1) HALACHAH: THE CONCEPT OF "PILEGESH"
QUESTION: After the Gemara quotes the verse that says that David ha'Melech married additional wives (Nashim) and concubines (Pilagshim), it inquires about the difference between Nashim and Pilagshim. Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav explains that Nashim are wives who are married through the process of Kidushin and who receive a Kesuvah, while Pilagshim are married without Kidushin and without a Kesuvah.
How, though, does one marry a Pilegesh if there is no Kidushin? The Gemara does not describe how the marriage of a Pilegesh takes place.
Also, what is the practice today with regard to marrying a Pilegesh?
(a) It is important to note that there are other opinions concerning a Pilegesh besides that of Rav in the Gemara here. The Yerushalmi (Kesuvos 5:2) records a dispute between Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Yehudah with regard to whether a Pilegesh receives a Kesuvah.
Moreover, the RAMBAM (Hilchos Ishus 1:4) states that after the Torah was given, one who has relations with a woman with intention for Z'nus and without Kidushin is punished with lashes according to Torah law. The LECHEM MISHNEH asserts that the RAMBAM's Girsa of the Gemara here reads that a Pilegesh *is* acquired through Kidushin but without a Kesuvah. The Lechem Mishneh explains that this is why the Rambam prohibits an act of Bi'ah without Kidushin; according to the Rambam, such an act does not even constitute an act of taking a Pilegesh.
(b) The RA'AVAD disagrees with the Rambam there and asserts that there is no such prohibition, for the act of Bi'ah without Kidushin is the act of marrying a Pilegesh. (The Ra'avad explains that the word "Pilegesh" is comprised of the words "Pi Shagal," a reference to a woman who serves both domestic and "marital" functions.)
The KESEF MISHNEH disagrees with the Lechem Mishneh and contends that the Rambam maintains that a Pilegesh is taken without Kidushin. Indeed, the Rambam himself clearly states (in Hilchos Melachim 4:4) that a Pilegesh is acquired without Kidushin and without a Kesuvah! The Kesef Mishneh answers the question of the Ra'avad on the Rambam by explaining that the Rambam maintains that the entire concept of Pilegesh is limited exclusively to kings; an ordinary person may not take a Pilegesh.
The RAMBAN poses a strong question on the view of the Rambam. Many of the great men of Yisrael took Pilagshim for themselves (such as Kalev and Gideon). The description of the incident of Pilegesh b'Giv'ah (Shoftim 19-21; see Background to Bava Basra 116:3) also implies that there was no sin committed by taking a Pilegesh.
The BI'UR HA'GRA (EH 25:1) answers the Ramban's question on the Rambam. All of the instances which the Ramban cites involve a young maidservant who was married through "Yi'ud," the special procedure through which the owner of a Jewish maidservant marries the maidservant (see Background to Bava Basra 108:12a).
(c) The PRI CHADASH (in MAYIM CHAIM, his comments on the Rambam) and the RI MI'TRANI argue that the Rambam states only that a person may not have such relations *with intention for Z'nus* without Kidushin. However, if his purpose is to designate the woman exclusively for himself, then his act of taking a Pilegesh is permitted, even for an ordinary man. He explains that since the Torah prohibits doing such an act with a woman without such intention, it is not logical that such an act should be permitted for a king just because he is the king.
It appears from the words of the Ra'avad and the Pri Chadash that a Pilegesh is similar to an ordinary wife, since she has been set aside for a specific man. RAV YAKOV EMDEN (in SHE'EILOS YA'AVETZ, Teshuvah 2:15) describes additional qualifications consistent with this theme. For example, he states that a Pilegesh must have a room set aside as her own room, and she must never transgress the prohibition of Yichud (being alone with another man to whom she is not married), for this would show that she is not really set aside for a specific man.
HALACHAH: The REMA (EH 25:1) quotes the RA'AVAD as stating that a Pilegesh is permitted as long as she is set aside for him and goes to the Mikvah at the appropriate times, like an ordinary wife. The Rema then quotes the RAMBAM, ROSH, and TUR who rule that marrying a woman as a Pilegesh is forbidden (the Rema apparently sides with the Kesef Mishneh's understanding of the Rambam). The BEIS SHMUEL and the CHELKAS MECHOKEK there argue that this is not the opinion of the Rosh and the Tur. The Beis Shmuel cites other opinions regarding the view of the Rambam (as mentioned above).
