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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Thinking About Mikveh Before Marriage- Joy of Text 2:11

by Rabbi Dov Linzer (Posted on March 11, 2019)

Recorded Live at Harvard Hillel! Should an unmarried woman who is in an intimate relationship use the mikveh before marriage? What are the relevant and often competing halakhic, personal, and communal  issues that must be considered? Includes Q&A with Harvard students on this theme and related topics, and heartfelt reflections by our hosts on why this podcast is the most important project they’ve undertaken.

These sources accompany the eleventh episode of the second season of the Joy of Text podcast.

You may also want to check out our source sheet on degrees of sexual touch here.


Unmarried Women Not Going to the Mikveh

Rivash (Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet, 1326-1408, Spain) was the first to discuss the practice that unmarried women would not go to the mikveh {source 1}  The questioner first asked whether the prohibition against sex with a niddah would apply to a single woman (!), to which the Rivash answered in the affirmative.  Rivash then goes on to explain that this was never discussed in regards to a single woman, because sex with her is forbidden regardless, even if she is not a niddah.  Here he surveys the different opinions regarding whether premarital sex is forbidden and to what degree, and concludes that in the absence of a committed relationship this behavior is prohibited according to all opinions.

The questioner wanted to know, as some people are asking today, why not have single women go to the mikveh so that if they have sex, they will not be violating the prohibition of niddah.  Rivash explains that such a practice would be religiously detrimental as it would encourage people to have pre-martial sex.  This is an early example of the religious costs at a societal level in ruling that an unmarried woman may or should go to the mikveh.

Rivash is often quoted as saying that there was a takanah, a rabbinic enactment, that unmarried women not use the mikvehHowever, a close reading of Rivash reveals that he only states why there was no practice established to specifically have them use the mikveh.  The reason they were not using the mikveh is obvious and did not require any special enactment: there simply was no need, since as a rule women did not have sex until marriage. It is important to keep this point in mind, since many claim – incorrectly, in my opinion – that for a woman to choose to go to the mikveh before marriage would be to go against the “takanah of Rivash.”

1. Responsa Rivash, no. 425

אושקה. לרב יצחק אלטינסי י”א.
שאלת: לבאר לך, מה שכתוב בתורה: ואל אשה בנדת טומאתה, לא תקרב לגלות ערותה. אם נאמר על כל אשה נדה: בין באשתו, בין בפנויה? ואם הוא כן, איך לא הזכירו דבר זה,..
תשובה: דבר ברור הוא: שאסור ביאת הנדה; לא באשתו בלבד, אלא: בין באשתו, בין באשת חברו, בין בפנויה…
ומה שהוקשה לך על הרשב”א והראב”ד ז”ל: איך לא הזכירו בספריהם, רק אשתו נדה? יכילנא לשנויי לך: דברו בהווה. וכן בדברי רז”ל, במס’ מכות (י”ד): בא על ה’ נשיו נדות בהעלם אחת. מיהו, שנויי דחיקי, לא משנינא לך. אבל הטעם הוא: כי דבריהם היו ללמד דעת את העם: איך יתנהגו עם נשותיהם, בטומאתן ובטהרתן. ולא היו צריכין לזה, בפנויה: שהרי ביאת הפנויה, אסורה אף שלא בימי נדתה, לדברי הרמב”ם ז”ל מן התורה. ויש בה מלקות: כל שהכינה עצמה לכך. רוצה לומר: להבעל בדרך זנות. והרי היא בכלל קדשה, אף על פי שאינה יושבת בקובה של זונות, ולא הפקירה עצמה לכל.
ולדברי החולקים עליו, ואומרים: שאין בביאת הפנויה: לא לאו, ולא מלקות; מ”מ יש בביאתה, אסורא דרבנן. שהרי גם יחודה של פנויה, אסור מגזרת ב”ד של דוד. כל שכן, ביאתה! גם יש מי שאומר: שיש בביאת הפנויה, אסור תורה; אף אם אין בה: לאו, ולא מלקות. והוא אסור עשה: דכי יקח איש אשה, ובעלה; אמרה תורה. כשירצה לבעול, יבעול בקדושין.
ויש מי שהתיר: ביאת הפנויה; כל שהיא מיוחדת לו לבדו. ואמרו: שהיא הפלגש. ואף זו אסרה הרמב”ם ז”ל, להדיוט, ולא התירה: כי אם למלך. כמו שכתוב בספר שופטים. והדברים עתיקים. ואין כאן מקום להאריך. מ”מ, אין מי שיתיר לגמרי: ביאת פנויה בזנות…
ומה שנפלאת: איך לא תקנו טבילה לפנויה, כדי שלא יכשלו בה רבים? ואין כאן מקום תמה! שהרי כיון שהפנויה אסורה, כמש”כ. אדרבה! אם היתה טובלת, היה בה מכשול: שהיו מקילין באסורה; כיון שאין אסורה, אלא מדרבנן….
ובזה יש לתרץ: במה שהוקש’ לך. והארכתי, במה שלא הי’ צריך, למען השלים דרושך, ולמלאת מבוקשך. ואתה שלום. כחפצך, וחפץ דורש שלומך; נאמנך, יצחק ב”ר ששת זלה”ה.
You asked – that I should explain to you if the Biblical verse states, “And to a woman in the flow (niddah) of her impurity, you should not draw near to uncover her nakedness.” (Vayikra 18:19) –refers to every woman who is a niddah, whether a man’s wife or an unmarried woman? And if it is so, how is it that [the Rishonim] did not mention this?…
Answer: The matter is clear that intercourse with a niddah is prohibited, not only with a man’s wife, but whether with his wife, another man’s wife, or an unmarried woman…
What bothered you regarding Rashba and Ra’avad, how they did not mention in their books [that this applies to all women, and only discuss the prohibition in the context of] a man’s wife who is a niddah. I can answer you that they spoke regarding the common case… but I have no need to give you forced answer. But the reason is that their writings were to teach the people how act according to halakha with their wives, when they were ritually impure and when they were ritually pure. And they had no need to discuss the case of an unmarried woman, for sex with an unmarried would is forbidden even when she is not in her niddah period. According to Rambam this is a Biblical prohibition that one would receive lashes for, if a woman made herself available in this way, that is to say, to have sex in a way of fornication, and this would be included in the category of a “prostitute” [that the Torah forbids], although she does not sit in a booth of prostitutes (bordello) and make herself available to all.
According to those who argue against Rambam and state that intercourse with an unmarried woman is not prohibited by a negative Biblical prohibition and one who does this is not liable for lashes, nevertheless, having intercourse with her does entail a Rabbinic prohibition. For even just being in seclusion with an unmarried woman [who is not a niddah] is forbidden based on the enactment of the court of King David. How much more so is intercourse with her [forbidden]. There is also those who say that intercourse with an unmarried woman is forbidden according to the Torah, although not based on a Biblical prohibition, and there are no lashes, but it is forbidden based on a positive commandment, [to wit:] “If a man takes a wife and has intercourse with her,” [it is as if] the Torah is saying: if he wants to have intercourse, he must have intercourse in the context of marriage.
There are those who permit intercourse with an unmarried woman, provided that she is designated for him alone, and they have said that she is the pilegesh (concubine) [mentioned in the Torah]. Even this (a pilegesh) Rambam has forbidden to a lay person and stated that she is only permitted to a king, as he writes in his book of Shoftim, and this is a well-worn discussion, and there is no need here to go at length. Nevertheless, there is no one who fully permits intercourse with an unmarried woman in a way of fornication…
Now, what you were astounded about – how is it that the Rabbis did not institute immersion for an unmarried woman,, so that the masses would not stumble as a result of her (i.e., so a man having sex with her would not transgress the prohibition of niddah)? There is nothing to be astounded about! For since an unmarried woman is forbidden [even if she is not a niddah], as we have written, then the opposite is the case! If she were to immerse, that would create a stumbling (lead people to sin), for then people would be lenient regarding the prohibition that applies to her, since she would only be forbidden according to Rabbinic law…


