Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Can a regular Priest marry a widow?

Can a regular Priest (not the High Priest) marry a widow?

Orthodox Judaism allows the regular Priests marry a widow. But is this justified by the Torah?

Let's take a look...

Here is what Torah says about Regular Priests.
CLV Lv 21:7 A prostituting woman or a violated one, they shall not take, and a woman driven out from her husband they shall not take, for he is holy to his Elohim.
As you can see, the word "widow" is absent from this verse. This is why Orthodox Judaism interpreted this verse as a permission for regular Priests marry a widow.

Let's look further at the High Priest permissions:
CLV Lv 21:13 He shall take a wife in her virginity.

CLV Lv 21:14 A widow or one driven out or violated or prostituting, these he shall not take, but rather a virgin from his kinsmen shall he take for a wife,
First of all, please compare bold words in both passages. As you can see, the only difference in these passages is the word "widow".

At first, I thought that this passage was edited during the 1st Temple period, especially because Kennicott and DSS did not have any variant readings.

However, I realized that there is more going on than I thought at first.

Here is a key verse that explains why Regular Priests CAN marry a widow and why the word
"widow" is absent from the verse:
CLV Dt 25:5 In case brothers dwell together, and one of them dies, and he has no son, the wife of the dead one shall not come to the outside, to an alien man. Her brother-in-law shall come to her, and he will take her to himself as his wife and perform the levirate for her. 
CLV Dt 25:6 Then it will come to be: the firstborn whom she bears shall carry on the name of his father's dead brother so that his name may not be wiped out from Israel. 
CLV Dt 25:7 But should the man not be inclined to take his sister-in-law, then his sister-in-law will go up to the elders at the gate and say: My brother-in-law refuses to raise up a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the levirate for me. 
CLV Dt 25:8 Then the elders of his city will call to him and speak to him. But if he persists and says: I am not inclined to take her, 
CLV Dt 25:9 then his sister-in-law will come close to him before the eyes of the elders, pull his sandal off his foot, spit in his face and answer and say: Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother's house. 
CLV Dt 25:10 And his name will be called in Israel, House of the Pulled-off Sandal.
So it appears that Regular Priests CAN marry a widow, primarily because of the commandment to preserve died brother's name and seed in Israel. Apparently, only the High Priest was exempt from this commandment who was explicitly commanded to marry a virgin because he is Holy to Yahuah.

And here are the auxiliary verses that support this point:
CLV Lv 21:1 Yahuah said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall defile himself for a deceased soul among his kinsmen, 
CLV Lv 21:2 save for his kin next to him, that is, for his mother, for his father, for his son, for his daughter, for his brother 
CLV Lv 21:3 or for his virgin sister, next to him since she has not come to have a husband; for her he may defile himself.
As you can see, these verses allow a Regular Priest to defile himself for his brother, meaning that not only a Regular Priest can touch a dead brother but also marry his wife if they did not have children.
CLV Ex 22:22 Any widow or orphan you shall not humiliate. 
CLV Lv 22:13 Yet in case the daughter of the priest becomes a widow or is driven out and she has no seed and so she returns to the house of her father as in her youth, of her father's bread she may eat, yet no alien at all may eat of it. 
CLV Dt 10:18 the One executing judgment of orphan and widow, the One loving the sojourner, so as to give him bread and garment. 
CLV Dt 14:29 that the Levite may come (for he has no portion or allotment with you), and the sojourner, the orphan and the widow who are within your gates, and they may eat and be satisfied, so that Yahuah your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. 
CLV Dt 16:11 You will rejoice before Yahuah your Elohim, you, your son and your daughter, your servant and your maidservant, the Levite who is within your gates, the sojourner, the orphan and the widow who are among you, in the place where Yahuah your Elohim shall choose to tabernacle His name. 
CLV Dt 16:14 You will rejoice in your celebration, you, your son and your daughter, your servant and your maidservant, the Levite, the sojourner, the orphan and the widow who are within your gates.
As you can see, widows have a special status and they are not considered profaned sexually in the eyes of God. This is why Regular Priests COULD marry widows.

However, I need to point out that just because Regular Priests could marry widows, does not mean that this is ideal practice. Marrying a widow was allowed to help in situations when there is no other choice. It certainly does not imply that most Priests should be married to widows.

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