The New York Times provides more fodder for discussion in today’s article on new matchmaking services in China:
The catch is, that in China, these services can cost up to a 1.5 million dollars, and from the looks of the article, result in selections of younger women based almost entirely, or entirely, on appearance. If you are a younger woman, for $16,000 (also a fortune for most in China), you can take two 14 days classes on how to manage a super rich household. If you’re an older single woman, or worse, a too-well educated single woman, you’re out of luck. One of these matchmaking firms turned down a college professor who offered $100,000 because “They always want somebody younger, with less power.” Her younger sister was then told not to go to graduate school, and she’s married. Likewise, a woman in a BMW offered a man marriage after the first date, telling him he’d never have to work again, but he wouldn’t accept it because “What kind of man would I be?” For the “second generation rich,” the parents are often paying the matchmaking fees, to get the best for their children, or as is often the case in China, their only child.
Here’s the worst part – according to the article: Most of the men looking are trying to find their younger, prettier, second wives who are “fresh resources.” In the United States, we call them, “trophy wives.”
The concept of leaving your wife, to marry a younger, prettier one is nothing new. In my pre-religious days, I was once on a cruise with a good number of very senior citizen looking men, with young, perfect-bodied woman wearing perfect bathing suits, and one of them even calling her husband her, “sugar daddy.” I can’t say I’m anywhere near an expert in the field, but anecdotically, one almost never hears of a rich older woman marrying . . . ever, let alone to a younger man. The low morals of Chinese trophy wife syndrome seems not much different than that of American trophy wife syndrome. But neither are anything new:
And Lamech took unto him two wives; the name of one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. – Bereshis [Genesis] 4:19
According to Rashi, living in about 1000 CE (and direct ancestor of my wife) who collected and expounded on our history, he writes regarding this verse:
So was the custom of the generation of the Flood, one [wife] for propagation and one for marital relations. The one who was for marital relations would be given a potion of roots to drink, so that she should become sterile, and he would adorn her like a bride and feed her delicacies, but her companion was neglected and was mourning like a widow. This is what Job explained (24:21): “He feeds the barren woman who will not bear, but he does not adorn the widow.” [This is] as explained in the Aggadah of Chelek (Sanh. ch. 10) (not found in our edition, but in Gen. Rabbah 23:2).
Sound familiar? Only difference (I think?) is that you had to forcibly sterilize the women. If you didn’t want to go that far, well, there was another way, carried out by the sons of one of the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel!
Rashi tells us here, quoting the Talmud in Yevamos 45, “Now, why should Er waste his semen? So that she (Tamar) would not become pregnant and her beauty be impaired. [From Yev. 34b”. Ouch. This is a slight variation on the theme, as here, we’re not talking about “fresh resources,” but suffice to say, the reasons were the same.
It doesn’t end there . . . I’m sure there are a lot of other examples in history, but Malachi, the last prophet to have a sefed [book] in Tanakh [the Jewish Bible] admonishes those who remained married to their first wives (preventing them from remarriage), but running away to find new younger wives:
Now did He not make one who had the rest of the spirits? Now what does the one seek of the seed of God? Now you shall beware of your spirit, that it shall not deal treacherously with the wife of your youth. If you hate [her], send [her] away, says the Lord God of Israel. For injustice shall cover his garment, said the Lord of Hosts, but you shall beware of your spirit, and do not deal treacherously. – Malachi 2-15-16
When men could marry multiple wives, there was no need to divorce the first . . . just take the younger, trophy wife. Problem is, what happens if a man has 50-something children, some of whom don’t know who their father is, and some of whom were raised in different lands (in the time of Malachi, it was from Israel to Babylon [Iran / Iraq])? Suppose they find out they have quite a lot in common with this nice girl in Israel and get married, having no idea that this is one of their 50 siblings, having never known such half-siblings even exist. Now, you have a biblical prohibition of marrying a sibling.
Along comes Rabbeinu Girshim in 11th century Germany, and for reasons which I have never seen authenticated in history books, says to take only one wife. This applied to Ashkenazi Jews from this time, and today, is the practice amongst almost all Jews. In addition to this, he also said that one cannot divorce a woman against her will, and one cannot look into another’s mail. (I’m not sure if not looking at another’s mail is up there with not taking more than one wife, but it’s another important Jewish law to this day.)
I will never have this problem, because my wife will stay young and beautiful forever.
For a future article: How do Torah observant Jews meet? It’s a bond of spirituality and practicality, with the requirement that you be attracted to your spouse, but with zero belief in “instantly falling in love.” Also, check out the article on resetting desires.