Marrying an Old Man – Sanhedrin 76


by: Rabbi Yaakov Montrose
(printed in Halachic World)

Reb Muttel was not sure what to do. On the one hand, his daughter simply had no luck with shidduchim, and she was already thirty-nine. On the other hand, though the potential shidduch his daughter was now being offered was a person who was well known to be a tremendous Tzadik, and a kind and wealthy person, he thought that marrying off his daughter to someone thirty five years older than her might be transgressing the Gemora that says that one should not marry off his daughter to an older person. As any Torah abiding person would do when he was unclear about a certain Halachah, he went to ask his Rav to advise him as to whether or not the Shidduch was permitted.

The Gemora says that three types of people transgress the verse of “Lemaan Sefos Haravah Es HaTzemei’ah” – “In order to add the watered upon the thirsty.” One of them is someone who marries off his daughter to an old man. The Shulchan Aruch rules that this is also a prohibition against a young man marrying an old woman. The reason for the prohibition is that the younger partner will not be satisfied with the relationship, and will probably end up acting in a promiscuous fashion.

The Sefer Chasidim says that this a prohibition against being “married off” to an old man. If a woman wants to marry an old man – for example, if she wants to do so because she wants to be the wife of a Tzadik – she would be permitted to do so. This Sefer Chasidim is quoted by the Beis Shmuel and Chelkas Mechokek.

There seem to be at least two clear proofs to the Sefer Chasidim. We know that Rus married Boaz, who was extremely old at that time. Additionally, we find in Avos D’Rebbi Nasan (ch.16) that Rabbi Eliezer was already an old man when his young niece wanted to marry him. After he tried to discourage her and she still insisted, he agreed to marry her.

The Aruch HaShulchan qualifies the Sefer Chasidim. He explains that even if the girl readily agrees to the marriage, if Beis Din sees that the woman’s motives are to share (or take over) her husband’s wealth, it is not appropriate to perform such a wedding. Being that she is not really interested in the marriage, she will end up being unfaithful to her husband.

Conclusion: It is permitted for a woman to marry an old man if we see that the reason for her agreement to the marriage is worthy. One is not allowed to pressure his daughter into such a marriage against her will.