reaches Bas Mitvah) and is able to say--I wish to marry this man.

I understand Tosfos's point that in their times there was occasionally a fear that a girl might be left without a provider if she wasn't bethrothed to a potential suitor at the time the opportunity prevented itself, but they seem to describe this as a concession to emergent circumstances in their day, not blanket permission for men to marry minors.

It's similar to pushing aside Shabbos prohibitions due to pikuach nefesh-the prohibition remains in place, but is occasionally pushed aside during unusual circumstances.

jewish philosopher said...

"Just look at the OU or Agudah web sites."

Agudah doesn't have a website.

About the OU, I found this:

"Homosexual behavior between males or between females is absolutely forbidden by Jewish law"

http://www.ou.org/public_affairs/article/ou_resp_same_sex_marriage

"those who have intercourse (literally "sport") with minors block the arrival of the messiah."

The Talmud there afterwards explains that this refers to men who marry pre-pubescent girls and therefore are guilty of neglecting to father children.

"The meaning rather is: Those that marry minors who are not capable of bearing children"

http://www.come-and-hear.com/niddah/niddah_13.html#PARTb

"It seems that the normative halachah would be that it is prohibited, except under emergency cirumstances:"

That's basically what I'm saying. Girls marrying before 12 was always discouraged and unusual as far as I know.

Alex said...

"There must be a legally binding, publicly committed, long term relationship between the man and the girl. Offering her candy and driving away with her is not allowed."

How can there be a long term relationship between the man and the girl BEFORE they're married?

Or do you mean a PROMISE of a long term relationship? Who measures that?

jewish philosopher said...

Jewish marriages on the average are pretty long term.

Garnel Ironheart said...

What's been lost in this conversation is the difference between the Torah level and Rabbinic level laws. In many cases activities the Torah permits have become de facto prohibited by rabbinic law or custom. Yes they are technically allowed but because of the strength of rabbinic law they just aren't done anymore.
Technically I can pick up and swing a hammer on Shabbos. I don't because it's muktzeh.
Technically a man can do yibum - levirate marriage - with his deceased brother's wife. But try to find teh beis din that'll do that today. As far back as the gemara yibum was pretty much never done.
The same goes for polygamy, a destitute man marrying off his 3 year old daughter against her will and girls under the age of 17-18 getting married. They simply aren't done today. It's the subtle but firm way Judaism has adjusted the permissible within halachic limits as life changes.

NC said...

Garnel, you stated it elegantly and correctly, however, my premise still remains: Moral standards in many areas got stricter over time in general society, which is something the rabbis had to assimilate into Judaism. The source of this higher morality is not the Torah, but came in spite of it.

You gave only examples "within halacha", presumably when the prevailing morality is stricter than that of the Torah, and thus doesn't violate it. (although with yibum the torah clearly prefers it to chalitza)

But there are examples of the reverse-- where a torah prohibition or admonition is considered unacceptable and thus changed-- like laws of capital punishment, violating shabbat for a non Jew, prohibition against interest, women as witnesses, laws of inheritance, etc etc.

My point is that the rabbis had to change Judaism, in spite of the torah, to insure its compatibility with changing society. The Torah itself reflects morality in a particular time and set of cirumstances which no longer exist.

Alex said...

JP, your response to my question is so NOT a response to my question. Please try again.

GodAwful said...

Garnel
...The same goes for polygamy, a destitute man marrying off his 3 year old daughter against her will and girls under the age of 17-18 getting married. They simply aren't done today. It's the subtle but firm way Judaism has adjusted the permissible within halachic limits as life changes...

Unfortunately, prohibitions and customs are easily initiated but never disestablished or invalidated simply because the tenure of time is invoked as some sort of godly imprimatur. Hundreds of meaningless chumras and rituals have become institutionalized simply because of intelectual laziness to assess their validity.
Thus, chasidim wear their heavy black garb in midst of a hot august and cholov yisroel is the de-rigueur, even though halachicaly there is realy no reason for them. There are many more examples. Asceticsm doesn't equal piety and self abnegation is more atune with fundamentalist Islam then authentic Judaism.

jewish philosopher said...

"The source of this higher morality is not the Torah, but came in spite of it."

I think it's very difficult to argue that the ancient Israelites were brutal savages who have since become civilized thanks to the influence of gentile society.

Altruism originated with the Torah, as I have explained here.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/01/genius-of-judaism-kindness.html

The Mishnah Makkos 1:10 states

סנהדרין ההורגת אחד בשבוע, נקראת חבלנית

"A Sanhedrin which imposes capital punishment once in seven years is excessively harsh".

