Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hiring non-Jewish prostitutes in the Talmud

The Talmud is very complicated, not every statement is a law, sometimes it is a commentary or the opinion of a certain Rabbi, sometimes a stipulation or refutation, however the quotes below should give you a good idea about Talmudic reasoning on certain issues.

According to the Talmud, a Jew may be able to legally hire a non-Jewish prostitute via two methods. The First method is very simple, the Jew can simply offer the prostitute her wages as a “gift” rather than as payment.  The second method is more complicated, the Jew can bring something for the prostitute such as a lamb, he can place the lamb before her and offer her “a lamb” for her services but not “this lamb”, meaning the Jew is not technically offering the prostitute the lamb he has brought with him.  Just so long as the prostitute does not reach out and take the lamb before the Jew leaves, the hire is permitted, because the Jew did not technically offer that lamb he brought with him, but “a lamb”, and thus technically the hire never happened.


The scholars in the School of R. Jannai used to borrow fruits of the Sabbatical year from the poor and repay them in the eighth year. When this was reported to R. Johanan, he said to them, ’They act rightly’; and an analogy may be found in the matter of a harlot’s hire which is permitted;[14] for it has been taught: If he gave her [an animal] without having intercourse with her or had intercourse without giving it to her,[15] her hire is permitted [for use in the Sanctuary]. Now if he gave her it without having intercourse with her, obviously [it may be devoted to the Sanctuary] for the reason that, having had no intercourse with her, he merely presented her with a gift! Further, if he had intercourse without giving it to her, behold he gave her nothing, and since he made no presentation to her what means that her hire is permitted! — This is what he intends: If he gave her it and subsequently had intercourse with her, or had intercourse with her and subsequently gave it to her, the hire is permitted[16] (Babylonian Talmud, Abodah Zarah 62b)

FOOTNOTE 14: To be devoted to the Temple, in spite of the Law of Deut. XXIII, 19.
FOOTNOTE 15: At the time, but he did so later.
FOOTNOTE 16: The two matters are regarded as separate and what she received is legally a gift. Similarly with the borrowing of the fruits of the Sabbatical year, what is repaid is technically a gift.


[It was stated:] If he had intercourse with her and subsequently gave it to her, her hire is permitted. Against this I quote: If he had intercourse with her and subsequently gave it to her, even after the lapse of three years, her hire is prohibited! — R. Nahman b. Isaac said in the name of R. Hisda: There is no contradiction, the latter teaching referring to the circumstance where he said to her, ‘Have intercourse with me for this lamb,‘ and the former teaching to the circumstance where he said to her, ‘Have intercourse with me for a lamb.‘[9] And if he did use the phrase ‘for this lamb‘ what of it, inasmuch as the act of drawing towards oneself is lacking![10]  — [It deals here] with a gentile harlot who does not acquire an object by the act of drawing it towards herself.[11] (Babylonian Talmud, Abodah Zarah 63a)

FOOTNOTE 9: In this latter circumstance, what she receives afterwards is not technically her hire.
FOOTNOTE 10: He merely indicated the lamb which he would give her. Until she actually draws the animal towards her she has not legally acquired it, v. B.M. 47b.
FOOTNOTE 11:[Ms.M.: Who does not lack 'drawing'. A non-Jew acquires possession by payment (Bek. 13a) in this case by the act of intercourse. V. R. Gershom, Tem. 29b.]

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