A legal query to Abraham Maimondies (d. 1237) and Abraham’s response. Probably the early thirteenth century. Written in Judeo-Arabic.

Legal Query to Abraham Maimonides and His Response
Legal Query to Abraham Maimonides and His Response. Cambridge University Library: T-S 10K8.13.

Translated from the Judeo-Arabic by Craig Perry. Cambridge University Library: T-S 10K8.13. Published in Hebrew in Mordechai A. Friedman, Jewish Polygyny in the Middle Ages: New Documents from the Cairo Geniza (Jerusalem: The Bialik Institute, 1986), 319-322. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

The Query

In the matter of the son of Israel who has a wife and children by her in Alexandria: He discarded her, left [her] and then bought a slave girl. She was not a domestic servant, but rather a concubine, or mistress of the house. He took up with her for a period [and] when he left – traveling to the Fayyūm – he clothed her in fine garments the likes of which his wife had never worn. Thus he departed for the Fayyūm with the slave-girl, abandoning his children as orphans and his wife like a discarded mistress. It is said: ‘No one sees, and every man does as he sees fit. No man pays any heed.’ Teach us [the law in this matter]. Is he allowed to take up with her without a ketubba and without paying his wife a delayed gift? For he abandoned his wife and children and he is alone with a slave girl at home. She is residing with him. Is this allowed, or not? Is it permissible for an unmarried son of Israel to reside with a slave-girl, spending the entire day and night with her in the house? And he does not have a wife, a sister, or his children [with him]. Teach us if silence concerning this matter is permissible. If not, teach us according to his holy Torah and his expansive wisdom. May his reward be multiplied by heaven.

The Response

The unchaperoned situation with the slave-girl is not permissible. And if it is confirmed that this person did this, then pronounce a ban upon his name until he leaves the slave-girl and has sent her out and distanced himself from her. Signed – Avraham

Discussion Questions

  1. What behavior is described in the query and what are its apparent effects?
  2. Based on the query and response, is there a clear legal opinion regarding the described behavior?

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