Pre-Marital Sex When the Woman is not a Niddah – Is It Biblically Forbidden?

Let’s assume the woman had gone to the mikveh. This would remove the weighty prohibition of having intercourse when the woman is a niddah. But what about the fact that the couple would be engaging in pre-marital sex?  Is that in itself prohibited, apart from the issue of niddah?  This matter is debated in the Rishonim and reflects an earlier debate in the Tannaim.  This revolves around two Biblical verses, one {source ‎2} prohibiting a man from defiling his daughter “to cause her to whore” and the other {source ‎3} against allowing there to be a prostitute, kedeishah, among the children of Israel.  It is harder to see how this second verse can be applied to pre-martial sex in general, and in addition the verse seems more directed at the society in general and not at individuals engaged in a particular act.

2. Vayikra 19:29

אַל תְּחַלֵּל אֶת בִּתְּךָ לְהַזְנוֹתָהּ וְלֹא תִזְנֶה הָאָרֶץ וּמָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ זִמָּה: Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

3. Devarim 23:18

לֹא תִהְיֶה קְדֵשָׁה מִבְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא יִהְיֶה קָדֵשׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a male prostitute of the sons of Israel.

In the Tosefta {source 4} and Sifra {source 5}, the Tannaim debate the scope of these above verses.  Rambam, as we will see, focuses primarily on the verse regarding the kedeishah, but the Tannaim focus on the verse that seems potentially more relevant, the one against a man causing his daughter to whore.  The key word here is li’haznotah, to cause to whore, which comes from the word zenut, translated either as fornication or whoring.  What is the scope of this word?  Does it apply only to prostitution and sex-for-hire?  Would it apply to casual, indiscriminate sexual activity?  Would it possibly apply to all acts of sex outside of marriage.  In the following two parallel sources, we see that this matter is debated between Rabbi Elazar, who reads the prohibition very broadly to apply to all prep-marital sex, and Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov who limits it to promiscuous sexual behavior that leads to a society in which children don’t know who their father is, and therefore no one knows who is related to whom. 

4. Tosefta Kiddushin, 1:4

וזמה היא ר’ לעזר או’ זה פנוי הבא על הפנויה שלא לשום אישות ר’ לעזר אומ’ מנין שענוש לפני מקום כבא על אשה ואמה נאמ’ כאן זמה ונאמ’ להלן ואיש אשר יקח את אשה ואת אמה זמה היא ר’ ליעזר בן יעקב אומ’ מתוך שבא על נשים הרבה ואין ידוע על אי זו מהן בא והיא שקיבלה מאנשים הרבה ואין ידוע מאי זה מהן קיבלה נמצא זה איש נושא את בתו וזה נושא את אחותו נמצא כל העולם מתמזרין לכך נאמ’ ומלאה הארץ זמה “It is zimah” – R. Elazar says: This is an unmarried man who has intercourse with an unmarried woman not for the sake of marriage. R. Elazar says: How do we know that the punishment for such an act is equal in the eyes of God to someone who has sex with a woman and her mother? It says here “it is zimah” and it says later on “and a man who takes a woman and her mother, it is zimah.”
R. Eliezer ben Yaakov says: Because he has intercourse with many women and does not know with which women he has had intercourse with, and because she has received (intercourse, semen) from many men and does not know from which of them she has received, it will result in a man marrying his daughter and another one marrying his sister, and then the entire world will be making itself into mamzeirim. Thus it states “the land will be filled with zimah”.

5. Sifra, Kedoshim, parasha 3

(ב) אל תחלל את בתך להזנותה יכול לא יתננה ללוי ולא יתננה לישראל תלמוד לומר להזנותה, לא אמרתי אלא חילול שהוא לשם זנות, ואיזה זה זה המוסר (דין) לחבירו בתו פנויה שלא לשם אישות, וכן המוסרת עצמה שלא לשם אישות…
(ה) רבי אליעזר בן יעקב אומר מתוך שהוא בא על נשים הרבה ואינו יודע על איזה מהם בא, והיא שקיבלה מאנשים הרבה ואין יודע מאיזה מהם קיבלה, שגג ונשא לבתו, שגג והשיאה לבנו נמצא הוי נשוי לבתו ובנו לאחותו נמצא ממלא את העולם ממזירים שנאמר זימה, זה מה הוא
(2) “Do not defile your daughter to cause her to whore” – perhaps this means that you (a Kohen) should not give her to a Levite or an Israelite? The verse teaches: “to cause her to whore” – I only refer to a defiling that is for the purpose of whoring, and what is this? This is a person who gives his unmarried daughter to his friend not for the purpose of marriage, and similarly one who gives herself to a man not for the purpose of marriage…
(5) Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says, because he has intercourse with many women and does not know with which women he has had intercourse with, and because she has received (intercourse, semen) from many men and does not know from which of them she has received, then if he errs and marries his daughter, or if he errs and marries off his daughter to his son, it will be that he will be married to his daughter and his son married to his (the son’s) sister, and the world will then become filled with mamzeirim, as it states “[the land will be filled with] zimah,” meaning “this one (zeh), what is he (mah hu)?”.




