This thought is two day late if you are following the Daf Yomi cycle, but I only really understood the absurdity of what I learned a few days later in review.

Even though a virgin is supposed to get married on a Wednesday, there are exceptions. In a period of danger the custom was changed to Tuesday. What was the danger? First night rights, the practice where a ruler rapes the virgin bride-to-be on her wedding night (a la Braveheart).  Good reason to change your wedding day, don’t you think?

But the Gemarah isn’t sure that such a danger would warrant changing this very solid custom. The real problem is those stubborn righteous (modest) women who would prefer to be killed than submit to the violence of rape. The rabbis, consternated by the modest women, propose that maybe they should teach publicly that rape is not considered adultery. You are still allowed to go back to your husband, no need to give up your life, no long term damage done.

On the other hand the Rabbis don’t want to publicize that first night rights is not considered adultery because then the lascivious women will enjoy the first night rights and therefore actually be prohibited from returning to their husband having chosen to have sex and not been raped.

The fact that rape is not really given a standing of its own in Jewish law, that it is only a problem when it's adulterous, is astounding to me every time I come across it. In the context of this Gemarah, where it is so important that the woman’s virginity be saved for her husband alone – the intention behind the Wednesday wedding– I am baffled that the rabbis would even consider maintaining the custom at the cost of the woman’s rape.  Is the first night of sex not traumatic enough; we shouldn’t even entertain the possibility, no matter how theoretical, of accepting the barbaric practices of virgin up for grabs to the most powerful.





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