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Prohibited Marriages

Prohibited Marriages

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The following summary of marriages prohibited by Jewish religious law details specifically whom one may and may not marry.

A Man May Not Marry:

1. Anyone not Jewish.

2. The daughter of an adulterous or incestuous union (mamzeret).

3. A married woman, until the civil and Jewish divorces have been completed.

4. His own divorced wife after her remarriage to another man and the latter’s death or divorce.

5. A widow of a childless husband who is survived by a brother, until after the chalitzah ceremony has been performed.

6. A married woman with whom he committed adultery, but now divorced or widowed.

7. A kohen may not marry a divorced woman, a chalutzah-widow, a convert, a zonah, or a chalalah (see Kohen Marriages).

8. Relatives (primary and secondary incest):

(a) His mother, grandmother and ascendants; the mother of his grandfather; his stepmother, the wife of his paternal grandfather, and of his ascendants; and the wife of his maternal grandfather.

(b) His daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter and her descendants; his daughter-in-law; the wife of his son’s son, and descendants; and the wife of his daughter’s son.

(c) His wife’s daughter or her granddaughter and descendants.

(e) His sister, half-sister, his full or half-brother’s wife (divorced or widowed) except for Levirate marriage with the widow of a childless brother, and the full or half-sister of his divorced wife in her lifetime.

(f) His aunt, and uncle’s wife (divorced or widowed), whether the uncle be a full or half-brother of his father or mother.

A Man May Marry:

1. His step-sister (a step-parent’s daughter from a previous marriage, even though they were raised together as brother and sister from their earliest youth).

2. His stepfather’s wife (divorced or widowed).

3. The daughter-in-law of his brother or his sister (divorced or widowed).

4. His niece. In American and English civil law, a man may not marry a niece who is the daughter of his brother or sister, but may marry a niece who is the daughter of his wife’s brother or sister. The halakhic permission—even encouragement—to marry the daughter of a brother or sister is superseded by the civil law’s prohibition in this case.

5. His cousin.

6. His stepson’s wife (divorced or widowed).

7. His deceased wife’s sister, but not his divorced wife’s sister (unless she is deceased already).

8. A woman with whom he had relations in their unmarried state.

9. A kohen may marry a widow (who was never divorced).

A Woman May Not Marry:

1. Anyone not of the Jewish faith.

2. The son of an adulterous or incestuous union (mamzer).

3. A married man, until the civil and Jewish divorces have been completed.

4. A man with whom she committed adultery.

5. Her divorced husband, after the death or divorce of her second husband.

6. The following relatives (primary and secondary incest):

(a) Her father, grandfather and ascendants; her stepfather; and the husband of her grandmother and of her ascendants.

(b) Her son, grandson, great grandson; her son-in-law, and the husband of her granddaughter and descendants.

(c) Her husband’s father, or grandfather, and the father of her father-in-law and ascendants; and the father of her mother-in-law.

(d) Her husband’s son or grandson and descendants.

(e) Her brother, half-brother, her full or half-sister’s divorced husband in her sister’s lifetime, and her husband’s brother.

(f) Her nephew.

7. A convert may not marry a kohen.

A Woman May Marry:

1. Her step-brother (a step-parent’s son from a previous marriage, even though they were raised together as brother and sister from their earliest youth).

2. Her step-mother’s former husband (divorced or widowed).

3. The son-in-law of her brother or sister.

4. Her cousin.

5. Her sister’s husband (after her sister’s death, not divorce, unless she is deceased already).

6. Her uncle. In Jewish incest law, an aunt-nephew marriage is prohibited, but an uncle-niece marriage is permitted even though the state prohibits it. A man may marry his deceased wife’s sister, but a woman may not marry her deceased husband’s brother. Even a childless widow, whom the Bible commanded to marry her husband’s brother, must today receive chalitzah, enforced separation.

