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Talmud Permits Child-Adult Sex
Talmud law permits sexual intercourse between children and adults. This doctrine is contained in a number of Talmud Mishnahs. Before we examine them, however, it is necessary that the reader be familiar with the word kethubah.
According to the Soncino Talmud Glossary:
KETHUBAH (Lit., ‘a written [document]’); (a) a wife’s marriage settlement which she is entitled to recover on her being divorced or on the death of her husband. The minimum settlement for a virgin is two hundred zuz, and for a widow remarrying one hundred zuz; (b) the marriage contract specifying the mutual obligations between husband and wife and containing the amount of the endowment and any other special financial obligations assumed by the husband.
— Babylonian Talmud, Soncino Talmud Glossary
Zuz is a unit of currency. We see, then, that a dollar (or zuz) value is put on virginity.
Now let’s look at a Mishnah from Kethuboth 11a:
MISHNAH. WHEN A GROWN-UP MAN (7) HAS HAD SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH (8) A LITTLE GIRL, (9) OR WHEN A SMALL BOY (10) HAS INTERCOURSE WITH A GROWN-UP WOMAN, OR [WHEN A GIRL WAS ACCIDENTALLY] INJURED BY A PIECE OF WOOD (11) — [IN ALL THESE CASES] THEIR KETHUBAH IS TWO HUNDRED [ZUZ] …
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kethuboth 11a
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 57
The translator, Rabbi Dr. Samuel Daiches, amplifies the text with footnotes:
- A man who was of age.
- Lit., ‘who came on’.
- Less than three years old.
- Less than nine years of age.
- Lit., ‘One who was injured by wood’, as a result of which she injured the hymen.
— Rabbi Dr. Daiches
Let’s review the above-cited Mishnah: “When a grown-up man has had sexual intercourse with a little girl, or when a small boy has intercourse with a grown-up woman …” It is obvious that sex activity between a grown man and a little girl, and between a grown woman and a little boy, is a part of the woof and the warp of everyday Talmud life; such relationships, in the eyes of the Sages, are unremarkable. There is no prohibition on sexual activity between adults and young children — it is simply regulated. Recall the words of the Very Reverend the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire the late Dr. Joseph Herman Hertz:
Religion in the Talmud attempts to penetrate the whole of human life with the sense of law and right. Nothing human is in its eyes mean or trivial; everything is regulated and sanctified by religion. Religious precept and duty accompany man from his earliest years to the grave and beyond it. They guide his desires and actions at every moment.
— Rabbi Dr. Hertz (38)
Thus, if the Talmud permits girls three years old and younger to be sexually used by adults, that is the law. The concern of the Sages is to ensure that the adult is not, technically speaking, in violation of any of the rules.
In the Gemara that follows the Mishnah of Kethuboth 11a (cited above), the Sages discuss the issues. They say having intercourse with a girl younger than three is like putting a finger in the eye. Rabbi Dr. Daiches explains in the footnotes that, just as tears come to the eye again and again, so does virginity come back to the little girl under three years.
GEMARA. Rab Judah said that Rab said: A small boy who has intercourse with a grown-up woman makes her [as though she were] injured by a piece of wood. (1) When I said it before Samuel he said: ‘Injured by a piece of wood’ does not apply to (2) flesh. Some teach this teaching by itself: (3) [As to] a small boy who has intercourse with a grown-up woman, Rab said, he makes her [as though she were] injured by a piece of wood; whereas Samuel said: ‘Injured by a piece of wood’ does not apply to flesh. R. Oshaia objected: WHEN A GROWN-UP MAN HAS HAD INTERCOURSE WITH A LITTLE GIRL, OR WHEN A SMALL BOY HAS INTERCOURSE WITH A GROWN-UP WOMAN, OR WHEN A GIRL WAS ACCIDENTALLY INJURED BY A PIECE OF WOOD — [IN ALL THESE CASES] THEIR KETHUBAH IS TWO HUNDRED [ZUZ]; SO ACCORDING TO R. MEIR. BUT THE SAGES SAY: A GIRL WHO WAS INJURED ACCIDENTALLY BY A PIECE OF WOOD — HER KETHUBAH IS A MANEH! (4) Raba said, It means (5) this: When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl it is nothing, for when the girl is less than this, (6) it is as if one puts the finger into the eye; (7) but when a small boy has intercourse with a grown-up woman he makes her as ‘a girl who is injured by a piece of wood,’ and [with regard to the case of] ‘a girl injured by a piece of wood,’ itself, there is the difference of opinion between R. Meir and the Sages.
