Legal Age of Marriage: 18, 17, or . . . 15?

wedding-dressesOn Sunday I went to the Kolech conference on fertility and women’s health. Whatever you think of Kolech, an Orthodox feminist organization, the topics were wide-ranging and thought-provoking.

Gila Gamliel, a Knesset member from the Likud, raised issues that affect women in Israel. A special project of hers is to raise the age of marriage from 17 to 18.  In נישואי בוסר, (lit. unripe marriages) the girls don’t finish high school. Often these marriages get a rubber stamp by the court—when it was really a case of rape.

Before I had a chance to write about this, Orthonomics linked to a Ynet article about a Rabbi Asher Idan who is trying to get the marriage age lowered to 15. A fifteen-year-old Israeli bride would only have been crossing the street alone for six years, and riding the elevator for one. Signs in elevators prohibit riding an elevator alone before age 14.

Here are Idan’s reasons:

“Some Hasidic communities are already violating the law by marrying at the age of 15-16. Parents of large families who cannot financially support all their children would be able to marry off their daughter earlier so that she can move into her husband’s house,” he added.

“Girls who do not want to study or work are a burden to the household,” Rabbi Idan noted, “In my opinion, these young people will contribute more to the State because they won’t go to nightclubs or waste their time looking for nonsense someplace else.”

Rabbi Idan said that lawyers are currently examining the legislative aspect of the bill, “We will curtail rape cases and violation of the law by allowing marriage a year earlier.

“This one year is significant. Nowadays boys and girls cannot have relations, and we will allow this by letting them marry, while encouraging and guiding them,” he said.

There have been reports of Hasidic and “nationalistic” early marriages, some of them illegal. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear that members of this group are marrying off young girls privately. Early marriages are even more of an issue among Israeli Arabs. I recently met a haredi woman who married at 16 with her parents’ approval. She didn’t finish high school but still landed a good job in a good company, probably because she was smart and articulate and no one asked her about her bagruyot (matriculation exams).

I have to admit that it rubs me the wrong way when American bloggers bring up our “crazies.”  This guy is so crazy, I’m not going to waste time trying to make sense of his arguments. Especially when it’s obvious that a bill lowering the marriage age would no chance of passing. Gamliel pointed out that only a handful of mostly Moslem countries allow marriage of children under 18. Fortunately her bill has a much better chance of getting through.

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Photo credit: Pink Moose


  1. When I had my second child, 15 years ago, there was a women in the adjacent delivery room who was only 16 years old. Her parents belonged to a “cult” (my interpretation – not theirs) of Hassidic Americans in Drom Har-Hebron. They married her off at 15 years of age to one of the sons of the Rebbi. His entire family was waiting outside the delivery room. Can you imagine having a good birth with that going on. The girl was in the next room in the maternity ward, so I spoke with her a bit.
    All I could think at the time was about statutory rape. Now that I am the mother of a 15 y/o daughter I am even more horrified by this act. How dare they do that to a child. 15 year olds should not be getting married, and 16 year olds should not be giving birth.

  2. Regular Anonymous says

    Just when you think people can’t be any more ridiculous…..

  3. Personally I don’t know if raising the age will help, as I am not sure you can legislate morality or common sense, but I am completely opposed to lowering it.
    As far as Rabbi Idan’s article, it is so full of contradiction it is amazing. For instance it says that the Rabbis are against women being educated, while it is being pushed against the will of the Rabbis by the hareidi press.
    First the Seminaries all run at the pleasure of the Rabbis. A few years ago Rav Eliashiv decided to cancel third year for any girl not guaranteed a job teaching, and the Sems stopped third year.
    The hareidi press(Yated and HaModia) are controlled and censored by said Rabbis. So I doubt that they are putting forward any ideas that they Rabbis have not already approved.

  4. Imagine… you’re old enough to get married but not old enough to drive a car!

  5. Rav Idan is obviously not mainstream – and crazy – so I didn’t take the article seriously. But I wonder about young marriages in DL communities – among the “noar hagvaot” and the like. I have heard of a number of cases where girls got married at 17 and dropped out of high school. Do their marriages last? How common is the phenomenon? Where is this coming from? I theorize that it is related to disenchantment with society but I am not really sure. One girl I know of was jailed for months at 16 after a nationalistic-related arrest (she refused to cooperate with the courts so they refused to release her) and married shortly after her release from jail. I know of one ulpana that has a reputation for young marriages and I would not think twice before sending my daughter there, for that reason. (Not that my daughter is old enough to get married :))

    • I have heard about this too. I also know of a girl (actually more than one), who after being in prison after Gush Katif, got married at a young age.
      (possibly end of 10th grade). I know for a fact that her marriage was not registered until she reached the legal age.
      Even when I was in school in a very main stream ulpana around 25 years ago, 4 girls in the year above us got married during 12th grade.
      Dafka in the Ulpana Chana is talking about, I heard that the girls continue studying (or at least doing their matriculations) in the end of 12th grade. (go to school with their scarves on).
      I do not know if legislation is what can change this, or more education.