The debate in the Tannaim is reflected in the debate between Rambam {sources 6, 10} and Ramban {sources 12‎, 15}.  Rambam forbids sex outside of marriage, echoing the position of Rabbi Elazar (although with more emphasis on the verse regarding the prostitute).

6. Rambam, Book of Mitzvot, negative mitzvah 355

והמצוה השנ”ה היא שהזהירנו שלא לבא על אשה בלא כתובה ובלא קדושין והוא אמרו ית’ (שם) לא תהי’ קדשה מבנות ישראל. וכבר נכפלה האזהרה בזה הענין בלשון אחר והוא אמרו (קדושים יט כט) אל תחלל את בתך להזנותה. ולשון ספרא אל תחלל את בתך זה המוסר בתו פנויה שלא לשום אישות וכן המוסרת עצמה שלא לשם אישות… The 355th mitzvah is that we have been prohibited against having intercourse with a woman without ketubah and without kiddushin, and this is what the verse states, “There shall be no prostitute among the daughters of Israel.” And the prohibition about this matter has been repeated in different words, as it states, “You shall not defile your daughter to have her whore” (Vayikra 19:29). The language of Sifra is as follows:: “Do not defile your daughter – this is one who hands over his daughter not for the sake of marriage, and similarly one who gives herself over not for the sake of marriage.”…

In the following two sources {sources 7, 8}, Rambam needs to contend with the question – if all pre-marital sex is forbidden, why is there only a monetary fine for the man who seduces an unmarried young woman, and not lashes?  We need  not delve into the details of this, but it is important to parse how he answers this question  When, according to Rambam, would pre-marital sex not be a violation of the Biblical prohibition?  When it is unplanned and occasional as opposed to when it is planned and regular?  This is a little bizarre if the context of “planned and regular” is an ongoing committed relationship. Pay attention to how Rambam phrases this differently in the two sources, and notice how the second one suggests greater promiscuity and echoes of people not knowing who their father or siblings are.  This suggests that non-promiscuous pre-marital sex may not be a violation for Rambam.

The question as to whether an unplanned sexual encounter is included in the prohibition according to Rambam  is discussed in the Kesef Mishneh {source 9} that follows.

7. Rambam, Book of Mitzvot, negative mitzvah 355 (contd.)

לפי שזה שדנתי בו לענשו ממון לבד אמנם הוא כשיקרה שיפתה איש או יאנוס אבל שיהיה העניין ברצון שניהם יחד ובהסכמה אין דרך לזה. והראה בזה הטעם ואמר ולא תזנה הארץ ומלאה הארץ זמה. לפי שהפתוי והאונס לא יקרה אלא מעט אבל כשיהיה הענין בבחירה והסכמה ירבה זה ויתפשט בארץ…
וזה הלאו כלומר לאו דפנויה לוקין עליו. 
For although the verse only imposes a monetary fine to be paid [to the father, when a man has intercourse with an unmarried woman, which would suggest that there is no negative prohibition that is being violated], this is only when it happened that a man seduced or raped her, but when the matter (having intercourse) was planned with their mutual agreement, then there is no place (to not prohibit such actions). For the verse states (regarding this prohibition), “and the land will fornicate, and the land will be filled with fornication.” Since seduction and rape occur only infrequently (they do not fall under the prohibition of this verse), but when the matter occurs through the choice and agreement, then (if it is not prohibited) it will increase and spread throughout the land…
And this negative prohibition, namely, of [intercourse with] an unmarried woman, one receives lashes for violating.

8. Rambam, Laws of a Virgin Maiden, 2:17

שזה שחייבה תורה לאונס ולמפתה ממון לא מלקות בשאירע הדבר מקרה שלא מדעת אביה ולא הכינה עצמה לכך שדבר זה אינו הווה תמיד ואינו מצוי
אבל אם הניח זה בתו הבתולה מוכנת לכל מי שיבוא עליה גורם שתמלא הארץ זמה ונמצא האב נושא בתו והאח נושא אחותו שאם תתעבר ותלד לא יודע בן מי הוא. והמכין בתו לכך הרי היא קדשה ולוקה הבועל והנבעלת משום לא תהיה קדשה
ואין קונסין אותו שלא חייבה תורה קנס אלא לאונס ומפתה אבל זו שהכינה עצמה לכך בין מדעתה בין מדעת אביה הרי זו קדשה.
For the fact that the Torah requires the rapist or the seducer to pay money, and does not punish them with lashes, is only when the act [of intercourse] occurred as a matter of chance, and was not done with her father’s agreement, nor did she ready herself for this act. It is referring to an act (of sex) that is not happening constantly and is not prevalent.
If, however, a man places his virgin daughter in a position that she is prepared to have sex with whoever wishes to have intercourse with her, this causes the land to be filled with fornication, and it will result in a father marrying his daughter and a brother marrying his sister, for if she becomes pregnant and gives birth, no one will know whose son the child is (cf. Yevamot 37b, Tosefta Kiddushin 1:4, Sifra Kedoshim 3:4). And a person who readies his daughter for such a purpose, she is considered a kedeishah (prostitute), and the one who has intercourse with her, and she, receive lashes because they have violated the prohibition “There shall be no kedeishah.” (Deut. 23:18).
In such a case the man does not pay a fine, for the Torah only obligated the rapist and seducer to pay a fine, but in the case of a woman who prepares herself for such an act, whether on her own or with her father’s agreement, such a woman is a kedeishah [and there is lashes but no monetary payment]. And the prohibition of a kedeisha applies equally to a virgin

9. Kesef Mishneh, Laws of a Virgin Maiden, 2:17

ומ”מ יש לדקדק דמשמע מדברי רבינו הכא דאינו לוקה משום קדשה אא”כ היא מוכנת לכך ובפ”א מאישות כתב כל הבועל אשה לשם זנות בלא קידושין לוקה מן התורה לפי שבעל קדשה וצריך לדחוק שסמך שם על מה שכתב כאן:However, we need to scrutinize this, for it seems from what our rabbi (Rambam) writes here that one does not receive lashes for [having intercourse with] a kedeishah, unless she prepares herself for this, but in chapter 1 of Laws of Marriage he writes, “Whoever has intercourse with a woman for the sake of fornication without marriage receives Biblical lashes because he has had intercourse with a kedeishah” [which suggests that one violates even when the woman does not “prepare herself for this.”]. And we must reconcile, with difficulty, that over there he is relying on [the clarification that] he writes here.