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kethuboth 11b
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 57-58
Rabbi Dr. Samuel Daiches amplifies the text with footnotes (page 58):
- Although the intercourse of a small boy is not regarded as a sexual act, nevertheless the woman is injured by it as by a piece of wood.
- Lit., ‘is not in’.
- I.e., the difference of opinion between Rab and Samuel with regard to that question was recorded without any reference to R. Judah.
- The Sages differ only with regard to a girl injured by a piece of wood, but not with regard to a small boy who has intercourse with a grown-up woman. This shows that the latter case cannot be compared with the former case. The Mishnah would consequently be against Rab and for Samuel.
- Lit., ‘says’.
- Lit., ‘here’, that is, less than three years old.
- I.e., tears come to the eye again and again, so does virginity come back to the little girl under three years. Cf. Nid. 45a.
— Rabbi Dr. Daiches
To a person unaccustomed with the Talmud culture, it may seem that discussion of sexual intercourse between grown men and very young girls is merely theoretical. But as we shall see, cases are cited, judgments are weighed and debated, and the Sages discuss the wounds suffered by the young girls as a result of the intercourse.
More on Regenerating Virginity
We know that the amount of a woman’s kethubah depends on her virginity on her wedding day. But what of a woman who, as a little girl below the age of three years, was raped or otherwise subjected to sexual intercourse? The Sages rule that the kethubah of such a woman is set as if she were still a virgin.
MISHNAH. A WOMAN PROSELYTE, A WOMAN CAPTIVE, AND A WOMAN SLAVE, WHO HAVE BEEN REDEEMED, CONVERTED, OR FREED [WHEN THEY WERE] LESS THAN THREE YEARS AND ONE DAY OLD — THEIR KETHUBAH IS TWO HUNDRED [ZUZ]. AND THERE IS WITH REGARD TO THEM THE CLAIM OF [NON-]VIRGINITY. (17)
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kethuboth 11a
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 54
This seems like a generous and humanitarian ruling, the creation of a legal fiction of virginity when the woman is no longer physiologically a virgin. But Dr. Daiches corrects us. He tells us that, according to the Sages, the hymen of a girl younger than three literally grows back again.
- If they had sexual intercourse before they were three years and one day old the hymen would grow again, and they would be virgins. V. 9a and 11b and cf. Nid. 44b and 45a.
— Rabbi Dr. Daiches (25)
See also the discussion of Niddah 44b and 45a, below.
As we continue to explore the Talmud doctrines on child-adult sex, we will see further confirmation that the Talmud Sages believed that the hymen regenerates in a girl younger than three.
“… Of Lesser Age, No Guilt is Incurred”
In modern America, sex between an adult and a child is condemned in proportion to the youth of the child. That is, Americans generally consider sex with a fifteen year old, a twelve year old, a six year old, and a three-year-old on a continuous scale of condemnation. The younger the child, the greater the condemnation.
Talmudic law works on the reverse scale: sex with younger children is less significant than sex with older children. How did this doctrine come about?
Scripture states thus:
- Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
— Leviticus 18:22 (KJV)
The Old Testament prohibits a man lying with a man; but notice, the Old Testament does not prohibit a man lying with a boy. Thus, the Talmud Sages arrive at their position on pederasty. In the following, bestiality said to be committed “naturally” when a man uses the vaginal passage of the beast, and “unnaturally” when a man uses the anal passage of the beast. The Sages make a similar distinction for the couplings of a woman with a beast.
