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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth

Folio 105a

spit nor recite,1  her halizah is valid. If she spat but did not draw off the shoe nor recite,2  her halizah is invalid3  if she recited2  but did not spit nor draw off the shoe, there is here no reason whatsoever for apprehension.4  Now, whose [view is here represented]? If it be suggested [it is that of] R. Eliezer, [how could it be stated that] 'if she drew off [the levir's shoe] but did not spit nor recite, her halizah is valid' when, surely, R. Eliezer said: SO SHALL BE DONE, ANYTHING WHICH IS A DEED IS A SINE QUA NON? It is consequently obvious [that it is the view of] R. Akiba; and yet it was stated that 'if she spat but did not draw off the shoe nor recite, her halizah is invalid'. To whom, [however, does the invalidity cause her to be forbidden]?5  If it be suggested, 'To strangers';6  is not this [it may be retorted] self-evident? Is it a halizah [like this that would enable the sister-inlaw] to become free to marry a stranger!7  It must therefore, be admitted8  [that the validity refers to her state of prohibition] to the brothers.9  Thus you have our contention proved.

According to R. Akiba, wherein lies the legal difference between the act of spitting and that of reciting?10  — Recital11  that must take place both at the commencement12  [of the halizah ceremony] and at its conclusion13  cannot be mistaken;14  spitting, however, which does not take place at the beginning but only at the end, might be mistaken [for a proper halizah],15  and thus16  a proper halizah also would be permitted to marry the brothers.17

Others say that the following ruling was sent to him:18  A sister-in-law who spat19  may afterwards perform halizah and need not spit a second time.20  So, in fact, it once happened that a sister-in-law21  who came before R. Ammi, while R. Abba b. Memel was sitting in his presence, spat prior to her drawing off the shoe. 'Arrange the halizah for her', said R. Ammi to him,22  'and dismiss her case'.23  'But surely'. said R. Abba to him, 'spitting is a requirement!' — 'She has spat indeed!' 'But let her spit [again]; what could be the objection?' — 'The issue might [morally and religiously] be disastrous; for should you rule that she is to spit again, people might assume that her first spitting was ineffective24  and thus25  a proper haluzah also would be permitted to marry the brothers!'26  'But is it not necessary. [that the various parts of the halizah] should follow in the prescribed order?' — 'The order of the performances is not essential'. He22  thought [at the time] that the other27  was merely shaking him off. When, however, he went out he carefully considered the point and discovered that it was taught: Whether drawing off the shoe preceded the spitting or whether spitting preceded the drawing off, the action performed is valid.28

Levi once went out [to visit] the country towns,29  when he was asked: 'May a woman whose hand was amputated perform halizah?30  What is the legal position where a sister-in-law spat blood? [It is stated in Scripture]: Howbeit I will declare unto thee that which is inscribed in the Writing of Truth;31  does this32  then imply that there exists a [divine] Writing that is not of truth?' He was unable to answer.33  When he came and asked these questions at the academy. they answered him: Is it written, 'And she shall draw off with her hand'?34  Is it written, 'And spit spittle'?34  [As to the question] 'Howbeit I will declare unto thee that which is inscribed in the Writing of Truth,31  does this then imply that there exists a [divine] Writing that is not of truth'? There is really no difficulty. For the former35  refers to a [divine] decree that was accompanied by an oath while the latter36  refers to one that was not accompanied by an oath. [This is] in accordance with a statement of R. Samuel b. Ammi. For R. Samuel b. Ammi stated in the name of R. Jonathan: Whence is it deduced that a decree which is accompanied by an oath is never annulled?37  — From the Scriptural text, Therefore I have sworn unto the House of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be expiated with sacrifice nor offering for ever.38  Rabbah said: It will not be expiated 'with sacrifice nor offering', but it will be expiated with the words of the Torah.

Abaye said: It will not be expiated 'with sacrifice nor offering' but it will be expiated with the practice of lovingkindness.

Rabbah and Abaye were both descendants of the house of Eli. Rabbah who engaged in the study of the Torah lived forty years. Abaye, however, who engaged in the study of the Torah and the practice of lovingkindness, lived sixty years.

Our Rabbis taught: There was a certain family in Jerusalem whose members used to die when they were about the age of eighteen. When they came and acquainted R. Johanan b. Zakkai [with the fact,] he said to them: 'perchance you are descendants of the family of Eli concerning whom it is written in Scripture. And all the increase of thy house shall die young men;39  go and engage in the study of the Torah, and you will live'. They went and engaged in the study of the Torah and lived [longer lives]. They were consequently called 'The family of Johanan', after him.

