CARR 286-287




Contemporary American Reform Responsa


192. Adultery and Marriage


One of the partners in a marriage has engaged in an adulterous relationship, and the

marriage has terminated in acrimonious divorce. Subsequently, the adulterous party has asked

the rabbi to officiate at the marriage to “the other person.” Should the rabbi comply with the


ANSWER: The sources are clear in their prohibition of adultery (Ex. 20.13)

and of marriage between the adulterous party and her lover (Sot. 27b; Shulhan Arukh

Even Haezer 11.1, 178.17). The traditional statements, of course, deal primarily with the

adulterous woman and her lover. They are very strict in this regard and even prohibit remarriage

to her former husband, though she may not have been married to anyone else subsequent to the

divorce (Shulhan Arukh Even Haezer 11.1). The prohibition against marrying her lover

holds true not only after divorce but even after the death of her former husband (Yev. 24b;

Shulhan Arukh Even Haezer 11.1).

Despite these strictures the reality of the

situation, which usually led the adulterous parties to live together and possibly to marry, brought

rabbinic recognition of this status. Tradition gives its grudging consent by stating that if,

nevertheless, the adulterous parties marry, they are not compelled to divorce (Shulhan

Arukh Even Haezer 11.2 ff and commentaries, 159. 3; Otzar Haposqim Even Haezer

11.1, 44).

A rabbi may, in this instance, find herself in a difficult position as she is duty

bound to strengthen family life and defend the sanctity of marriage. If she, however, refuses to

marry this couple, they may simply opt to live together, as is frequent in our time; that will not

help their situation or the general attitude towards family life. Therefore, the rabbi should officiate

at such a marriage, while at the same time discussing her own hesitation in keeping the tradition.

She may insist on some special counseling before the ceremony. She should insist that it be a

simple ceremony and one which places special emphasis on the seriousness and sanctity of

marriage .

March 1986

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.