GEMARA. … Rab said: Pederasty with a child below nine years of age is not deemed as pederasty with a child above that. Samuel said: Pederasty with a child below three years is not treated as with a child above that. (2) What is the basis of their dispute? — Rab maintains that only he who is able to engage in sexual intercourse, may, as the passive subject of pederasty throw guilt [upon the active offender]; whilst he who is unable to engage in sexual intercourse cannot be a passive subject of pederasty [in that respect]. (3) But Samuel maintains: Scripture writes, [And thou shalt not lie with mankind] as with the lyings of a woman. (4)
It has been taught in accordance with Rab: Pederasty at the age of nine years and a day; [55a] [he] who commits bestiality, whether naturally or unnaturally; or a woman who causes herself to be bestially abused, whether naturally or unnaturally, is liable to punishment. (5)
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 54b – 55a
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 371
The translator, Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman, amplifies the text with footnotes. Note particularly footnote 2: “… but if one committed sodomy with a child of lesser age, no guilt is incurred.” See also the final sentence of footnote 5: “… nine years (and a day) is the minimum age of the passive partner for the adult to be liable.” (See Soncino Talmud Glossary for definition of Baraitha.)
- I.e., Rab makes nine years the minimum; but if one committed sodomy with a child of lesser age, no guilt is incurred. Samuel makes three the minimum.
- At nine years a male attains sexual matureness.
- Lev. XVIII, 22. Thus the point of comparison is the sexual matureness of woman, which is reached at the age of three.
- (Rashi reads [H] instead of the [H] in our printed texts. A male, aged nine years and a day who commits etc.] There are thus three distinct clauses in this Baraitha. The first — a male aged nine years and a day — refers to the passive subject of pederasty, the punishment being incurred by the adult offender. This must be its meaning — because firstly, the active offender is never explicitly designated as a male, it being understood, just as the Bible states, Thou shalt not lie with mankind, where only the sex of the passive participant is mentioned; and secondly, if the age reference is to the active party, the guilt being incurred by the passive adult party, why single out pederasty: in all crimes of incest, the passive adult does not incur guilt unless the other party is at least nine years and a day? Hence the Baraitha supports Rab’s contention that nine years (and a day) is the minimum age of the passive partner for the adult to be liable.
— Rabbi Dr. Freedman
The plain English meaning of the Talmud text is clear, but if there is any doubt, the Soncino scholars put the matter to rest: No guilt is incurred with a boy child younger than nine, even in incest. Thus we see that Orthodox Jewish doctrines concerning homosexuality are not accurately represented by Dr. Laura and other Orthodox spokesmen.
Out of Context?
When quoted, those passages in Tractate Sanhedrin 54b and 55a are sometimes said to be taken out of context. Theologian James Trimm is one who makes this protest.(6) But now the full context of Sanhedrin 54b and 55a — and indeed, the complete Sanhedrin — is available to the readers of Come and Hear™.
Rabbi Michael Rodkinson, whose English translation of the Talmud was republished in 1918, censored the Sages’ teaching on this issue. The 1918 Edition of Rabbi Rodkinson’s Talmud was published under the editorship of Rabbi Dr. I. M. Wise, the pioneer of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Rodkinson explains his censorship in a footnote:
We deem it expedient not to translate about two pages of the text preceding the next Mishna, treating of miserable crimes with men and animals, and giving the discussion with questions and answers, it would be undesirable to express in the English language …
— Rabbi Rodkinson (26)
For further discussion, see “Rabbi Rodkinson Censors the Talmud” in Do Not Censor the Talmud, Please.
Censorship, expurgation, and denial of the clear and obvious meaning of basic religious text do not help inter-religious understanding. It does not help people of different religions understand each others’ faiths. See What We’re About.
The lack of reliable authoritative information on the doctrines of Judaic law is a significant problem as American society and law becomes more Talmudized. Such information gaps can cause unwanted societal consequences.
America Is Rapidly Becoming Talmudized
In 1999, the Supreme Court agreed to consider an amicus brief based wholly on Talmudic law (see Sentence and Execution).
In November 2002, the American Orthodox Jewish community held a kosher dinner in the Supreme Court building to celebrate the establishment of the National Institute for Judaic Law. (31) The dinner was attended by 200 people, including three Supreme Court Justices. The purpose of the Institute is to introduce Talmudic laws into the US legal system and law schools.
