Friday, November 02, 2007

Conjugal Duty with Multiple Wives

Our Gemora (Kesuvos 62) discusses the conjugal rights of a wife, and that it varies dependent upon the stress of the husband’s work and the amount of time he is required to spend away from his house.

Prior to Rabbeinu Gershom’s ban against marrying more than one wife, one was permitted to have several wives. This leads us to enquire: Would these obligations remain the same even though he has multiple wives?

The Nimukei Yosef in Yevamos writes that if a man performed the mitzvah of yibum with four different yevamos, he is only required to perform his conjugal duty once a month with each wife (if he is a donkey driver, where his duty is ordinarily once a week). This is because he did not obligate himself to each wife, they were sent to him from Heaven (so to speak), and therefore, he is not required to have relations with each wife once a week; but rather, it is sufficient if he performs his duty with one of his wives each week. However, this is the halacha only by yevamos. If, however, he married four ordinary women, he is obligated to perform his marital duties with each wife once a week.

The Rambam and other Rishonim disagree and they maintain that his obligation does not change on account of marrying multiple wives; he is only required to have marital relations once a week even though each wife will be somewhat deprived from their intimacy with him.

Rav Elyashiv explains: When a man marries more than one wife, they understand that they will not be receiving from him more than a man is ordinarily required to do, and it is considered as if they waived their rights for their own personal “once a week” relations.

What would be the halacha if he marries one wife and later, he marries another? Do we say that the first wife understands that he is permitted to marry more than one wife, and she accepts that to begin with, or perhaps, it is only the second wife who accepts this fact and waives her right, but the husband would still be required to perform his conjugal duties to the first wife once a week?