R. Samuel b. Unia stated in the name of Rab: Whence is it deduced that a [divine] dispensation against a congregation is not sealed? — [You say] 'Is not sealed'! Surely it is written, For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before Me!40  — But [this is the question]: Whence is it deduced that even if it has been sealed it is torn up? — From the Scriptural text, What … as the Lord our God is whensoever we call upon him.41  But, surely, it is written, Seek ye the Lord while He may be found!42  — This is no contradiction. The latter applies to an individual, the former to a congregation. And43  when may an individual [find him]? R. Nahman replied in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: In44  the ten days between the New Year and the Day of Atonement.45

[The following ruling] was sent to Samuel's father: A sister-inlaw who spat blood shall perform halizah,46  because it is impossible that blood should not contain some diluted particles of spittle.

An objection was raised: It might have been assumed that blood that issues from his47  mouth or membrum virile is unclean,48  hence it was explicitly stated, His issue is unclean,49  but the blood which issues from his mouth or from his membrum virile is not unclean, but clean!50  — This is no contradiction: The former51  is a case52  where she sucks in;53  the latter,54  where [the blood] flows gently.


Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. The prescribed formulae. V. supra p. 718. n. 2.
  2. V. p. 721, n. 14.
  3. But the woman is rendered unfit for the levirate marriage. V. infra.
  4. I.e., even levirate marriage is permitted.
  5. The expression vjuxp, here rendered 'invalid', bears in the original a double meaning: (a) the halizah itself is invalid and (b) the woman becomes invalid, i.e., unfit to contract a marriage. V. infra note 8.
  6. Lit., 'to the world', i.e., as the halizah is invalid the woman still remains forbidden to all men except the levirs.
  7. Obviously not. Mere spitting could not possibly be regarded as a proper halizah.
  8. Lit., 'but not'.
  9. The second meaning of vkuxp (v. supra note 4. (b) being that the woman is forbidden to contract the levirate marriage with any of the brothers. Cf. Git. 24b.
  10. Since both acts are not indispensable, why does the former act according to R. Akiba cause the sister-in-law to be forbidden to the brothers (as has just been proved), while the latter does not (R. Akiba having stated supra that there was 'no reason whatsoever for apprehension')?
  11. Of the prescribed formulae.
  12. V. supra p. 718, n. 2 (a).
  13. V. loc. cit. n. 2 (b).
  14. For a proper halizah. Where the sister-in-law is allowed to marry a levir it is obvious to all who know of the recital that it was only the first formula that was recited and that no halizah had followed it.
  15. Anyone witnessing the spitting would form the opinion that the other parts of the halizah ceremonial had preceded it.
  16. Were she subsequently permitted to marry a levir.
  17. Hence R. Akiba's prohibition. Cf. supra p. 722. n. 9.
  18. To Samuel's father. Cf. supra 104b.
  19. Before Beth din, though her act did not form a part of the formal halizah ceremony.
  20. At the proper time when the formal ceremony is carried out.
  21. Cf. BaH. a.l. wanting in cur. edd.
  22. R. Abba.
  23. I.e., there is no need for her to spit again.
  24. And the woman would consequently be allowed to marry a levir even after she had spat:
  25. By allowing her to contract levirate marriage.
  26. Cf. supra note 1.
  27. R. Ammi.
  28. Cf. infra 106b, Sanh. 49b.
  29. In the course of a lecture tour. According to the Palestinian Talmud and the Midrash Rabbah, Levi was sent by R. Judah the Prince to take up an appointment as teacher and judge in a provincial town. In his excitement and pride he grew so bewildered that he was unable to answer the following three questions.
  30. With her teeth.
  31. Dan. X, 21, taken to refer to divine dispensation.
  32. The adjectival phrase 'of truth'.
  33. Lit., 'it was not in his hand'.
  34. Certainly not.
  35. 'Writing of truth', i.e., 'permanent', 'unalterable'.
  36. The 'writing that is not of truth', i.e., which may be altered or recalled.
  37. Lit., 'torn up'.
  38. I Sam. III, 14, emphasis on 'sworn' and 'for ever'.
  39. I Sam. II, 33.
  40. Jer. II, 22, emphasis on 'marked' 'sealed'. The Hebrew equivalent of the former is [H] which is similar in sound to that of the letters [H].
  41. Deut. IV, 7.
  42. Isa. LV, 6, emphasis on while he may be found, implying that there are times when he may not be found!
  43. Cf. BaH.
  44. Lit., 'these are'.
  45. Known as the 'ten days of penitence', [H].
  46. As in the case of ordinary spitting. she may not subsequently contract levirate marriage.
  47. A man who hath an issue, cf. Lev. XV, 2.
  48. As his spittle or issue respectively is unclean.
  49. Ibid., emphasis on issue.
  50. Nid. 56a. Apparently because the blood contains no particle of spittle (cf. supra n. 10), which is contradictory to the previous statement that all blood contains some particles of spittle.
  51. The ruling sent to Samuel's father.
  52. Lit., 'here'.
  53. When it is inevitable that some spittle should be mingled with the blood.
  54. Lit., 'here'.