It is thus the clear civic duty of every American to become intimately acquainted with the Talmud. Read articles at:
Death Penalty: http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/capunish_1.html
Kosher Dinner: http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/cp-jp-11-09-2002 and http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/cp-jw-01-08-03
According to Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman (footnote 5, above), in Sanhedrin 54b-55a the Sages confirm, “in all crimes of incest, the passive adult does not incur guilt unless the other party is at least nine years and a day.” Therefore, a mother who encourages her son to have sexual intercourse with her incurs no guilt if her son is younger than nine years old and a day. In such an arrangement, the mother would be the “passive” adult, of course.
Adult Male Homosexuality
MISHNAH. HE WHO COMMITS SODOMY WITH A MALE OR A BEAST, AND A WOMAN THAT COMMITS BESTIALITY ARE STONED.
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 54a
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 367
This clears matters up. Consenting adults who engage in homosexuality suffer the death penalty. But homosexuality with a male child under the age of nine years and a day is not punishable (Sanhedrin 54b-55a, above). Recall Rabbi Dr. Freedman’s clear statement of the doctrine:
- I.e., Rab makes nine years the minimum; but if one committed sodomy with a child of lesser age, no guilt is incurred. Samuel makes three the minimum.
— Rabbi Dr. Freedman (21)
But what of female homosexuality?
GEMARA. … Women who practise lewdness with one another are disqualified from marrying a priest.
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yebamoth 76a
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 512 – 513
The same statement appears in Shabbath 65a, page 311. The ruling, then, is only that a woman who “commits lewdness” with another is disqualified from marrying a priest. Thus a woman who never had ambitions to marry a priest suffers no sanction for her homosexual activity.
All of this paints a different picture of Orthodox Jewish doctrine on homosexuality — as enshrined in the G-d-given law of the Talmud. What would Dr. Laura say if she knew? Or does she?
More on Oedipal Incest
In the following passage, the question before the Sages is this: If a mother committed incest with her son, would she still be eligible to marry a priest? As we shall see, the answer depends on the son’s age. Again, incest with a young boy is not a concern, while incest with an older boy brings consequences to the adult. Here, the Sages debate the threshold age.
GEMARA. … Our Rabbis taught: If a woman sported lewdly with her young son [a minor], and he committed the first stage of cohabitation with her, — Beth Shammai say, he thereby renders her unfit to the priesthood. Beth Hillel declare her fit. R. Hiyya the son of Rabbah b. Nahmani said in R. Hisda’s name; others state, R. Hisda said in Ze’iri’s name: All agree that the connection of a boy aged nine years and a day is a real connection; whilst that of one less than eight years is not: (2) their dispute refers only to one who is eight years old, Beth Shammai maintaining, We must base our ruling on the earlier generations, but (3) Beth Hillel hold that we do not.
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 69b
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 470
The translator, Dr. Freedman, uses “cohabitation” to denote sexual intercourse. (32) He amplifies the text with footnotes.
- So that if he was nine years and a day or more, Beth Hillel agree that she is invalidated from the priesthood; whilst if he was less that eight, Beth Shammai agree that she is not
- When a boy of that age could cause conception.
— Rabbi Dr. Freedman
The issue rests on the boy’s theoretical ability to cause conception. Since (theoretically) a boy younger than nine cannot cause conception, he cannot (theoretically) engage in sexual intercourse (see above, from page 58, footnote 1, “… the intercourse of a small boy is not regarded as a sexual act”). This is a specialized definition of sexual intercourse.
The boy’s youth also exempts the man who sodomizes him — from moral guilt and legal liability. That is, the young boy cannot “throw guilt” on a man who lies with him, and the Scripture does not apply. If the boy is old enough to cause conception, the man who lies with him is in violation of Scripture.
And now we have the answer to a question that might have occurred to the reader when we discussed incest between mother and son, above: Why wouldn’t a mother like that be charged with incest? We have seen this explanation from Rabbi Dr. Freedman before, but it warrants further study. In a synthesis of logical premises unique to Talmudism, the translator again helps us out with a footnote. The language is complex, but the meaning of the last few lines is clear: By reckoning back and forth between the definition of “man,” “cause conception,” “active,” and “passive” participants in a sexual act, the conclusion is drawn that incest is not punishable with a boy younger than nine years old.