      Was there anything else of interest in that conference?

  6. I meant “I WOULD think twice”

  7. My apologies for bringing up your crazies. We have plenty of our own subcultures and crazies in America.

  8. But we know it’s already happening in closed communities. We see it in Arab villages (really this is a large percentage) and we know in certain Hareidi communities this is not abnormal.

    If you live entirely disenfranchised from the general laws of the State why push for your way to become legal. It’s like saying the Naturi Karta would like to be given a seat in the Knesset. I’m just confused about the publicity, Ynet in particular (the frontline of divisive cultural media).

    In the Galil it’s clear that when you see a 16 year old Arab girl who is the mother of 2 these children are registered, they’re receiving State benefits and Misrad HaPanim didn’t think twice about the marital status of the child-bride who came to add another child to her TZ. Which law impeded this marriage?

    There is so much in Israeli law that isn’t enforced in the name of cultural law that we allow it to persist anyhow. I’d like to see Kolech push for the government to crack down on this practice instead of Ynet giving a media platform to promote it.

    • I’m american and wondering, how can a married girl get gov’t $ benefits? If the gov’t wants to stop these children having children why don’t they cut off welfare? just asking, b/c they do that here.

  9. Ms. Krieger says

    I find this discussion very interesting. In the US we have teen marriages too, I think, and it is still a problem. It varies widely by state, but many states allow marriages involving a person under the age of 18 if the parents consent. Some of these states are in the South or in Appalachia (the two regions where teen marriages happen stereotypically.) But even California allows the marriage of a 16 or 17 year old if at least one parent consents. And Connecticut, where I grew up, puts no lower limit on the age of the bride or groom – the only requirement is written consent from a parent or judge.

    The “age of consent”, i.e. the age at which sex between unmarried persons is no longer automatically considered rape, is distinct from the legal marriage age in most states. Most states put it at 16. (Although that is very recent. I know in the 1980s many states still had the age at 12.)

  10. Ms. Krieger says

    sorry – and to add to the above, in case I was not clear – I strongly disapprove of marriages before age 21. People change dramatically between the ages of 16 and 21, or even 19 and 21.

    I think many places have the marriage, drinking and draft laws all mixed up. (You can marry in the US at 16, be drafted to die for your country at 18, but you cannot have a beer until you are 21…something is wrong there.) At least in Israel, if the law is followed, age 18 is the legal threshold for all of these things, correct?

  11. Michael Makovi says

    Why is there even a legal marriage age at all? And why is the government even involved in marriage?

    Marriage is supposed to be a private contract between a man, a woman, and God. That’s it. Okay, there are two witnesses as well. But otherwise, it is a private contract. It is not the government’s job to take any cognizance whatsoever, except when that contract needs to be honored in civil court, regarding whatever stipulations were made about property and money. The government’s only job is to enforce the contract the man and woman made with each other. The government has no business getting involved with the terms of the actual contract itself.

    Why should we lower the marriage age? We’d be better off simply abolishing this unholy thing called civil marriage. The government has as much business being involved in marriage, as it does telling one how to best worship God. The government shouldn’t even have any cognizance of marriage at all; the government ought to be entirely ignorant of marriage, as if the institution didn’t even exist.

    • Michael, so let’s reframe the discussion. At what age can someone sign a (marriage) contract? And should there be an age of sexual consent?

      • Michael Makovi says

        Honestly, I’m not sure. Most of my study of political science focuses on economics and religious freedom. I’ve studied much less about minors.

        But I will say this: marriage per se, ought not exist as far as the government is concerned. Laws about making contracts, of any kind (marital or otherwise), and laws about statutory rape, I can see as possibly being legitimate, and I am willing to countenance those.

        To say more than that, I would have to study more. More often than not, government policies merely make existing problems worse, and I am very hesitant to entrust a power to the government before I ensure there will not be unintended consequences.