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/b/h/h45.htm

This was written at a time and place where the primary form of entertainment was gladiatorial combat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladiator

Also, just incidentally, slavery is probably as common today as it ever was

http://www.iabolish.org/slavery_today/index.html

As is sex with children

http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/child_sexual_abuse

As I have explained here, the level of violence and substance abuse in the Orthodox community today is probably among the lowest in the world.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/orthodox-jewish-crime.html

I would argue the contrary - the Jewish community is and was a island of civilization in a sea of barbarism.

Alex, I mean that you have to marry the girl before having sex with her.

NC said...

"I think it's very difficult to argue that the ancient Israelites were brutal savages who have since become civilized thanks to the influence of gentile society."

They most certainly were brutal, maybe no more than their gentile contemporaries. Just read the Bible, which is full of stories of mass murder and genocide.

What civilized them was 2 factors:

1. They were a small powerless minority who needed to behave or else.

2. Influences of Greek and Western moral philosophy of equality.

jewish philosopher said...

"Just read the Bible, which is full of stories of mass murder and genocide."

The massacre of the Midianites was an anomaly, as I explained here.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/02/massacre-of-midianites.html

"They were a small powerless minority who needed to behave or else."

It depends when. David and Solomon had great power. The Hasmoneans had an independent state.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasmonean

"Influences of Greek and Western moral philosophy of equality."

Greece, including Athens, included large numbers of slaves. Modern western countries have often been extremely racist. Even today in the US, the government makes a huge legal distinction between a citizen and non-citizen. I don't understand who has ever believed in equality.

Mahla said...

JP, you're right about child marriage in Iran, especially rural Iran, being a problem. :^(

The article you linked to in the Pars Times additionally mentioned that parents often contract young children into marriages long before they are of the age of consent.

If I we had remained in Iran, I would actually be married to my cousin right now. We were promised to one another as babies. However, we would not have actually married until we I finished school, since my father is a strong supporter of education for women.

I have just literally never heard of ~anything~ like this in connection to Judaism before, that's what blew my mind.

jewish philosopher said...

Have you tried giving your cousin a call recently? I am afraid he missed his big chance. ;-)

Garnel Ironheart said...

NC,

> Moral standards in many areas got stricter over time in general society

I would alter that to: Moral standards in many areas changed over time in general society. After all, the same society that no longer tolerates child brides does tolerate 14 year old girls going on the pill so they can sexually active, promiscuous behaviour, homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, etc. Judaism may have had to keep up with some things that have become unacceptable but those things that have become acceptable have not changed within Judaism.

Alex said...

I'd like to place a bet with you and your readers that you will not read this book:

http://blogs.yu.edu/facultynews/?p=664

Yeshiva University professor and nationally-prominent trauma psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz, the Gwendolyn and Joseph Strauss Chair in Jewish Education at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and David Mandel, longtime chief executive officer of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, have created this road map. They are the editors of Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community (KTAV), the most comprehensive book on the issue. To be released October 2010, Breaking the Silence brings together for the first time the insights and experience of the professionals – psychologists, social workers, pediatricians, attorneys, educators and rabbis – who have been on the front lines dealing with the issue for years.

jewish philosopher said...

I agree that abuse exists, just that it's far less than elsewhere, as I explain here.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/orthodox-jewish-crime.html

Alex said...

What you admit to, and what the book describes (including #s of arrests) are worlds apart.

jewish philosopher said...

I would honestly be grateful for any statistics, however to the best of my knowledge the difference between orthodox society and secular society regarding adults having sex with children is astronomical.

I would take a rough guess: one Orthodox child in a thousand has sexual intercourse with an adult before age 16, among Americans as a whole it's more like 1 in 10, maybe 1 in 5.

Alex said...

Actually I agree with you, but to see if you're truly willing to see the stats on the number of arrests made, vs what you've claimed, I'd insist that YOU post articles stating the stats, and not rely on your readers.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't have any other stats, however I will say this: if you have a child and do not want him or her to be sexually molested, probably the best thing you can do is join the Orthodox Jewish community. It doesn't guarantee anything, but your odds are better.

Anonymous said...

NOT TRUE! Odds are not better! how does being orthodox lower the odds of being molested? there are plenty of creeps out there.

jewish philosopher said...

I would take a rough guess: one Orthodox child in a thousand has sexual intercourse with an adult before age 16, among Americans as a whole it's more like 1 in 10, maybe 1 in 5.

Alex said...

Awaiting a book review from you:

http://thejewishstar.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/has-the-silence-been-broken-new-book-has-some-answers-but-doubts%C2%A0linger/