Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
Is there anything wrong with a man marrying a woman solely for her money? What about if money is just one of a man’s criteria? What if he needs his in-laws to support him while he pursues his college degree? What if he needs his in-laws to support him while he learns in kollel? The Gemara (Kiddushin 70a) seems to address these issues clearly. Rabba bar Rav Adda says that Rav says: In the case of anyone who marries a woman only for the sake of money, he will have offspring who will act inappropriately, as it is stated: “They have dealt treacherously against the L-rd, for they have begotten strange children; now shall the new moon devour them with their portions” (Hosea 5:7). Rabba bar Rav Adda explains the end of verse: And lest you say that at least the money that they received as dowry was spared, although they suffer from the acts of their offspring, the verse states: “Now shall the new moon devour them with their portions,” meaning their property shall be consumed quickly. And lest you say his portion will be lost but not the portion of his wife, the verse states “their portions” in the plural. And lest you say this will occur after a long time, but in the interim he will benefit from the money, the verse states: “The new moon.” This seems to be an open-and-shut question. Someone who marries a woman for her money, will not only have children that act inappropriately but will be cursed that the money that he thought to gain will be lost as well. But the Rivash says not to rush to conclusions. The Gemara is discussing marrying a woman of tainted lineage or is possibly even forbidden to him. This is a woman who would not otherwise be on the young man’s radar if not for her money. If he chooses to go ahead with the questionable shidduch, simply due to financial reasons, he will end up suffering the consequences. The Rema (EH 2) quotes this Rivash as accepted halacha.
This would seem to indicate that if the woman does not have a tainted lineage, he may indeed marry her for her money. However, the Beis Yosef quotes the Orchos Chaim who in turn quotes the Raavad, who might have a different understanding of this Gemara. He writes, “The custom is not to give a large dowry to one’s daughter. Someone who is particular and fights about money the wife is bringing into the marriage will not be successful and the marriage will not be happy one. Because the money one takes for his wife is not just money. And it is appropriate that one should not remain a bachelor or delay the marriage of his fiancée on account of money. That money will not bring success… And upon these types of people, it is written, ‘Whomever marries a woman for money…’” Fascinatingly, the Rema seems to quote the above as well as accepted halacha. Is the Raavad arguing on the Rivash? The Chelkas Mechokeik says he is not. The Rivash discussed marrying a woman of tainted lineage as but one negative example of marrying someone for money. The Raavad is adding other examples. Anyone who delays his marriage because he is waiting to find a girl who has her own significant resources or will bring to the marriage guaranteed parental support will also suffer the horrible consequences cited in the Gemara. Another situation is where the bride’s parents promised a large dowry and unfortunately could not make the payment. The groom should not delay the wedding until the parents can come up with the funds. If the groom does delay, that would be considered marrying for the sake of money. The Chelkas Mechokeik therefore permits a man to use money as a criterion for a shidduch, even if it’s the only criterion. However, he cannot delay fulfilling his mitzvah to get married on account of not being able to find a rich girl. He may certainly not delay his own planned wedding until his in-laws procure the proper funds. The Vilna Gaon disagrees. He understands the Raavad to categorically reject the Rivash’s limitation of the Gemara. Anyone who marries for the sake of money will, unfortunately, suffer the consequences mentioned in the Gemara. The Raavad was simply citing some examples. However, the Raavad’s primary position is expressed in his first few sentences: “Someone who is particular and fights about money the wife is bringing into the marriage will not be successful and the marriage will not be happy one. Because the money one takes for his wife is not just money.”
The Vilna Gaon spells out what is considered marrying for money: Anyone, who will not go through with a shidduch simply on account of money, is considered to be one marrying for money. Therefore, according to the Vilna Gaon, suppose on a second date the topic of parental support comes up. The girl admits that her parents can’t support. According to the Vilna Gaon, the boy may not discontinue the shidduch. Before he starts dating a particular girl, he is free to pick a resume of a girl who has parental support. But he may not stop the current shidduch in progress. It seems, according to the Chelkas Mechokeik, a boy may, if he has other suitable suggestions lined up. The Chasam Sofer seems to understand the Gemara as the Chelkas Mechokeik does, but opines that one in practice should follow the Vilna Gaon. After all, doesn’t parnassah come from Hashem? The Aruch HaShulchan seems to rule like the Chelkas Mechokeik. He writes (EH 2:2-3), “However, if someone marries an isha keshaira for the sake of her money, meaning without her money, he would marry someone else, that is not considered a sin. In fact, it is appropriate to do so, if one is a Torah Scholar. Through this money, he will not be busy earning a livelihood. And so is the custom of anashim yesharim, to take a scholar as a son-inlaw, and to support him for a number of years (kammah shanim) that he may sit and learn. There is no greater mitzvah than this. Through this, the parents will be successful in their business. Still, if the parents promised support and can’t pay, the chosson should not delay the marriage and fight with his in-laws. That will never be successful. Rather, whatever his mother-in-law and father-in-law give him, he should take while being very appreciative and then he will be successful.“ This article is not meant to serve as a definitive resource for this highly complex issue. It is simply intended to engender discussion.
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow is a rebbe at Yeshiva Ateres Shimon in Far Rockaway. In addition, Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead, NY. He can be contacted at ASebrow@ gmail.com.