Av 5759 – Polygamy II

1 Menachem Av 5759

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

I liked the answer for marrying many wives, but what about others in Tanach who married more than just ONE additional wife. We know that Shlomo’s marrying many wives caused him to fall into the horrible trap of allowing Avodah Zarah into his home, but what about David?? He had more than a few wives and it doesn’t seem to fall into the pattern of second wives about whom you spoke. When approached by my students about this issue (7th grade day school students learning Shmuel Bet and just having finished the Kinah where David describes his love for Yehonatan as “your love is as wonderous to me as the love of women” which made it hard enough prove to them that David didn’t live in a corrupt 90’s society) – they couldn’t understand how David could have had so many wives and Pilagshim. They always heard stories of David and had cast him in a certain light, but this issue puzzled them. I explained the meaning of love according to the Ramban and Michtav Me’Eliahu, which put them (and myself) at ease, but it still seems unexplainable that David married so many women. I would love to have deeper insight into this issue in order to understand more clearly myself and give it over to others in a more definitive manner. Thank you so much.

Darchei Binah 5756

I was reading something you wrote in JemSem about polygamy. You said that Yaakov would’ve divorced Leah had she not been pregnant, but I thought that he figured out who she was right after the chupah. But that is not even my question. If he didn’t mean to marry more than one, and Leah was a mistake, then why did he marry the two maidservants? What was the reason for that?

S.L. Darchei Binah 5756

Dear Everyone,

It’s good to see that Polygamy is an issue that affects so many of you out there. Are you really that worried about your prospects of getting married that you’re willing to explore every avenue?

Be that as it may, let’s deal with these two points.

First, Shlomo HaMelech. He was wrong. He shouldn’t have married more than eighteen wives, as we learn out from Dovid HaMelech. Dovid had six wives and Nosson HaNavi tells him he could have had another two times that. So you see, a thousand is excessive, eighteen on the other hand is reasonable.

The question is, in light of what we discussed about the evils of polygamy, why is a King allowed to have 18 wives? The answer has nothing to do with marriage, it has to do with kingship. The King is not a regular guy. The King is, well, a King! In the Jewish concept that means, as the Rambam explains in Hilchos Melachim, the heart of the Jewish People. That means he has the somewhat difficult job of uniting all the Jewish people. I mean look how long it took Barak to put together a coalition. Imagine that and including all the members of the Knesset!

The Maharal explains that 18 is not really 18 – it’s six plus twelve. Meaning, six is the number that represents this world. Imagine a cube as a three-dimensional model. It has six sides, so this world is represented by six (created in six days for example). I don’t really have to expand on this, this is Maharal 101. Now imagine a metal frame of a cube with removable panels. Although there are six sides, when you remove the panels you are left with a cubical frame. The pieces of the frame will number twelve (feel free to try this at home). The twelve pieces of the frame and the six sides all together equal eighteen. That is the maximum amount that a person sitting in the middle of the cube can possibly relate to at one time. Therefore the King, in the middle of the Jewish People, can maximally relate to eighteen women at one time.

Of course, Shlomo HaMelech, who was the smartest man in the world, managed to relate to 1000. The problem was it was forbidden, so any rationale based on unusual ability is not taken into account.

This explains how it is possible – it doesn’t explain why it is advisable. So let me suggest the following. Why did Shlomo HaMelech marry so many wives? I mean the smartest man in the world wants 1000 mothers-in-law? Besides, when you consider that he died at 52 years old, it means he spent most of his life in Sheva Berachos! How much parve ice cream can a man eat!

The answer of course is that Shlomo had a plan to usher in the Messianic Era. He felt that if he had sons who were descended from the kings of every country that they would have the power to influence the local populations to accept Hashem. Shlomo wasn’t wrong – he just exceeded the limit. But you see that the king got married for reasons far beyond those of mortal men. They had an ability to relate to the maximum number that any human being could and they used it to unite the Jewish people and the Jewish People’s relations with the nations of the world.

Now, what about Biha and Zilpa? The reason Yaakov married them was because Rochel and Leah told him to. The reason they told them to was for the same reason that Sorah told Avraham to marry Hagar and Chana told Elkana to marry Penina. It’s the concept of dispelling the Midas Hadin by doing the ultimate chesed – overcoming your most natural tendencies and giving your husband to another woman. Through this they hoped that Hashem would have rachamim on them and they would have children. And it worked.

Finally, about that idiotic notion that some people try to twist Dovid and Yonason into a homosexual relationship; the disproof is so obvious that these people must be pretty desperate. You see, when Dovid was accused of adultery, Nosom HaNavi comes to him and attacks him publicly and all kinds of terrible punishments follow. But the Torah gives a worse punishment for homosexuality than it does for adultery. If he was guilty of that crime, why didn’t the Navi say anything?

Thanks for hearing from everyone and I hope there will be no Tisha B’Av this year.

Dovid Orlofsky