In Laws of Marriage {source 10}, Rambam repeats his position that pre-marital sex is a violation of the prohibition against a prostitute.  Note, however, that his context is one of casual sex.  Also, there is an ambiguity in the key phrase.  Is לשם זנות בלא קידושין describing one criterion or two?  That is, does it mean, “for the sake of fornication, i.e., outside of marriage,” such that all sex outside of marriage is defined as fornication and a violation?  Or does he mean, “for the sake of fornication and outside of marriage,” allowing for the possibility that there could be sex outside of marriage that is not defined as fornication and hence not a violation?

10. Rambam, Laws of Marriage, 1:4

קודם מתן תורה היה אדם פוגע אשה בשוק אם רצה הוא והיא נותן לה שכרה ובועל אותה על אם הדרך והולך לו, וזו היא הנקראת קדשה, משנתנה התורה נאסרה הקדשה שנאמר לא תהיה קדשה מבנות ישראל, לפיכך כל הבועל אשה לשם זנות בלא קידושין לוקה מן התורה מפני שבעל קדשה. Before the Giving of the Torah a man would encounter a woman in the marketplace, and if he and she desired,, he would per her fee and have intercourse with her on the crossroads and then go on his way. And such a woman is called a kedeishah (prostitute). Once the Torah was given, a prostitute became forbidden [to have intercourse with], as it states, “There shall not be a prostitute from the daughters of Israel” (Deut. 23:18). Therefore, whoever has intercourse with a woman for the purposes of fornication, without marriage, receives lashes because he had intercourse with a prostitute.

Rambam raises another possible basis to prohibit sex outside of marriage: the Biblical mitzvah to marry.  The following passage from his Book of Mitzvot {source11}, and other texts of Rambam regarding this mitzvah, are ambiguous, and there is major debate as to what his exact position regarding the mitzvah to marry. According to some the emphasis here is that one get married, or that one do it in accordance with the forms that the Torah prescribes, and that it is not meant to prohibit pre-marital sex.  Regardless, some poskim  do interpret this mitzvah as forbidding pre-marital sex, and this allows some to argue for a middle position – there is no negative prohibition against pre-marital sex, but it is a violation of the positive mitzvah to marry (and have sex within marriage).

11. Rambam, Book of Mitzvot, positive mitzvah 213

והמצוה הרי”ג היא שצונו לבעול בקדושין ולתת דבר ביד האשה או בשטר או בביאה. וזו היא מצות קדושין. The 213th mitzvah is that we have been commanded to have intercourse in [the context of] kiddushin, and to give an object into the woman’s hand, or through a writ, or through the act of intercourse, and this is the mitzvah of kiddushin.




In contrast to Rambam, Ramban reflects the position of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, and states that there is no prohibition against pre-marital sex  when it occurs in a committed context {source 12}.  When the sex is promiscuous, this could be a violation of the verse’s warning against causing the land to be “filled with fornication,” and no one knowing who is related to whom, as Ramban writes in a responsum which we will see below {source15}.  [Alternatively, as he argues here, it may be that the verse is only prohibiting intercourse in a context where marriage could not even possibly be binding.]

12. Ramban, Critique of Sefer HaMitzvot, negative prohibition 365

אבל דברו בכתובה וקדושין אינו אמת. שהכתובה אינה מן התורה כלל והקדושין מצוה וקניין באשה. אבל אנחנו התנינו בענין הלאו הזה שתהיה המניעה בביאה אסורה שאין קדושין תופסין בהן. שכבר נתבאר בדבריהם שאין זונה בכל מקום בתורה בכהן ואתנן אלא באסורי הביאה שאין בהם קדושין. וכן הזכירו בכל לשון זנות שבא בתורה. אם כן אל תחלל את בתך… אסר עליו למכרה למי שאין קדושין שלו תופסין בה. וכן גם לאו הקדשה כך הואBut his words regarding ketubah and kiddushin are not correct. For the ketubah is not a Biblical requirement at all. And kiddushin is a mitzvah, and a legal acquisition of the woman (i.e., an institution recognized by law, but not that there is a requirement that intercourse occur only within kiddushin). Rather, we have stipulated regarding this negative prohibition (of defiling one’s daughter li’haznotah, to cause her to whore) that it prohibits having intercourse in a context where kiddushin could not be binding between the parties. For it is clear in the rabbinic literature that the meaning of the word zonah in all places in the Torah, whether regarding a kohen or a payment to a zonah (which cannot be used as a sacrifice) applies only to intercourse of sex where kiddushin is not binding. And they similarly interpreted every occurrence of the word zenut that appears in the Torah. Therefore, “You shall not defile your daughter [to cause her to whore]”… forbids upon the father to sell her to a person with whom kiddushin is not binding, And the same is true regarding the prohibition of the kedeishah (prostitute).

Ra’avad disagrees with Rambam, critiquing him both in his ruling in Laws of Marriage  and in his ruling in Laws of a Virgin Maiden {sources 13,14}.  Ra’avad is also not fully consistent as to the scope of who is defined as a kedeishah.  Is it anyone who engages in promiscuous sexual activity, or only someone who actually sells her body for sex?  Regardless, it is clear that for Ra’avad a woman in a committed relationship does not violate the prohibition against kedeishah, and the institution of pilegesh serves as evidence that this practice is not prohibited. There are those who emphasize Ra’avad’s phrase ולא איסור לאו, and argue that for Ra’avad there still would be a violation of the positive command to marry (and have sex within marriage).  However, Ra’avad’s silence on this matter and, more significantly, his proof from pilegesh, make it clear that for Ra’avad there were no Biblical restrictions in a case of a committed relationship.

