“Of primary concern is the question of what type of relationship is meant by the words ‘who will have me for a day?'”

…within the Bavli itself, the statements of Rav and Rav Nahman—”who will have me for a day?”—can be seen in multiple contexts. The first is to look at the statements themselves as actual stories recorded at or slightly after the times of their occurrence. The second is to view them in the context of the extended sugya at Yoma 18b. And the third is to understand them within the framework of Yevamot 37b. When looked at this way, the stories can have three separate meanings. To compound matters, there are numerous manuscripts containing alternate versions and textual variants. Each of these, in addition, portrays different attitudes toward the story itself. Of primary concern is the question of what type of relationship is meant by the words “who will have me for a day?” Is it casual sex, a form of pilegesh relationship, or a temporary marriage? If it were a pilegesh relationship, then was qiddushin performed? Was nissuin performed? Was there a ketubbah? Is it realistic to think that the rabbis would be willing to pay the 100 or 200 zuz marriage settlement for a day’s worth of enjoyment, or, from a different perspective, a day’s worth of abating sexual urges in a legitimized manner? Secondly, was the marriage for a day or “days”? The manuscripts contain both readings. If “days,” then was the marriage for a specific amount of time or just designated as temporary in some non-specific way? If for a pre-determined amount of time, was this marriage naturally dissolved or was a get required? If for a non-specific amount of time, could either party leave at will or was the husband the sole authority in determining the marriage’s end? Further does the term yiḥud in these Bavli passages refer to non-sexual seclusion or is it a term referring to designating the woman as a partner, perhaps a pilegesh, where there would be neither qiddushin nor a ketubbah? These questions are not only of interest to modern academic analysis of the positions of the authors of each sugya, or versions of the sugya preserved in a manuscript tradition, they also drive the medieval commentatorial tradition of those sugyot and the efforts of the codifiers and jurists in trying to incorporate these sugyot into their legal systems.

The inconclusiveness of these narratives and the widespread Near Eastern practices of temporary marriage suggest that at the time of the Bavli’s redaction, some form of temporary marriage was being practiced. Indeed, Yaakov Elman argues that these “two prominent rabbis contracted temporary marriages in accord with the Sassanian institution.” So, if rabbinic Jews practiced temporary marriages in late antiquity, then did these Jewish temporary wives receive a ketubbah? Moreover, how did these temporary marriages end? Did the rabbis in Yoma 18b or Yevamot 37b deliver divorce decrees or was a divorce effected at the moment of their departure or the conclusion of the day(s)? This is of course probably depends on whether these temporary arrangements were actual marriages or merely pilagshut. The Bavli does not provide a clear answer on any of these technical details.

Zvi Septimus and Lena Salaymeh, “Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 18b and Yevamot 37b: Is This Temporary Marriage?”, The Talmud Blog (31 July 2012) [https://thetalmudblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/babylonian-talmud-yoma-18b-and-yevamot-37b-is-this-temporary-marriage-guest-post-by-zvi-septimus-and-lena-salaymeh/]