- [Rashi reads [H] instead of the [H] in our printed texts. A male, aged nine years and a day who commits etc.] There are thus three distinct clauses in this Baraitha. The first — a male aged nine years and a day — refers to the passive subject of pederasty, the punishment being incurred by the adult offender. This must be its meaning — because firstly, the active offender is never explicitly designated as a male, it being understood, just as the Bible states, Thou shalt not lie with mankind, where only the sex of the passive participant is mentioned; and secondly, if the age reference is to the active party, the guilt being incurred by the passive adult party, why single out pederasty: in all crimes of incest, the passive adult does not incur guilt unless the other party is at least nine years and a day? Hence the Baraitha supports Rab’s contention that nine years (and a day) is the minimum age of the passive partner for the adult to be liable.
— Rabbi Dr. Freedman (24)
American Puritanism vs. Rabbinic Tradition
Forward reports criticism of Young Israel’s award to Dr. Laura.
The problem, according to her liberal critics, is that Ms. Schlessinger pushes a conservative, pro-life platform that is out of touch with the mostly liberal American Jewish public. Worse, they say, is that her “sanctimonious” moralism and harsh style are more a reflection of American Puritanism than the ancient rabbinic tradition.
“It’s sad that with all the outstanding individuals doing great work, the National Council of Young Israel has chosen someone whose comments have been so divisive within and outside of the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Douglas Kahn, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco.
Rabbi Kahn said he was referring in particular to the controversy sparked by Ms. Schlessinger’s claim that homosexuality is “deviant” and a “biological error.” Last year gay rights organizations and other liberal groups organized a boycott of Ms. Schlessinger’s new television show, which was eventually canceled due to poor ratings.
More than a dozen Jewish leaders signed a critical letter to Ms. Schlessinger, including Rabbi Paul Menitoff, the executive vice president of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Indeed, Rabbis Kahn, Menitoff, and other Reform rabbis are right. Dr. Laura is not representing “the ancient rabbinic tradition,” which allows ample room for homosexuality and pederasty. But why didn’t Rabbis Kahn and Menitoff and their Reform colleagues publicly correct Dr. Laura and her Orthodox mentors, in particular Rabbi Moshe Bryski, by using the authority of direct quotes from the Talmud?
Children as Concubines, Babies as Wives
The ancient Hebrews were permitted to use children as concubines. Moses established the precedent. In the passage below, the Hebrews have just massacred the Midianite men. They return home with booty, and the Midianite women and children. Moses directs them to slaughter the captive women and children with this exception: virgin girl children are to be kept as concubines for the Hebrews.
- And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.
- And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.
- And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
- And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
- Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
- Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
- But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
— Numbers 31:12-18 (KJV)
In the following, the Talmud Sages reason that, since Phinehas was among the Hebrews who were permitted a child concubine and Phinehas was a priest, Numbers 31:17-18 is Divine sanction for the marriage of priests with girls under the age of three — babies. The rabbis describe the babies as proselytes. The American Heritage Dictionary defines proselyte as “a Gentile converted to Judaism.” In the following passage, a bondman is a male slave, and a bondwoman a female slave.
GEMARA. … It was taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai stated: A proselyte who is under the age of three years and one day is permitted to marry a priest, (2) for it is said, But all the women children that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves, (3) and Phinehas (4) surely was with them. And the Rabbis? (5) — [These were kept alive] as bondmen and bondwomen. (6) If so, (7) a proselyte whose age is three years and one day (8) should also be permitted! — [The prohibition is to be explained] in accordance with R. Huna. For R. Huna pointed out a contradiction: It is written, Kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him, (9) but if she hath not known, save her alive; from this it may be inferred that children are to be kept alive whether they have known or have not known [a man]; and, on the other hand, it is also written, But all the women children, that have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves, (3) but do not spare them if they have known. Consequently (10) it must be said that Scripture speaks of one who is fit (11) for cohabitation. (12)
— Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yebamoth 60b
Soncino 1961 Edition, page 402
This is a special definition of cohabitation. The translator, Rev. Dr. Israel W. Slotki, amplifies the text with footnotes:
- She is not regarded as a harlot.
- Num. XXXI, 18.
- Who was a priest.
- How could they, contrary to the opinion of R. Simeon b. Yohai, which has Scriptural support, forbid the marriage of the young proselyte?
- Not for matrimony.
- That, according to R. Simeon, Num. XXXI, 18 refers to matrimony.
- So lo