        We already have minimum wage laws causing unemployment and poverty, for example. And we have children being prosecuted for possession of child pornography for taking photographs of themselves. So I’d want to see some reports on the effects of statutory rape laws, for example.

        • Ms. Krieger says

          @Michael Makovi “Why is the government involved in marriage at all?”

          Historically – at least in Europe and Western countries, the church [representing all religion, at that time] was not involved in marriage through much of the Middle Ages until the Renaissance, as I recall. (Feel free to fact-check my dats, here.)

          Marriage was purely a civil contract, done for economic reasons.

          The church got involved really late.

          Israel bases much of its law on European forms…so it evolved naturally that the state would be involved in marriage, to some degree.

          Many would argue that marriage is still primarily an economic contract. Even in Israel.

          • @Michael:
            Contracts are regulated. According to halakha they are regulated and according to Civil law they are regulated. You cannot make a contract to bring crack-cocaine into the country, nor can you privately sell it on the street. Society has determined that such is to its detriment.
            Likewise society(here in Israel and in most of the civilized world) had made the determination that a person is not adequately independent or prepared to enter into marriage(even if you see it as only a contract) below a certain age.
            Take one of Rabbi Idan’s arguments, he says, “17, well why not 15(after all its only two years difference), and they are already being sexually active anyway.” Ok well let’s follow his line of logic. If 15, why not 13, if 13, why not 11, after all 60 percent of secular girls lose their virginity before they are Bat Mitzvah in Israel anyway. But if 11, why not 9, or 7, or 5 or 3?
            Yes an adult has the perogative, in most cases, to enter into any contract that they see fit. However, nowhere in history(including the Torah) was that perogative extended to minors. That parental control is what is most at issue here. The fact that some parents will not be concerned so much about the welfare of their children, and thus force them into marriages which are not truly the child’s desire nor to their ultimate wellbeing.

          • Michael Makovi says

            On the contrary, I believe the church viewed marriage as a sacrament, similar to baptism and communion, and jealously guarded the institution from the state. Private, unwitnessed marriages were honored, but by the church, and the state was not party to the affair.

            (And I think the Catholic church had it right. The state’s involving itself in marriage, makes as much sense to me as its involving itself in milah.)

            But even if marriage is a secular contract, I still don’t see why it’s the state’s business. I should be able to make a private contract with anyone I want, with whatever terms I want. It’s not the state’s business, any more than how much I decide to sell my chickens for.

        • US Navy Engineering Officer says

          well then shipmate, you’re a fieir….. you’re receiving EXCEPTIONALLY poor value for the money you spent to allegedly be educated.

          Marriage licenses were invented by a (I forget which side was doing it to whom) Protestant/Catholic King of England. You needed to his church’s LICENSE to get married. Otherwise, your resulting children would be mamzerim, and they would NOT inherit your property. The Crown would get it.

    • Why is there even a legal marriage age at all?
      To prevent child abuse.

      To keep some fifty year old rich man, from buying a twelve year old bride from a destitute family, who will pressure their daughter into marrying the man for the better of her parents and siblings. It happens everyday all over the middle east, and marriage age laws(if properly enforced) work to prevent it. You don’t get that?

      • Michael Makovi says

        Not everyone who lived in the era of the Enlightenment was an Enlightenment thinker, any more than everyone who lived in the era of the Sinaitic revelation was a Torah-true Jew. For example, John Locke’s theory of social contract is found adumbrated in the Mayflower Compact, and his theory of ownerless property being acquired by labor is found in John Cottons “God’s Promise to His Plantation.” I am not saying that Locke was following Bradford and Cotton – for it is more likely, if anything, that Locke was following the same people that Bradford and Cotton were following, such as George Buchanan – but the point is that one way or another, Locke’s circa 1680s ideas were already found in the 1620s and 1630s. So even though Locke lived in the time of the Enlightenment, many of his most important ideas predated the Enlightenment.

        Franklin wanted to send his grandson to Switzerland, not Holland. It was John Adams who spoke of Holland. Be that as it may. The fact remains that Franklin said Switzerland was better than France, which he said was entirely unacceptable. Apparently, it wasn’t the Enlightenment that Franklin wanted, or else France would have been perfect.

