Wednesday, August 13, 2008
On Wife-Swapping, Swinging, and Pilegesh
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
On Wife-Swapping, Swinging, and Pilegesh
This week I respond to a shailah, or, rather, suggestion, which is close to my heart. Rebbetzin Virginia writes:
The following is an idea that I have been thinking about. If this could be implemented in some tzniusdika manner, it would be a great relief for us, the Women of Yisrael. Would you give it your blessing?
1. Given that most women who have been married more than 15 years have virtually no interest in sleeping with their husbands.
2. Given that most men want to sleep with anything that moves.
For couples married over 15 years, a Gemilas Chesed squad would be formed. A woman who wants a break from sleeping with her husband would list her husband on a special Shul listing. Other wives would check the list and sign up to “pinch hit.” For every night that a woman signs up to provide a night of "Chesed" with someone else’s husband, she will be entitled to receive a night from the "GMACH" for her own husband.
This is a great way for women to get the occasional night off, and to get the opportunity to sleep with husbands who are more appealing than their own.
Thank you for considering my idea.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
This is indeed a BRILLIANT idea that meets a growing need within Klal Yisroel, and a great challenge to our corrupt generation. Indeed, I may want to flesh out this idea in much more detail with you, perhaps over dinner some time next week. As ma’areh makoimois, can you please send me a 5 by 7 picture of yourself, plus your exact measurements. I will get back to you with a time and a location.
In the interim, I would like to share some of my initial thoughts on your gevaldik suggestion.
You are of course not alone in expressing concerns for the needs of Bnei Yisroel and for the sanctity of the Yiddisheh institution of marriage. Too often in this corrupt day and age we see shattered families all around us. Divorce. Soul-less marriages. Relationships in contract and name only. The men too busy in Yeshiva to pay attention to their wives’ veibisheh needs. Women so obsessed with servicing their own selfish purposes that they won’t allow their husbands to stay for evening seder in the Yeshiva past 10:00 pm, using such weak excuses as “I’m sick,” “Shloimee needs help with his homework,” “I have to work the overnight shift at 7-11, can you stay home with the kids?,” or “my mother just died and I’m sitting Shiva – can you be home?” Disgusting Prutzas!
There is of course the specific concern that you raise about couples having trouble in the bedroom after many years of familiarity. How can a Baal Habayis and his Bashert maintain a proper marriage when there is no longer any…errr...kishka left in the cholent? After all, the Toirah wants the Jewish couple to enjoy a healthy physical relationship. Hakkadoshboruchhu wants a husband and wife to be mezaneh regularly in the bedroom, to occasionally have relations on the sofa in the living room, to infrequently dip the pita in the techinah on the kitchen table, and to every once in a while ride the shtender in the Bais Medrish when no one else is around. This is the will of the Reboinoisheloilum!
Indeed, we can certainly look to the Toirah for insight on how to address issues related to a dysfunctional bedroom. According to a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah, Avraham Avinu had lost his…ummm…shverkeit with Sarah Imainu, and it was for this reason that she encouraged him to be mezaneh with her maidservant Hagar. Indeed, Rabbi Akiva, as quoted in the Yalkut Shimoini, notes that following Avraham’s relationship with Hagar, Sarah manages to conceive. He points to this example as proof that, quote, “eating a little gefilte fish in the restaurant across the street is always good for the digestion at home,” unquote.
So, as early as the Avois, we find a precedent for the use of a “Pilegesh” to serve as a “marital supplement.” Think of it as a daily multi-vitamin that includes Vitamins A, B 1-12, C, D, and a healthy dose of Viagra.