13. Ra’avad on Rambam, Laws of Marriage 1:4

אין קדשה אלא מזומנת והיא המופקרת לכל אדם אבל המייחדת עצמה לאיש אחד אין בה לא מלקות ולא איסור לאו והיא הפילגש הכתובה… ויש ספרים שכתוב בהם (סנהדרין כא) פילגשים קדושין בלא כתובה, מ”מ אין איסור לאו אלא במזמנת עצמה לכל אדם.
שאם כדבריו מפתה היאך משלם עליה ממון והלא לוקה עליה אלא ודאי משהוצרכה לפיתוי אינה קדשה.
A kedeishah is only a woman who is designated [for having sex], and this is a woman who makes herself available to every man. But a woman who designates herself solely to one man, for such a woman there would be neither lashes nor the transgression of a negative prohibition. And such a woman is the pilegesh [concubine] that appears in Scripture… Some texts (of Sanhedrin 21a) read “Pilagshim have kiddushin (betrothal) but no ketubah (marriage contract)” [according to which a woman would not be a pilegesh without kiddushin. This is in contrast to the standard text with reads “Pilagshim have neither betrothal nor marriage contract]. Regardless, there is no violation of a Biblical negative prohibition save in the case of a woman who has designated herself for every man.
For if the matter was as Rambam would have it, how is it that a man who seduces an unmarried woman has to pay (her father a fine)? Behold according to Rambam he should receive lashes [and therefore not pay]. Rather, since this woman had to be seduced, she is not a prostitute.

14. Ra’avad on Rambam, Laws of a Virgin Maiden, 2:17

והמכין בתו לכך הרי זו קדשה ולוקה הבועל והנבעלת. א”א אין דעתי מסכמת לזה שאין קדשה אלא העומדת בקובה של זונות וכן אמרו בספרי לא תהיה קדשה אזהרה למזנה כענין שנאמר (ברא’ לח) לא היתה בזה קדשה, ושם נאמר הקדשה היא בעינים על הדרך.“One who readies his daughter for this – such a woman is a kedeishah and the one who has intercourse with her, and she, receive lashes.” – My opinion is not in accordance with this position. For a kedeishah is only one who stands in a booth of prostitutes, They said similarly in Sifrei: “’There shall be no kedeishah’ – this is a prohibition against on who fornicates, li’mizaneh (our text reads למופנה, a single woman, see Rabbeinu Hillel ad. loc.), as it states [in the story of Yehudah and Tamar], ‘There was no prostitute among us.’” – and in that case the verse states, “[Where is the] kedeishah, she was on the road, in the crossroads?”




We end this section with the responsum of Ramban (1194-1270, Spain and Land of Israel, who was asked whether a pilegesh, is permitted as a matter of practical halakhah {source 15}.  The questioner was Ramban’s cousin, the great moralist Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerondi (1200-1263, Spain).  This may seem like a strange practical question coming from such a moralist, but it reflects the reality that in Sephardic lands at that time, men having concubines was a prevalent occurrence in the general, non-Jewish population, and among the Jews as well. 

Ramban argues that there is no verse or rabbinic enactment that prohibits pre-marital sex in the context of a committed, exclusive relationship, provided that the woman is not a niddah.  General promiscuity is prohibited based on the verse of the “land filling with fornication,” as seen above. He goes further to argue that even Rambam would agree to this, and that Rambam only meant to prohibit casual sex.  This picks up on certain ambiguities of Rambam’s rulings, as we have seen above.

In his claim that there is no rabbinic restrictions that apply here, Ramban must contend with various rabbinic rulings that prevent husband and wife from engaging in sex without the full structures and protection of marriage.  Ramban answers that it all depends on how the relationship has been defined.  If it is a marriage, then the woman is entitled to certain protections, such as the ketubah, and without them, the couple may not engage in sex.  However, a non-marital, committed relationship, has different parameters and expectations and these protections are not necessary. [We mat also add that as to the rabbinic prohibitions against yichud, a man being in seclusion with a woman who is not his wife lest they come to have sex, this can be properly understood as a protection against casual sex, which for Ramban remains prohibited.

Finally, he underscores the practical problems with this institution – that because the woman is not married she will be embarrassed to go to the mikveh and the couple will have sex when she is a niddah.  He frames this as a practical concern, not a formal ruling, which allows for the possibility that it would depend on the particular context.

15. Responsa of Ramban (printed in Responsa of Rashba attributed to Ramban, 284)

איש אלהים, קדוש, הוא הרב החסיד, רבי יונה שלומך ושלום תורתך, יגדל לעד, ויסגא לנצח. הגיעני מצותך, בענין: הפלגש. להודיעך בה דעתי, על דרך אמת, לא כנושא ונותן.
לא ידעתי, במה יסתפקו בה, דודאי מותרת היא, כיון שיחדה לעצמו. שלא נאסרה אשה בזנות לישראל, אלא ממדרשו של רבי אליעזר בן יעקב נמצא אח נושא אחותו, ואב נושא בתו. ועל זה נאמר: ומלאה הארץ זמה. אבל כשנכנסה בביתו, והיא מיוחדת וידועה לו, בניה נקראים על שמו, ומותרת.
שהרי דוד נשא אותה. ולא הוזכר בכתוב, ולא בגמרא, הפרש בין מלך להדיוט… שמא תאמר מן התורה היא מותרת, ומדבריהם הוא דגזור. וכי באיזה מקום הוזכרה גזירה זו בתלמוד! ואיזה ב”ד, נמנו עליה! ובאיזה זמן, נשנית משנה זו!
… וכך אמרו: כל הפוחת לבתולה ממאתים, ולאלמנה ממנה, הרי זה בעילתו בעילת זנות. .. כל שלא כתב לה מאתים, סבורה היא כיון שאינו נוהג עמה כבעל, עיניו נתן בגירושין. הויא לה גרושת הלב. הא אילו רצה שתהיה לו פילגש, שלא תהא קנויה לו, ולא אסורה על אחרים, ולא קדש כלל, הרשות בידו.
וגם דברי הרמב”ם ז”ל, אינם לאסור פילגש להדיוט, ולהתירה למלך. אלא כך אמר: וכל הבועל אשה לשם זנות, בלא קידושין, לוקה מפני שבעל קדשה. ולשם זנות, היינו שפגע בה, ובעלה, ולא יחדה לעצמו לשום פילגשות, דהיינו קדשה. ולא אמר הר”ם ז”ל: כל הבועל בלא קדושין, לוקה…
ואתה רבינו, ה’ יחייך, במקומך תזהירם מן הפילגש, שאם ידעו ההיתר, יזנו ויפרצו ויבואו עליהן בנדותן.  
Man of God, the holy, the pious rabbi, Rabbi Yonah (of Gerondi), may your well-being and the well-being of your Torah increase forever. I have received your question regarding the pilegesh, that you have requested that I let you know my opinion, as a matter of truth (a genuine halakhic ruling), not merely as a theoretical discussion.
I do not know what basis there is for any doubt in this matter, for she is certainly permissible, since he (the man) has designated her for himself. For the only basis for a woman to be prohibited in an act of fornication with a Jewish man is derived from the exposition of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov (Yevamot 37b, Tosefta Kiddushin 1:4, Sifra Kedoshim 3:4): “[If a man has sex with multiple women or a woman has sex with multiple men,] this will result in a brother will marry a sister and a father will marry his daughter, and to prohibit this the verse states “[A man should not defile his daughter to have her fornicate, and the land shall not fornicate,] and the land will be filled with fornication.” (Vayikra 19:29). [Now this not knowing of children’s parentage is only a concern when a woman is not designated to a particular man], but when he brings her into his house, and she is designate t to him, and known that she is connected to him, then her children are called by his name (are attributed to him), and she is permitted.
Behold, [King] David took a concubine, and it never appears anywhere in Scripture nor in the Gemara that there should be a difference between a king and a commoner… Perhaps, you will say, that she may be permissible as a matter of Torah law, but forbidden as a matter of Rabbinic legislation. Please tell me in what place such a legsilation is mentioned in the Talmud? And what court voted on it? And it what time period was this ruling taught?
… Now, regarding what they said, “Whoever gives a virgin less than 200 [zuz in the ketubah] or to a widow less than 100, makes his acts of intercourse [with his wife] into fornication” [and why should this be problematic if a pilegesh, who is without betrothal or a ketubah is permissible? The answer is that in such a case] the wife thinks that since he is not acting towards her as a husband [acts towards his wife] he is planning on divorcing her, and then he is having sex with her when she is “divorced in the heart” [not in the proper context for the martial relationship that exists]. But if he wants a woman to be just a pilegesh, that she should not be acquired to him, and not forbidden to others, and he did not betroth her at all, he has the permission to do so.
Rambam’s words as well are not intended to make a pilegesh forbidden to a commoner and only permit her to a king. Rather, this is what he said: “Whoever has intercourse with a woman for the purpose of fornication, without kiddushin, receives lashes because he has had intercourse with a kedeishah.” The meaning of the phrase “for the purpose of fornication,” means that he just ran into her and had sex with her, and he did not dedicate her to himself for the sake of being a concubine. Such a woman is a kedeishah. Rambam did not say, “Whoever has sex without kiddushin receives lashes”…
You, our rabbi, may God give you life, in your place warn them against taking a pilegesh, for if the know of the permission [to do so], they will fornicate and act without restraint, and will have intercourse with them when they are in niddah.