7. A man with whom she had relations in her unmarried state.

8. A kohen’s daughter does not have the restrictions of a male kohen.

Excerpted from The Jewish Way in Love & Marriage by Rabbi Maurice Lamm. To purchase the book click here.
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Discussion (28)
March 16, 2017
RE: Half-uncle with Half-niece
According to Jewish Law (although maybe not according to US law, see above) a man is permitted to marry his niece - certainly a half-niece would be permitted too.
The Torah doesn't prohibit such a marriage, it is therefore permitted.
Rabbi Yossi Grossbaum, for Chabad.org
Folsom, CA
March 12, 2017
Half-uncle with Half-niece
What about a marriage between 'half uncle' & 'half niece'?
The father (half-brother to 'half uncle') of the 'half niece' share one blood from their mother (a grandmother to 'half niece'). Can somebody anwer about it and relate to some passage from the Bible?
Anonymous
Las Vegas
March 9, 2017
How many times can a Jewish person marry?
Curtis
San Diego
January 24, 2016
Re: Modernization
It is specifically in this regard that the Torah is distinct from all other disciplines: Whereas other legal systems are devised by man for the purpose of man, the Torah is the wisdom of G-d and existed before man was even created. Just as G-d is entirely self-sufficient and is therefore not subject to change, so too His Torah remains true regardless of the circumstances.

For more on this concept of Torah, see our article here:
Shaul Wolf
Chabad.org
January 20, 2016
Modernization of original laws to fit today's world and times
There is a larger question to ask. Obviously polygamy is no longer needed, as women are now capable of economic independence. Children of closely related relatives have a far higher rate of mental and physical disabilities. Gays and lesbians are legally allowed to marry in the USA and many countries around the world, and there are many ways they can raise Jewish children.

There are many laws in the Old Testament that no longer make sense, and aren't even legal. So why not modernize and adapt to today's reality to be inclusive, rather than reject and lose out?
Anonymous
Las Vegas
January 20, 2016
Response to earlier statement
Polygamy would have been almost a necessity as women couldn't economically survive without a man, nor socially due to the need for physical protection. An uneven ratio of men to women in part due to a preference for very healthy, stable men would also make polygamy advantageous. Marriage was based on practicality.
Davida Rochelle
Las Vegas
January 18, 2016
Follow up to Re: to "Are unlawful marriages...."
Thank you for your response. That would make more sense. Now how about Jacob and his marrying of two sisters?
And in Ezra we have the case where they put away their foreign wives...so was this a divorce or just a putting away as they had no legal standings as wives unless they converted.
I am trying to understand the man/wife and marriage from the Jewish standpoint. From what I have gathered man and wife in betrothal could be secured before marriage or sexual union and adultery and even divorce could be achieved during this time, even before they had come together and even after marriage. Marriage didn't form man and wife, but was the completion of it. Is this correct thinking?
Dwight
January 18, 2016
I don't think respondents clearly understand WHY I asked the question. In the 1400's a very learned Rabbi noticed children from cousin marriages had a far higher rate of deformities, serious illnesses, and general poor health. They forbid the practice. So WHY is it still practiced especially since modern science confirms what the Rabbi 1st learned to be true?
Davida Rochelle
Las Vegas
January 15, 2016
Re:
There are varying degrees of forbidden marriages. The more stringent ones, known as Chiyuvei Karet, are not effective at all and do not even require a divorce. The more lenient ones, known as Chiyuvei Lav, are effective and would require a divorce.

According to Talmudic tradition, Sarah was the niece of Abraham not his sister, and as such their marriage was entirely legal.
Shaul Wolf
Chabad.org
January 13, 2016
Are unlawful marriages marriages that can be divorced from
Question: According to your understanding if one is in one of the above "unlawful" marriages or arraignments, is this considered a marriage to the extent that they are man and wife and thus must go through a divorce to get out of the arraignment? If not, then what of Sarah and Abraham who were brother and half-sister...were they man and wife and why? Should they have ceased or gotten a divorce?
Thank You
Dwight
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