        It doesn’t matter when the term “libertarianism” was coined. Libertarianism means that men have unalienable rights, and that the purpose of the government is to protect those rights, and the the government is to be prevented from doing anything else. Those ideas predate the invention of the term. Already in people like John Calvin, Theodore Beza, Johannes Althusius, George Buchanan, John Milton, etc., you find such ideas, long before the term was invented.

        And you’re bringing anarcho-socialists to illustrate libertarianism? That makes no sense! You want anarcho-capitalists, or minarchists, not anarcho-socialists! So why are you bringing Joseph Déjacque?

        As for Ayn Rand, I’ve seen very few, if any, serious libertarian discussions that rely on her. Everything I’ve ever read from the Cato Institute, as well as personal correspondences I’ve had with the Cato Institute, relied FAR more on the notions of unalienable rights and the Founding Fathers, than on Rand or anarcho-socialists. Rand and the anarcho-socialists were not brought up at all, but these scholars spoke a LOT of unalienable natural rights.

        I’m not saying the anarcho-socialist or the Randian streams are illegitimate. I’m just saying that they’re not what the average libertarian has in mind. Heck, the people at the Von Mises Institute don’t even like John Stuart Mill, and they say he’s not really a classical liberal at all. (I independently arrived at the same view of Mill. His utilitarianism and rejection of natural rights puts him far outside the boundaries of libertarianism. He wanted freedom of speech, for example, not because he thought it was a God-given right, but because he thought it would produce the results in society he favored, viz. the victory of atheism over Christianity. That’s about as far from libertarianism as you can get. Von Mises would classify Mill as a modal libertarian, i.e. a libertine, rather than as an authentic libertarian.)

        “As soon as you talk inalieanable rights you are talking Enlightenment.” — On the contrary, unalienable rights imply they are God-given, something the Calvinists embraced but which the Enlightenment rejected.

        “To a Libertarian inalienable rights are a farce” — On the contrary, literature from the Cato Institute is filled with talk of unalienable rights. See, for example, the Cato Institute’s pocket edition of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, viz. their introduction thereto.

        “That is a pure Libertarian view.” — No, it is the opposite of libertarian. He says, ” As for the right to Liberty, it is only as sure as the force of arms can make it.” That sounds like might-makes-right, in which whoever has power, deserves to make the rules. That is the opposite of a libertarian, who believes that everyone has a right to liberty because that right, he says, is written into the fabric of the cosmos. At best, I would say Heinlin was a modal libertarian, or a libertine.

    • AztecQueen2000 says

      Why is there a legal marriage age? When you get married, it sets up all sorts of changed legal definitions. For example, many women (and some men) take on a spouse’s last name after marrige. This necessitates legal name changes on all government-issued ID, for example. Also, marriage creates a new tax status for families, allows easier access to a spouse’s health insurance, creates a de facto and de jure next of kin, gives the spouse power to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner, allows joint propery ownership (so a spouse’s income is counted in cases of application for government aid), creates a situation of assumed paternity for any child born in wedlock, and allows for an outside arbitrator (the courts) to allocate property and custody of children in case of divorce. None of thse apply with kesubah-only marriages.

      • Michael Makovi says

        You ought to be able to change your name, give someone your power of attorney, designate someone as your heir, etc., without a marriage at all, merely via contract. Or, your qetubah could specify all this, and the government ought to honor it.

        And if your contract specifies that the civil courts are to adjudicate disputes regarding the contract, then that should be honored, and if your contract designates someone else, then the civil courts should mind their own business and stay away from where they aren’t welcome. A marriage per se should not matter; only the terms of the contract should be binding. (However, I would not object to laws specifying what are the valid contractual terms regarding the treatment of children, and what should be done if the contract’s terms regarding children are illegal. If the contract says that in the case of divorce, the children will be thrown into a volcano or sold to the circus, then let the civil court decide itself what to do instead.)

        As for taxes, most taxes are merely theft, so most taxes ought to be abolished anyway, married or not.

        • But what you have not yet answered is at which age a person should be able to do all of that.

          • Michael Makovi says

            I realize that. I don’t want to give answers to questions like that without having done research first. I’m sure someone at the Cato Institute or the Von Mises Institute could give a satisfactory answer.

          • So you are arguing against something(primarily the protection of minors) without having a rational, or even thought out alternative.

          • Michael Makovi says

            “So you are arguing against something(primarily the protection of minors) without having a rational, or even thought out alternative.”

            No. I said marriage per se ought to be unknown to the government, but contracts still should be. Therefore, whatever laws exist about marital age, can be instead written about contractual age, mutatis mutandis, until something better is thought of. And you can keep laws of statutory rape until something better is thought of.