Teshuvot of R. Hanan Aflalo Regarding Mikveh before Marriage

Rabbi Hanan Aflalo, a contemporary haredi Sephardic rabbi, has a good number of teshuvot dealing with marital and non-marital sex.  In the course of his responsa, he gives two reasons for his focus on these areas.  One,  that he is responding to questions from non-observant Jews who are drawing closer to a life of observance, and these are the real issues that they are dealing with, and two, that even for observant Jews these are real issues, and that it is a rabbi’s responsibility to address them and not to shirk from them because of their intimate nature.

In the following teshuvah {source 16}, he deals directly with the question of whether an unmarried woman who is in a committed sexual relationship should use the mikveh. He argues in the affirmative based on a simple halakhic calculus.  Note, however, his repeated emphasis on ensuring that this is a private and not a public ruling, so that it does not lead to a breaking of our communal norms and taboos against pre-marital sex, and to be who otherwise would wait until marriage giving now choosing to engage in pre-marital sex. 

Note also how he discusses how the equation of whether to issue such rulings (even in private) can change based on how widespread the practice of pre-marital sex is in one’s society.

In the course of his discussion, he considers and rejects the argument that because the couple is not married the woman cannot be trusted to be keeping the laws of niddah properly.

In the final part of the teshuvah, he discusses whether the woman should make a brakhah on such an immersion and concludes that she should.  He rejects the policy argument – which I side with – that to make a brakhah would seem to give license and sanctify behavior that is less than ideal (sex  before marriage).

It should be underscored that he is talking only in the context of a committed, exclusive relationship and not one of casual sex.  In the latter case the halakhic calculus might be different (everyone would agree that this would be a violation even if the woman were not a niddah), and the policy considerations might be different as well.