The accepted practice is to follow the ruling of the Rambam according to the Kesef Mishneh and to prohibit the practice of taking a Pilegesh. Although RAV YAKOV EMDEN (loc. cit.) rejects the opinion of the Rambam, he concludes that he would not permit the practice of marrying a Pilegesh unless two other Halachic authorities signed with him to permit it, and thus it has remained the practice not to allow it. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) REASONS FOR THE MITZVOS
QUESTIONS: Rebbi Yitzchak says that the reason why the Torah does not reveal the reasons for the Mitzvos is that if a person thinks that he knows the reason for a Mitzvah, he might mistakenly assume that since the reason does not apply to him, neither does the Mitzvah. Indeed, the Torah reveals the reasons for just two Mitzvos, and yet the wisest of all men, Shlomo ha'Melech, erred and transgressed, mistakenly thinking that these two Mitzvos did not apply to him. The Torah states that a king may not have many wives so that they not turn his heart away from the service of Hash-m. Shlomo ha'Melech said to himself that he certainly would not stray from the service of Hash-m, and he married many wives, and yet they indeed "turned his heart away" from serving Hash-m (see Parshah Page, Va'era 5758, for an analysis of Shlomo ha'Melech's deeds). Similarly, the Torah states that a king may not amass horses lest he be enticed to go back to Mitzrayim to trade horses. Shlomo ha'Melech felt that he would be able to amass horses without going back to Mitzrayim, and yet he indeed ended up going to Mitzrayim.
(a) If revealing the reasons for Mitzvos could cause a person to err (as it did in the case of Shlomo ha'Melech), then why does the Torah reveal the reasons for these two Mitzvos -- the Mitzvah that a king not marry too many wives, and the Mitzvah that a king not amass horses?
(b) Is a person supposed to attempt to understand the reasons for Mitzvos, or is he supposed to refrain from searching for the reasons for Mitzvos?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that the Torah had to reveal the reasons for these two Mitzvos, because the reasons themselves are Mitzvos. The reason for not having too many wives is so that one should not let his heart stray from the Mitzvos in general, which itself is a Mitzvah. This is apparent from the opinion of Rebbi Shimon in the Mishnah (21a), who says that a king is forbidden from marrying even one wife who will make him stray from serving Hash-m. Similarly, the reason for not amassing horses is itself a separate prohibition, the prohibition against returning to Mitzrayim.
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM points out that the Torah *does* give reasons for other Mitzvos in the Torah. (For example, the Torah says that we are to dwell in the Sukah during Sukos "so that your future generations will know that I had the Jewish people dwell in Sukos when I took them out of Mitzrayim" (Vayikra 23:43).) However, these reasons do not carry with them the possibility that a person will err and sin because of them, since the reasons are not intrinsic to the fulfillment of the Mitzvah. For example, the Torah commands us to dwell in a Sukah. The fact that the Torah afterwards states the reason why we are to dwell in a Sukah cannot cause a person to think that he is exempt from dwelling in a Sukah. In contrast, the Mitzvos not to have too many wives and not to amass horses are described in terms of causative factors that lead to the more serious sins of straying from Hash-m or going to Mitzrayim. Hence, in the case of those two Mitzvos, a person could err and think that those Mitzvos, which seem to be safeguards for more serious Mitzvos, do not apply to him.
(b) Based on this Gemara, one might think that he should not inquire into the reasons for the Mitzvos. However, the Gemara itself in many places states the reasons for many Mitzvos. As mentioned above, the problem with knowing the reason for a Mitzvah is that one might assume that the reason alone is Hash-m's intention in commanding a certain Mitzvah when, in truth, the reasons given in the Gemara are not absolute and exclusive, but rather they merely express one aspect of the Mitzvah. There could be many more reasons behind any particular Mitzvah.
A dispute about this matter among the Rishonim began with the publishing of the RAMBAM's classic work, MOREH NEVUCHIM. In Moreh Nevuchim, the Rambam gives reasons for a number of Mitzvos. For example, the Rambam states that the reason why the Torah says that one should not shave the sideburns is that it is the manner of idolatrous priests. The TUR (YD 181) dismisses this reason and states that we do not need a reason for it; it is a Mitzvah that we observe regardless of the reason.
The BEIS YOSEF understands that the Tur means that one should never try to understand the reasons for the Mitzvos. The Beis Yosef asks that we find in the Gemara that Rebbi Shimon would always try to understand the Torah's reasons for Mitzvos. The DARCHEI MOSHE explains that the Tur understood that the Rambam was saying that the parameters of the Mitzvah are based on how the idolatrous priests shaved their hair. The Tur argued that this cannot be the case, as the parameters of a Mitzvah are to be derived based only on the Torah, on either the Written Law or the Oral Law, but not based on one's own reasoning. The Gemara here sheds light on the Darchei Moshe's explanation. The Tur knew that the Gemara gives reasons for Mitzvos and that it is beneficial to know those reasons because it helps one understand the will of Hash-m. However, the Tur thought that there still exists the danger that a person might understand the reason as absolute and mishandle the Mitzvah as a result. A person, however, would not make such a mistake when the *Gemara* gives no reason for a Mitzvah; he would not assume on his own to know the reason for a Mitzvah.
Many commentators indeed give their own reasons for Mitzvos. It is possible that the Tur would not be opposed to giving reasons for Mitzvos when those reasons have no Halachic ramifications. (See BACH, TAZ (YD 181), and MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM here.) (See also Insights to Megilah 25:2, for a discussion of the words of the MOREH NEVUCHIM and the RAMBAN (in Devarim 22:6) with regard to the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Ken.) (Y. MONTROSE)