          • Let’s leave marriage, as you said, in the world of contract.
            First the ages at which one may enter into a contract are regulated by the government. You can seek employment(a contract) when you are relatively young(13-15 depending on the type of employment).
            However, for contracts which have more severe consequences(enlistment into the military for instance, or purchasing of property) the governmental bodies have seen fit to push off the age at which one can undertake such serious things, until they believe the person has achieved the necessary maturity, usually 18.
            So let us come back to marriage. In many ways marriage is a more severe contract than military service. At least within the realm of Judaism, you give away(as the bride and groom typically sign nothing) the rights over your own person and body. Most people are not even aware of this, but if a woman refuses her husband physically, he has the right to divorce her without the need to pay her ketubah.
            For an 18+ yr old with a solid education, being dropped without a ketubah or any form of support, while problematic, is not the end of the world. Many well educated single mothers have done quite well for themselves and their children.
            However, not the same can be said for unwed teen mothers. Like I said before, at what age do you stop lowering the age of marital consent? What you create is an undereducated mother, who if G-d forbid anything should happen to her husband, or if he should decide to divorce her, would be a burden to society.
            Going a step further, what is to keep the parents of a minor from(as the article itself states if you had read it)essentially forcing the young girl into a marriage because they no longer feel they are able to support her?
            That is the type of feeding ground where predators thrive. Look all over the middle east(where child marriages are legal[lo aleinu]) and you will see ample evidence of this problem. There are enough true horror stories of Hassidic arranged marriages, where you essentially have two witnesses sign a document and a small matter of a wedding night rape, in which some woman is now trapped in a marriage she never wanted, to a man she cannot stand, at an age where she is yet unprepared. What Rabbi Idan, and you apparently, wants is to make that horrific practice more mainstream and acceptable.
            As a general rule of thumb, moral governments, typically make rules/laws for the benefit of society. You should know what horrors those laws are protecting us from before you decide to lambaste them.
            I would say that your idealism is admirable, if it were not for the fact that idealism has done nothing for mankind but lead it down the garden path to its worst atrocities.

          • Michael Makovi says

            “I would say that your idealism is admirable, if it were not for the fact that idealism has done nothing for mankind but lead it down the garden path to its worst atrocities.”

            My idealism is of the libertarian sort, which produced the English Civil War, the English Glorious Revolution, the Dutch Revolt against Spain, and the American Revolution.

            The notion that “As a general rule of thumb, moral governments, typically make rules/laws for the benefit of society.”, is the Enlightenment sort, that produced the French Revolution, two World Wars, and the atrocities of Stalin.

          • The notion that “As a general rule of thumb, moral governments, typically make rules/laws for the benefit of society.”, is the Enlightenment sort, that produced the French Revolution, two World Wars, and the atrocities of Stalin.
            Actually all of these were spurred on by Libertarian idealism. As even a simple reading of history of the French Revolution, Das Kapital, or Mein Kampf will attest.
            The English Civil war was an attempt at a Monarchist revolution with the ultimate goal of unseating the British Parliment, The Glorious Revolution was the overthrow of one monarch by another, the Dutch revolt was also a matter of asserting a local monarch over a foreign one.
            The American Revolution was directly the child of the Enlightenment, as to quote directly from Wikipedia,
            Developing simultaneously in France, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the American colonies, the movement culminated in the Atlantic Revolutions, especially the success of the American Revolution, which resulted in independence from the British Empire. The authors of the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Polish-Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791, were motivated by Enlightenment principles.
            The three inalienable rights, and the provisions for the protections of minorities(aka the Bill of Rights) were both a direct result of the Enlightenment rejection of idealism in favor of realism, which noticing that humankind was inherently flawed, believed in establishing moral government(aka rule of law) over rule of man or majority(Republic vs. Democracy). The Enlightenment and its greatest successes(the Liberal Republican governments such as the US) which it spawned, have held the value of protecting the minority and disenfranchised. Arguably it seems humanity being devoid of moral instinct, and thus is at direct odds with Libertarianism which believes that man has a moral instinct. Granted Libertarianism was briefly attempted in the Post War colonies, it was called the Articles of Confederation, and it was such an abysmal failure that it didn’t even last a decade.

          • You are quite confused about the various political philosophies, including the one you claime to ascribe to.
            You contradict all of the major historians on these issues(as pointed out on the Wiki-page I sourced).
            I see no point in continuing a conversation with someone who recreates reality, and re-writes history to suit his own views.

