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Prohibited Marriages

Prohibited Marriages


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 The halakhic permission—even encouragement—to marry the daughter of a brother or sister is superseded by the civil law’s prohibition in this case.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 married 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 their 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 (25)
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
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?
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 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?
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
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
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
December 6, 2015
Health and Forbidden Marriages
Though Torah Law may have health benefits - yet that is not the reason for Torah Law. Torah defines how a person is meant to connect with their Creator. To do so there are a series of rules known as Mitzvot by which we need to live our lives. Some involve what we eat, as in the laws of Kosher, others are what one would call ritual laws, like Mezuzah. Yet the common denominator is that they are about a unique connection that we forge with our Creator in every aspect of our lives. These may have some other benefits - but that is not why we do them. This article is a list of the relatives Torah law prohibits us from marrying - this does not mean that there may or may not be others that we should not marry for health reasons.
Simcha Bart
November 30, 2015
Cousin marriages are allowed? Also uncle and niece unions?
Shocked as then there's a far higher risk of having babies born with genetic diseases with cousin marriages. Rabbis as early as the 1200's spoke out against it for that very reason. One would think doing one's best to ensure very healthy and smart children would be a priority.
Las Vegas
September 29, 2015
Same Sex Marriage
This article errs in not forbidding same-sex marriage, and marriage to non-humans.
Kind of a shame we have to spell that out explicitly, now.

Also, you can't marry yourself, or somebody who has died.

I wonder if it is permitted to marry someone who has had sex-reassignment surgery, and sincerely regrets it.
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