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Too Many Wives

By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

Posted on 08/17/20

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
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The Torah in Devarim 17:17 tells us that a king may not marry too many women as they might turn his heart away from Yiddishkeit. Similarly, he may not accumulate too much gold and silver. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 21b says that the posuk uses the terminology of “lo” (to him) referring to the king being forbidden to marry too many women whereas a plain person may do so. The Yerushalmi in Sanhedrin 2:6, daf 13 and the Tosefta agree that a hedyot, a commoner, is allowed to marry many women. The question is, since we find the reason prohibiting the king from marrying many women is because they may cause him to stray from Yiddishkeit, why wouldn’t a common person have the same problem? 


There are a number of tirutzim to explain this. The first tirutz is that since it is not common for a plain person to marry many women, it is not a concern. The kind’s prohibition is outlined as marrying more than eighteen wives. This scenario is only applicable to a king who would have eighteen women willing to marry him and he would have the ability to provide for all eighteen. A common person will not have the opportunity to have more than eighteen wives since they will not want him, nor can he provide for them. When the Chachamim made a gezeira, they usually included even an uncommon scenario, but when the Torah makes a gezeira, the Torah will only include what is common and will not include the uncommon scenario; hence, there is no issur for the common person to marry more than eighteen wives. We find in Yerushalmi Yevamos 4:12 that Reb Tarfon, who was a Kohen, was mekadesh three hundred women in a year of hunger so they should be able to eat terumah


The second tirutz is based on the Yalkut Yehuda that says that says that a common person is allowed to marry many women and we are not concerned that they will turn him away since he is required to given them parnassah and the more wives he has, the more busy he will be worrying about his parnassah and therefore by definition will not turn him away from Yiddishkeit. A king, on the other hand, does not have to work and is independently wealthy, so he has plenty of time to turn away. 


There is a third tirutz in Tshuvas HaGaonim 1:1. The rule of not having too many wives exists because the kings needs time to lead his kingdom and his wives should not distract him. A private person is not running a kingdom so he won’t have the problem of distraction. This tirutz is a daas yachid since all the other Rishonim say the reason for the distraction is that the king won’t be able to serve Hashem properly. 


We see from here how important it is to keep your focus on Yiddishkeit. May we be zocheh to be stay focused! 




Do you have a topic or discussion you want to read about? Please send comments or questions to hymanbsdhevens@gmail.com or berachsteinfeldscorner@gmail.com