          • Michael Makovi says

            You’re calling the French Revolution, Das Kapital, and Mein Kampf libertarian???!!! The French Revolution followed Rousseau, in positing that the majority, according to the General Will, could rule absolutely and tyrannically over the minority. Marx wanted the same, a dictatorship of the proletariat. Hitler wanted fascism, meaning government ownership of private property. (FDR said his New Deal was based on Mussolini’s fascism.) Those were thus the opposite of libertarianism, the EXACT opposite!

            As for the American Revolution, it was hardly based on Enlightenment principles.

            John Adams said that to understand the American Revolution, you had to study the history of America since the Pilgrims and Puritans landed, and that Samuel Adams said nothing that hadn’t been anticipated by William Bradford.

            John Adams further said that America’s political and religious culture was most similar to Holland’s.

            Benjamin Franklin said he wanted his grandson to grow up both a Presbyterian and a republican, and so he was sending him to Geneva to learn, as France did not offer proper schooling. Franklin said that after Switzerland, Scotland was preferable.

            John Adams said that everything said by Locke and Algernon Sidney (whom he grouped together), had already been said by John Ponet and the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos.

            Gouverneur Morris and John Adams both said that the French were devoid of proper G-d-based morality, and that without such morality, they could not be proper republicans. Alexander Hamilton said that the French Revolution was as similar to the American Revolution, as a French whore is to a Puritan maiden.

            As for the Articles of Confederation, it was libertarian, yes, but the Constitution is also libertarian. In fact, in some cases, the Constitution is even more libertarian, such as its limitation of money to gold and silver alone. Oftentimes, the Anti-Federalists were actually less libertarian than the Federalists, regarding money for example. Luther Martin opposed ratification because he wanted Maryland to be able to issue paper money, which is anti-libertarian. So often, the Federalists and the Constitution were more libertarian than the Anti-Federalists and the Articles of Confederation. In any case, however, the Articles and the Constitution were both libertarian, in different ways, and to different degrees.

          • Michael Makovi says

            “Enlightenment rejection of idealism in favor of realism, which noticing that humankind was inherently flawed, believed in establishing moral government(aka rule of law) over rule of man or majority(Republic vs. Democracy).”

            And that’s exactly opposite of the truth. The French Revolution followed Rousseau, that man is perfectible, and that (as Plato said), a philosopher king could use society as his blank canvas to impose his wisdom on all mankind. The Enlightenment belief that man was perfectible, resulted in one man being given absolute power. After all, that one man can be perfect! He’s a philosopher! (Today, we have leftist university professors filling the same shoes.)

            Rousseau’s General Will, like Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat, was not concerned with protecting the minority at all. On the contrary, they both aimed at the majority absolutely ruling over the minority.

            By contrast, the American concept of limiting government and protecting the minorities, was based on the Calvinist belief in man’s sinfulness. Believing that all men were sinful, they believed that no man or group could be trusted with too much power. Thus, the American government was deliberately inefficient, because the goal was to make sure that justice and truth prevailed over the will of the people. Everyone was to be treated justly, whether or not the majority agreed with that.

            Libertarianism today is much closer to the Calvinist people in sinfulness, than the Enlightenment belief in sinlessness. Read any libertarian tract today, and ask yourself whether they view Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama as being closer to angel (Enlightenment) or devil (Calvinist).

          • But what you fail to grasp is that these are all Enlightenment thinkers. The Age of Enlightenment was typically considered to have started with with the publication of Descarte’s Discourse on the Method, and ended about the time of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.
            Holland and the Netherlands at the time you are citing Franklin wanting to send his progeny there, was a hotbed of Enlightenment thought.

            I can quote far more than Wikipedia, I can quote major historians.

            Libertarianism, to which you so wantonly ascribe, as a term was first coined in 1789 by William Belsham. It was developed as a political philosophy by a series of French Anarchists, most notably the French Anaarchist Communist Joseph Déjacque(whose philosophy would stroungly influence Marx and thus Lennin and Stalin), in reaction to this you had the Austrian Libertarian Socialists, Frédéric Bastiat and later by Ludwig von Mises, both of whom Hitler would heavily source in Mein Kampf.
            The current American trend(despite whatever proganda to the contrary) was formulated by Bolsheivik sympathizer Ayn Rand, on whose legacy built Noam Chomsky, Colin Ward, and David Nolan(founder of the Libertarian party).

