Friday, February 6, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- timing is everything

We’re working on the laws in Deuteronomy 22:13-29.  The first issue when a groom thinks his bride wasn’t a virgin on the wedding night is, did he put down too much on the bride price assuming she was a virgin.
That’s a civil law question, and only needs three judges to decide.
But there’s also a criminal issue: did she commit adultery?  If she had sex with anybody except her betrothed after the betrothal, that’s considered adultery.
But remember, adultery is a capital crime and both the man and woman have to die.
Since it’s a capital crime, there have to have been witnesses that the girl was secluded with a specific man long enough for sex to occur, and the witnesses have to have stopped both of them beforehand and told them what they were risking.  You remember all that from the discussion of murder about a year ago.
If there are no witnesses, there is no crime and the groom cannot charge adultery. 
Even if there are witnesses, there have to be enough non-bonded men, who are not relatives of the parties, to judge the case.  By Mishnaic times, remember, there had to be 23 of them. 
Mishnaic law records that girls who were reputed virgins were married on Wednesday nights.  Talmud (Ketubbot 2, IIRC) says the reason is the parents may be arguing about the ketubbah and dowry up until the last moment.  It also says that the mother is with the girl the whole day making sure she is well dressed and groomed for the wedding.
The girl is considered betrothed whenever the families come to an agreement.  If they haven't agreed, they can't write the ketubbah.  If they haven't written the ketubbah, they can't sign it.  Until the ketubbah is signed by the guy and the girl, the marriage can't take place.  If that happens Wednesday during the day, and the wedding takes place that night, and the groom cries mekher taut the next morning, there's a very good chance that a charge of adultery will fail because there was no way for it to happen.
But the families can also reach agreement as much as a year before the date of the wedding ceremony, and that's the timing that Deuteronomy has to deal with. 
Next, another issue that separates Jewish family law from western family law over the last, oh, 25 centuries.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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