16. Asher Hanan, 8:60

טבילה לנידה שודאי תכשיל בנידתה
לכבוד ידי”ן הרה”ג אברהם גבאי שליט”א רב ק”ק אור עקיבא שלום וכט”ס
אודות מה ששאלת על ההיתר שאנו מורים בחשאי ולפרט שרווקה שחיה באיסור ושאי אפשר להפריד אותה מבועלה כדאי הוא שתטבול לטהרה להמעיט באיסורים של כרת והוא הצלה פורטא וכמ”ש באשר חנן ח”ו-ז’ (אה”ז סימן ק”ב וקכ”א אות ז’) דמש”כ הריב”ש סימן תכ”ה לאסור בכה”ג שלא יחלו לפרוץ בזנות אותן הפנויות י”ל בימינו שכבר זה נפרץ ובועלי נדות קימים בכל מקום ומקום כדאי הוא לחוש לאיסור נדות שהינו בכרת ואפשר שאף הריב”ש מודה וכ”כ בשו”ת יש מאין (שניאור ח”ג עמוד ל”ח): “לא די להם שהם חיים בלא חופ”ק יוסיפו גם כרת ב”מ (= בר מינן) וכו’ לכך שתלך לטבול בכל פעם עד שירחמו מן השמים ויתן בלב וכו'” יע”ש
וזה שכתב בנחלת פינחס ח”ב סימן ל”ח לאסור בכה”ג בשם אחרונים רבים… הכ”נ אין להתיר תקנת חז”ל משום איסור כרת ואין אומרים לאדם עמוד וחטא בשביל שתזכה והכא הוי ממש נבל ברשות התורה ובלא”ה היא אינה נאמנת כלל על איסור נדה וטהרתה וכן השיב לו מח”ס חשב האפוד שלא ליתן לה לטבול
אך כל דבריהם המה מתוך רגש וקדושה יתירה בכדי לא לפרוץ הגדרות… כי ההיתר של טבילה לפנויה שחיה עם איש כבעל ואשה שלדעת רבים הוא מדרבנן יש פיתרון מאחר והתנהגותם כמיוחדת לו והוי כפילגש האמורה בתורה שלדעת רוב הראשונים וחלק גדול מן האחרונים שפיר עביד כל העת שאינה בושה מלטבול לנדתה וכמ”ש באורך באש”ח ח”ו-ז’ (סימן קכ”א אות ו) וע”ע במש”כ בים הגדול (טולדאנו סימן ע”ה) ובאוצר החיים (ש”ו תמוז עמ’ 207) ובאגרו”מ (ח”ג אה”ז סימן נ’)
ועוד מש”כ שאינה נאמנת כלל על איסור נדה וטהרה לא דקדקו כי ניכר שלא תליא מילתא נאמנות האשה על טהרתה בנישואין אלא על גופה כי מפיה אנו חיים ק”ו לאלו שהתירו פילגש ודאי לא חשו ולא חידשו רעיון כזה שאינה נאמנת על טהרתה והפוך כי כל עיקר היתר הפילגש באם לא בושה לטבול הרי שודאי נאמנת על טהרתה ועל טבילתה.
אמנם אין לפתוח היריעה יותר מדאי להורות כן ברבים ובשיעורים לבעה”ב אלא דוקא באופן פרטי וכל אחד לגופו ומצאתי שכ”כ בספר דרך שיחה ח”ב בשם הגרח”ק שליט”א והביאו בבינה ודעת (פכ”ג אות ל”ד) שאין להורות ברבים שפנויה חיה באיסור עם גבר תטבול לטהרה אבל שבאה לשאול באופן פרטי ולא ניתן למנוע אותה מאיסור זנות יש להורות לה לטבול בכדי למעט באיסור
ובדר”כ קל לי יותר להורות כן לחילונים שמתחזקים מעט בדוקא לאלו שכבר עומדים בפתח הנישואין ואינם שומרים כלל בענינים אלו שכידוע אצל הרחוקים החתונה היא בעוד חצי שנה או שנה בעת שהבחור מציע לה נישואין אז פשיט”ל שכדאי הוא להורות להם להתחיל בטהרה ואף כת”ר ילמדם הלכות אלו ושיתרגלו לזה ורווח והצלה יגיע מכ”ז והזיכוי הרבים תלוי בו
אך בשאר הבחורים שחיים חיי אישות לצורך תאוה והנאה יותר קשה להורות כן אך גם בזה השיקול ההלכתי עומד בעין וכל מקרה לגופו ועיין במשיב דבר (ח”א מ”ג-מ”ד) שכתב להתיר איסור בשביל איסור צריך להיות מתון הרבה ועם דעות בני אדם גדולי תורה ובקרבם אלקים ישפוט בכדי שלא יבואו לידי חורבה ח”ו
ולענין הברכה על הטבילה ראיתי מש”כ בנחלת פינחס שם דא”א לברך אשר קדשנו וכו’ דאע”פ דמעיקר הדין אין חילוק בין פנוי’ לנשואה לענין איסור נדה מ”מ תקנו חז”ל דפנוי’ אינה טובלת וע”כ למעשה ודאי אין מקום לברכה כלל ובלא”ה קיי”ל דברכות אין מעכבות
ולפענ”ד לא דק חדא דמש”כ תיקנו חז”ל דפנויה אינה טובלת זה לא ראיתי שהיא תקנה או גזירה של חז”ל אלא תקנה ענינית עם טעם של הריב”ש וסיע’ לבל הפנויות יזנו בהיתר ומהאמור לעיל שאם כבר נפרצו החומות ניכר שהתקנה כמעט ואינה בעינה ואפשר אף להריב”ש ואם זה היה גזירה אז שום טעם שבעולם אי אפשר היה להזיז אפילו להמעיט באיסורים למעט במקום צער ושאר הכללים הידועים בגזירה
תרתי ממש”כ לעיל דהוא הפילגש האמורה בתורה ורוב דעות מתירים הפילגש באינה בושה לטבול הרי שהיא מקושרת לו בהיתר של חכמים ובודאי שיכולה לומר אשר קדשנו במצותיו לאלו דס”ל הכי דאפשר פלוגתא בחפצא אינה מעוררת על הברכה וכמבואר בש”ע (או”ח ק”ס י”א) ובביאור הלכה (שם)
וגם לאלו שאוסרים פילגש לכל הפחות הוי דרבנן ואף ברמב”ם יש שפירשו כך א”כ הוי ספקיא דרבנן ולקולא במקום צורך הרי שגם יכול לברך ע”ז ודמיא להסכמת הפוסקים באם הניח עירובי חצרות או תבשילין בבין השמשות הואיל והוי ספיקא דרבנן יכול אף לברך ע”ז (ביאו”ה רס”א א’ הליכ”ע ח”א שמיני ד’) הכ”נ הלכה למעשה
בברכת התורה
חנ”א ס”ט
Immersion for a niddah who would otherwise certainly sin in her niddah state.
To his honor, the rabbi, the gaon, Avraham Gabbai, shlita, rabbi of the holy congregation Or Akiva, peace and all good blessings.
In response to what you asked regarding the permissive ruling that we grant in private, and in particular to a single woman who is living in sin, and in a situation in which it is not possible to separate from the man she is having sex with, [and we rule] that it is fitting that she should immerse to purify herself and to avoid (lit., minimize) the transgressions that are deserving of karet, and that at least saves her somewhat (from the severity of her actions), as we have written in Asher Hanan, vol. 6-7 (EH 102 and 121:7). Now, Rivash (responsum 425) forbids such a practice, so that single women do not break through (the fence – the societal norms – the protects against pre-marital sex) and begin to fornicate (i.e., so as not to lead to a general practice of engaging in premarital sex). [In response to this,] we can say that in our days, the fence protecting against such behavior has already been broken through, and men who having sex with women who are in niddah can be found everywhere. In such circumstances, it is [more] fitting to be concerned with the violation of the prohibition against having intercourse when a woman is in niddah, a sin which is punishable by karet. and it is possible that even Rivash would agree (under such circumstances). This same ruling can be found in Responsa Yesh Mei’ayin (vol. 3, p. 38): “[Should we then say] that it is not bad enough that they are living without chuppah and kiddushin, that they should now sin further and add to this the punishment of karet?! God forbid… Therefore, she should got to the mikveh every time (she has her period), until Heaven has compassion and they are inspired etc. (to do teshuvah).”
Now. regarding what is written in Nahalat Pinhas (vol. 2, no. 38) to forbid (going to the mikveh) in such circumstances in the name of a many later authorities… that we may not permit the rabbinic institution (of not going to the mikveh before marriage) for the sake of saving someone from violation a karet prohibition, and we do not say to a person: get up and sin so that you should merit [and not do a more severe sin]. And in this case, the person is a true naval bi’reshut ha’Torah, a degenerate while keeping within the technical boundaries of the law. And, even bracketing this, such a woman would not be trusted at all regarding her niddah status and the fact that she had immersed. And in a similar vein wrote the author of Heshev ha’Ephod, that we should not permit her to immerse.
However, all of their words are an emotional reaction and from an excessive holiness, in order to not break through fences… [But from a strict halakhic analysis,] the case of a single woman who is living with a man as husband and wife, where according to many such behavior is only a rabbinic violation, has a solution, inasmuch as their relationship is an exclusive one. Such a case is like the pilegesh which appears in the Torah, and regarding a pilegesh, many Rishonim and a large contingent of the Achronim are of the opinion that such a practice is acceptable, so long as she is not embarrassed to go to the mikveh, as we have written at length in Asher Hanan, vol. 6-7 (121:6), and see further what is written in Yam HaGadol (no. 75) and Otzar HaHayyim (p. 207) and Iggrot Moshe (EH 3:50).
Moreover, what Nahalat Pinhas writes, that such a woman is not believed at all regarding her niddah status and having gone to the mikveh – he was not being careful when he wrote this. For it is self-evident that a woman’s trustworthiness regarding going to the mikveh is not dependent on her marital state, but rather she is believed regarding her own body, and (when it comes to believing a woman about her niddah status) we only have her testimony about herself to rely on. This is certainly the case according to those who permit a pilegesh – the certainly we not concerned for such a thing, nor did they innovate this idea that a woman under such circumstances cannot be believed on having immersed. The opposite is true, for the entire permission regarding a pilegesh was given in cases when she is not embarrassed to go to the mikveh, which makes it clear that she is certainly believed on her status and on the fact that she immersed.
However, we should not open the tent too widely and rule this way in public and in lectures to lay people. Rather, we should only give this ruling in a private context, and every case must be dealt with individually. I found that it was similarly written in the book Derekh Sicha (vol. 2) in the name of the Rav Hayyim Kanyevsky, shlita, and this ruling was cited in Binah ve’Daat (23:34), that we should not rule in public that a single woman who lives in sin with a man should immerse to purify herself (from niddah), but only give such a ruling when she comes to ask as an individual and it is not possible to prevent her from engaging in sex before marriage (lit., fornication). In such a case we should rule to her that she should immerse in order to minimize the transgression.
As a general matter it is easier for me to give such rulings to secular people who are slowly getting more observant, and in particular for those who are at the threshold of getting married, and who don’t observe at all these things. For those who are more distant from a life of observance, the time between the engagement and the wedding can often be a half year or a year, as is well-known, and in such a case it is obvious to me that we should rule that it is fitting for them to begin (their sexual life) in purity. And you, your honor, should teach them these laws (of niddah), and they should become practiced in them, and great good will result from all this, and bringing merit to the masses rests on this.
In contrast when it comes to a young man who is living with a woman for the sake of lust and pleasure, it is more difficult to give this ruling. However, even in these cases, the halakhic calculus remains in its place (and the ruling is the same), and every case has to be dealt with on its own merits. See Meishiv Davar (vol. 1, 43-44) who writes that when it comes to permitting one violation for the sake of preventing a greater one, a great degree of patience is required together with consulting Torah greats, in whose midst God’s judgment resides, in order to ensure that destruction does not result from such rulings.
As far as the brakhah on the immersion is concerned, I have seen what is written in Nahalat Pinhas, that it is impossible to make the blessing “Who has sanctified [with His mitzvot and commanded us]”. For although as a matter of strict law there is no difference between a single woman and a married woman regarding the prohibition of niddah [and thus the immersion accomplishes the same for both], nevertheless, Hazal established that a single woman should not immerse, and therefore as a matter of practice, there certainly is no place for a brakhah at all. And regardless, we rule that [not making] brakhot do not hold back the fulfillment of the obligation (i.e., the immersion will be valid with or without the brakhah).
Now in my humble opinion, he (Nahalat Pinhas) was not be careful (in this ruling). First, regarding what he wrote that Hazal established that a single woman should not immerse – I have nowhere seen that this is a enactment or a safeguard legislated by Hazal. Rather, it was a situational enactment (of a later period), based on the reason of Rivash and those in his camp, to prevent single women from fornicating with license. Taking into consideration what we wrote above, that if the walls have already been breached, then it is evident that this enactment is effectively non-existent, and it is possible that this is true even according to Rivash (i,.e., even Rivash would agree in our circumstances). Had this actually been a rabbinic enactment then no reason in the world would have been able to move it from its place, even for the purpose of minimizing transgressions, with the exception of cases of suffering or when the other rules that are know regarding circumstances that override rabbinic safeguards [and enactments are applicable].
Second, based on what I wrote above that our case is the same as that of the pilegesh which appears in the Torah, and the majority of opinions permit a pilegesh when she is not embarrassed to immerse, it would follow that this couple is connected to one another with the permission of the Sages. Given this, she can certainly say “Who has sanctified us with His mitzvot,” according to those who are of that opinion (regarding the permissibility of the pilegesh), and it is possible that when there is a question regarding the “object” this doesn’t impact the issue of making a brakhah (see SA OH 160:11 and Beiur Halkhah ad. loc.)
Even according to those who forbid a pilegesh, this would only be a rabbinic restriction, and there are those who say that even Rambam is of this opinion (that it is a rabbinic, and not a Biblical, prohibition). Therefore, [the permissibility of a pilegesh] is a doubt (i.e., a matter of debate) in a rabbinic matter, and we would rule leniently (and say that a pilegesh is permitted) in situations of need. So (even if we consider the stricter positions, given that we would in the end rule leniently), she would be able to make a brakhah over this (for she would be engaged in fully permissible behavior). This is comparable to the consensus of the poskim in the case of a person who placed his eruv ha’tzeirot or eruv tavshilin during the dusk period (and therefore it is of questionable validity), who rule that since this is a doubt regarding a rabbinic matter, [the eruv is good] and he can even make a brakhah over it (Beiur Halakhah, OH 261:1, Halikhot Olam, vol. 1, Shmini, 4). Here, too, that would be the ruling as a matter of practical halakhah.
With Torah blessings,
Hanan Aflalo, Sephardi Tahor