          • As soon as you talk inalieanable rights you are talking Enlightenment. To a Libertarian inalienable rights are a farce, to quote Libertarian philosopher and author Robert Heinlin:
            “What right to life has a man drowing in the pacific? Will his cries still the waves? If two men find themselves in a situation whose outcome dictates the necessity of cannibalism for survival, whose right to life supersedes the next? As for the right to Liberty, it is only as sure as the force of arms can make it. As for the right to the pursuit of happiness, so long as one has their mind they are free to pursue whatever they please, but there is no guarantee of every achieving it.”
            That is a pure Libertarian view.

          • Michael Makovi says

            You cite Wikipedia, while I cite John Adams and Gouverneur Morris and Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Hmm…

            Oh, and Alexis de Tocqueville says that according to the Americans of his time, the general belief was that American liberty and republicanism was dependant on Protestantism. Reverend Ezra Stiles even spoke explicitly of “Protestant liberty.” And the phenomenon of the Black Regiment of Protestant ministers in their pulpit sermons calling for the American Revolution, and legislatures inviting ministers to preach election day sermons to inaugurate their new sessions, suggest that religion was quite important to their political philosophy. Even the atheist Thomas Paine had to write his Common Sense as a Congregationalist sermon in order to get it an audience! That means Paine himself knew he had to masquerade as a Protestant to be taken seriously in political matters.

            As for major scholars, no, not all the major scholars say that the Enlightenment is the basis of American polity. Many say that it is, yes. But others disagree: Sidney Ahlstrom (A Religious History of the American People), Charles McCoy and Wayne Baker (Heinrich Bullinger: Fountainhead of Federalism), Mark David Hall (Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos: The Influence of the Reformed Tradition on the American Founding), and John Witte, Jr. (The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism) disagree, and say Calvinism is the basis for American politics.

            So the Enlightenment view is NOT the only scholarly view. And you should do better than to cite Wikipedia.

          • Michael Makovi says

            John Adams says that when he asked Paine about his argument against monarchy in Common Sense (based on the book of Samuel), Paine, says Adams, scoffed and laughed, and said it was all nonsense, and that he had pulled the whole argument from Milton. So Paine himself admitted that he believed his own words were hogwash, and that he pulled a Scriptural argument from Milton just to appeal to the American masses.

            As for my understanding of Rousseau, it seems to be the same as John Quincy Adams’s:

            John Quincy Adams rebuked Thomas Paine when the latter enthusiastically lauded the French Revolution; Paine declared that, “whatever a whole nation chooses to do, it has the right to do,” and Adams replied, “Nations, no less than individuals, are subject to the eternal and immutable laws of justice and morality.” Paine’s “doctrine,” said Adams, “annihilated the security of every man for his inalienable rights, and would lead in practice to a hideous despotism, concealed under the party-colored garments of democracy.”

            So according to J. Q. Adams’s account of Paine, Paine believed that a whole nation has a right to do whatever it wants, while Adams replied that no, there are absolute laws of justice incumbent on nations and individuals alike. It sounds like Paine held by my interpretation of Rousseau.

  12. This is not, I don’t think, “your crazies” vs “our crazies.” This is a Jewish “crazy” who is trying to implement a new rule that might have repercussions in other communities in other parts of the world. After all, if it’s okay for good Jewish girls to get married at 15 in this community, it must be okay in others.
    I certainly wouldn’t want to be this Rabbi’s fifteen year old daughter! Are men who don’t work a burden on the family, I wonder?

  13. I am 35 years old, married 17.5 years; I wish I had been able to marry earlier! Only in modern times do we have this artificially extended childhood/adolescence; for most of our history marriages took place earlier because we really ARE adults as early as 15 years old. And any newly married couple, whether 17 years old or 33 years old, benefits greatly from the presence and support, guidance and help of in-laws or other family members or friends.

    • What do you feel you gained by marrying at 17 and half that you could not have gained marrying at 20 or 21? What do you feel can be gained marrying earlier that would outweigh the significant costs?

      • Perhaps another precious child or two over my reproductive years, another year or two of life in happiness of married life, and since I was one like many girls who was mature (emotionally/mentally) early, another year or two of the more productive life rather than spent in frivolity and childish things while waiting for no good reason until secular powers-that-be decided I could be permitted to enter marriage in their land.

        The risks in marriage fall across the age ranges. It would not be right for everyone. I do think governments or outsiders should have no business in it. 17 or 18 is no magical age; if looking at deeper maturity and settling of personality, I don’t think most people have it until they are in mid to late 20’s. It is no reason to delay marriage.

        Children from one to another develop differently, and some parents, for reasons of their own, raise their children to have the unnaturally extended immaturity or irresponsibility. Why should the mature and responsible be delayed in life simply because some others are not?

        • I can turn your question around and ask why the children that mature later should be endangered by predators just so children who mature “earlier” can marry a year or two earlier?

          Marriage age laws, as indicated in numerous comments here, protect children from predators who merely want a sexual relationship with a minor. And your definition of “frivolity” as applied to others (I have no idea what that could mean to you but finishing high school and college is by no means frivolous to me). It’s a fact that men and women with at least a college education if not higher, make more money. Making a living didn’t seem to make it to your list of important things in life, but for most people, that is essential. Early marriage, and concomitant early pregnancy (as you do seem to advocate) endangers a girl’s ability to finish school and develop an ability to support herself, should her husband die or disappear (which happens with more regularity than you would like to think).

          Society develops laws for the good of the majority. Lower marriage age doesn’t benefit the majority of girls today.

  14. Rather not Say says

    As a woman who was badly manipulated by an older man even when I was of legal age, I think it’s really really crucial to protect children (and that certainly goes up to 18) from people who can play mind games and abuse them without violence. While I might not strongly object to a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old getting married, there is no way that a 15-year-old is ready, and unless you cap the age difference, this leaves children very vulnerable to older predators who can get away with it by signing some contract.

    There cannot be a situation in which an older man can have intercourse with a 16-year-old girl without facing criminal charges. The damage that can be done to that girl is simply too serious. Some men won’t be decent of their own accord. The law has to scare them into it.

  15. I agree with Rivka that this is not a question of whose crazies the proponents of the change to a lower marriage age are–they belong to Klal, so are “our” problem. Should the age be lowered in Israel, we have enough crazies in the US who would attempt to follow in suit.

    Fifteen year old girls are just one baby step above playing with dolls–placing maturity, 15 and marriage together is oxymoronic. This is not the 11th Century with a life expectancy of 31.

    • actually, the article was about crazy people in Israel trying to change Israeli civil law- i doubt any crazy Jew in America would even attempt to change any kind of American legislation. It is a uniquely Israeli issue and without understanding the larger political context of charedim in Israeli law, it’s hard to understand. I’m sure this actually has a lot to do with the reduction of government support of charedim- start another household and wham- more money. The earlier you can start the household, all the better.

      As for crazy Jews in America who support early marriages- nothing stops them now from doing kiddushin between 15 year old girls and bochurim or alte kackers for that matter. I don’t think it would ever catch on because the idea is so ludicrous even for the most extreme charedim in the US.

    • teen in america says

      I know that there are potential problems with predators, but I also know that I am a teenage girl and I feel that if I could only finish school faster I would get married as soon as possible. My body is an adult and my mind is close to being the same. Shouldn’t what the teens want be taken into consideration?

  16. Mrs Belogski says

    Funnily enough we were talking about this over Shabbos. My 15 1/2 year old daughter suggested that she could get married next year. We discussed hypothetical issues – what is her school’s policy on married girls continuing ( unknown, although her headteacher got engaged when she was 17 we think), where would they live? – in our loft – but she would have to do their laundry. Of course the conversation foundered when I pointed out that in UK you can only get married at 16 with parental consent, which would not be forthcoming! Sensible and mature as she is, much of the time, she is no way ready to get married!

    • There were a few men I almost married in my early 20’s- a perfectly reasonable and sensible time to get married. I thank Gd everyday I waited till the ripe old age of 26. Those marriages would have been disasters! I think it depends a lot on what parents and children expect from marriage. But I agree, I really don’t think you can know at 16 what you want from a partner and from marriage.


  1. […] first saw this on DovBear’s blog, and then it popped up again on Hannah’s blog, and decided that I would address it briefly here.  It starts more or less with this YNet […]

  2. […] Hannah wonders about the Legal Age of Marriage: 18, 17, or . . . 15? […]

  3. […] Knesset Member Gila Gamliel introduced the panel on Fertility, Gender and Halacha: Critical Viewpoints, and I’ve already written about her proposal to raise the marriage age. […]

  4. […] Legal Age of Marriage: 18, 17, or . . . 15? […]