Avraham’s employment of a Pilegesh is doubled by his grandson Yankif Avinu. According to a Gemarrah in Kesubois, after marrying the Doublemint twins, Yankif is overcome with the stress of having the sisters constantly fighting over access to his Schvantzel. “You slept with Leah last night, it is my turn” declares Rachel. “Rachel is just jealous; you don’t have to spend time with my frigid sister” replies Leah. “Leah is a skanky bee-atch who smells like last week’s carp left out in the sun” retorts Rachel. All the cat fighting gets to his libido, compelling his wives to offer their maidservants as Pilagshois. But this gets Yankif’s romantic juices flowing, and, lo and behold, he ends up with twelve really well adjusted sons.
Chazzal derive the Halachois concerning marital relationships from the life style approaches of the Avois and the later practices of the Malchei Yisroel, the Kings of Israel. According to a Mishnah in the first Perek of Kiddushin, “A man may betroth his intended through kesef (the exchange of money), through shtar (a contract), or through biyuh (physical consummation), but may initiate a relationship with his Pilegesh by simply doing a quickie in the back seat of the car.” The Gemarrah goes on to ask, “Bameh Devarim Amurim, when were these words said? When a man has a car. But if he doesn’t have a car, according to Abaya, a man may have relations with his Pilegesh in his home; but according to Rava, he must be mezaneh with his Pilegesh in a location not suitable to serve as a permanent dwelling, such as a Sukkoh or an igloo.”
All of this relates to the needs of a man. But how do we know that a married woman can equally have her needs met through a temporary arrangement? Is there not a concern for the Dioraisa of Aishess Ish?
Rabbi Chiyah Bar Abba addresses this question in a Gemarrah in Soitah. According to Rabbi Chiyah Bar Abba, the injunction against a woman committing adultery was only relevant at the time that the Bais Hamikdash was standing. However, following the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, “a woman may seek consolation, through prayer, Teshuvah, Gemilas Chasadim, and by riding her husband’s chavrusa as if he were a Harley Davidson.”
The Gemarrah of course rejects Rabbi Chiyah Bar Abba’s opinion, ruling that a married woman‘s honor should always be protected by a full head covering, by a prohibition on her driving a car, and by having her erva stapled shut.
However, in the eleventh century Rabbeinu Gershom addressed this very issue in his famous Cherem, his set of socio-religious injunctions that remain in place to this day. His decrees include: The ban on reading other peoples’ mail and the ban on a man having more than one wife. His restriction on reading others’ mail, he writes, “is intended to ensure fair business practices.” His ban on polygamy, similarly, “is intended to ensure the fair exchange of Tashmish services between a Rebbe and his old bag of a wife on the one hand, and his Talmid Muvhak and his young hottie Kallah on the other.” Rabbeinu Gershom is of course also known by his Rabbinic nom de plumes as the “Meor Hagoilah,” “Reb Chapp-A-Feel,” and “The Randy Old Rabbi of Mainz.”
Rabbeinu Gershom of course wrote his Halachic opinions for the Ashkenazic world. However, on this issue the Sephardic community follows the teachings of the RAMBAM. Writing in his Mishnah Toirah in Hilchois Nashim, the RAMBAM addresses the famous question of how Queen Esther could possibly have been mezaneh with King Achashveiroish, a sheygitz. The RAMBAM comments that “Esther’s actions are permissible due to the principle of ‘Isha Ke’Afra,’ that (during intimacy) every woman is passive like the ground, just like my wife.” The RAMBAM goes on to note that in his day, “a true Aishess Chayil is just like a Pushka – her intrinsic riches increase when everyone in town takes a turn putting a little something into the slot.”
The Sifsey Chachomim assume a similar position in the Ashkenazic world.
So, Rebbetzin Virginia, as we apply these notions to our day, it is indeed appropriate that we act upon your noble suggestion. Boruch Hashem we have the communal interest and appropriate technology to enable such a spouse-swapping arrangement. Your idea is in the spirit of the Karban Toidah, Shalach Manois, Rabbi trading cards, and Kisvei Penthouse. Ashrei Ha’Ish, happy is the man, who is married to a woman with your level of wisdom. I hope one day soon that many more of Klal Yisroel will get to taste of your rich apple of Toirah and femininity.
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuveless