The Shmooze

Israeli Rabbi Wants To Bring Polygamy Back

By Ben Sales

  • Print
  • Share Share

One thousand years ago, German Jewish sage Rabbeinu Gershom forbade polygamy in the Jewish community. Now, a rabbi in Israel wants to reinstate the practice.

Rabbi Yehezkel Sopher, who heads the organization Complete Jewish Family, placed an advertisement in a popular pamphlet handed out at synagogue calling for the return of plural marriage, according to the Jerusalem Post. The ad quoted the influential Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who wrote in a treatise on Jewish law that non-Ashkenazim should not follow the decree of Rabbeinu Gershom, who was Ashkenazi.

Israel, like most Western countries, prohibits polygamy — though according to a 2008 survey of the practice, hundreds of families in the Israel practice plural marriage, especially within the Bedouin community.

Sopher, however, said he was not concerned with state law, but rather with Jewish law. He claimed that no Jews need follow the 11th-century polygamy ban, as, according to Sopher, it expired at the turn of the millennium in the Jewish year 5000, or 1240. And though the Israeli chief rabbinate also opposes polygamy, Sopher chalked that up to their receiving state salaries. He also noted that plural marriage was common among the Jews of the Bible.

Sopher suggested that Israel should treat marrying a second wife like it treats gay marriage. Although gay marriage is forbidden in Israel, the Israeli government recognizes same-sex marriages performed outside its borders. “You can legally marry a second woman, the same way the secular public figured out how to marry in Cyprus and then have it approved here,” Sopher told the Post.

Although he has one wife, Sopher says that the option to marry a second is open to him. Complete Jewish Family supports polygamy in order to increase Jewish fertility and prevent single Jewish women from marrying non-Jews.

A range of rabbis in Israel, including Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, have come out against Sopher and polygamy.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yehezkel Sopher, Rabbeinu Gershom, Polygamy, Ovadia Yosef, Israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.