Yebamoth 105b

Rab Judah stated in the name of Rab:1  This2  is the view of R. Meir;3  but the Sages maintain that the halizah of a minor has no effect at all.4

[A SISTER-IN-LAW] WHO PERFORMED HALIZAH WHILE SHE WAS A MINOR etc. Rab Judah stated in the name of Rab: This5  is the view of R. Meir who stated, 'In the Pentateuchal section [of halizah] the expression man6  is used,7  and the woman is to be compared to the man'.8  The Sages, however, maintain that in the Pentateuchal section 'man' was written;7  [and as to] a woman, whether she is of age or a minor [her halizah is valid].

Who [is the Tanna here described as the] Sages? — It is R. Jose. For R. Hiyya and R. Simeon b. Rabbi once sat together, when one of them began as follows:9  A man who offers up his prayers must direct his eyes towards [the Temple]10  below,11  for it is said, And Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually.12  And the other said: The eyes of him who offers up prayers shall be directed13  towards [the heavens] above, for it is said Let us lift up our heart with our hand.14  In the meanwhile they were joined by R. Ishmael son of R. Jose. 'On what subject are you engaged?' he asked them. 'On the subject of prayer', they replied. 'My father', he said to them, 'ruled thus: A man who offers up his prayers must direct his eyes to the [Sanctuary] below and his heart towards [the heavens] above so that these two Scriptural texts may be complied with.' While this was going on, Rabbi entered the academy.15  They, being nimble, got into their places quickly. R. Ishmael son of R. Jose, however, owing to his corpulence16  could only move to his place with slow steps. 'Who is this man, cried Abdan17  out to him, 'who strides over the heads18  of the holy people!' The other replied. 'I am Ishmael son of R. Jose who have come to learn Torah from Rabbi'.19  'Are you, forsooth, fit', the first said to him, 'to learn Torah from Rabbi?' — 'Was Moses fit', the other retorted, 'to learn Torah from the lips of the Omnipotent!' 'Are you Moses indeed!' the first exclaimed. — 'Is then your Master a god!' the other retorted. R. Jose remarked: Rabbi got what he merited when the one20  said to the other21  'Your Master' and not 'my Master'.22  While this was proceeding a sister-in-law came before Rabbi.23  'Go out', said Rabbi to Abdan, 'and have her examined'.24  After the latter went out, R. Ishmael said to him:25  Thus said my father, 'In the Pentateuchal section man26  is written;27  [but as to] a woman, whether she is of age or a minor [her halizah is valid]'. 'Come back', he15  cried after him,21  'you need not [arrange for any examination]; the grand old man28  has already given his decision [on the subject]'.

Abdan now came back picking his steps,29  when R. Ishmael son of R. Jose exclaimed, 'He of whom the holy people is in need may well stride over the heads of the holy people; but how dare he of whom the holy people has no need stride over the heads of the holy people!' 'Remain in your place', said Rabbi to Abdan.

It was taught: At that instant Abdan became leprous, his two sons were drowned and his two daughters-in-law made declarations of refusal.30  'Blessed be the All Merciful', said R. Nahman b. Isaac, 'who has put Abdan to shame in this world'.31

'We may learn from the words of this eminent scholar',32  said R. Ammi, 'that [a sister-in-law who is] a minor may perform halizah while she is still in her childhood'.33  Raba said: [She must wait with halizah] until she has reached the age of [valid] vows.34  The law however, is [that she must not perform halizah] until she has produced two [pubic] hairs.

IF [A SISTER-IN-LAW] PERFORMED HALIZAH IN THE PRESENCE OF TWO etc. R. Joseph b. Manyumi stated in the name of R. Nahman: The halachah is not in agreement with this pair.35  But, surely. R. Nahman had once stated this; for R. Joseph b. Manyumi stated in the name of R. Nahman: The halachah is that36  halizah [must be performed] in the presence of three [judges]!37  — [Both are] required: For if the first only had been stated, it might have been assumed [that three judges are required] ab initio only. but that ex post facto even two [judges are enough] hence we were taught that 'the halachah is not in agreement with this pair'.38  And if we had been taught that 'the halachah is not in agreement with this pair' but in accordance with the ruling of the first Tanna, it might have been assumed [that this applies only] ex post facto,39  but that ab initio five [judges] are required,40  [hence the former statement was also] required.41

IT ONCE HAPPENED THAT A MAN SUBMITTED TO HALIZAH42  etc. PRIVATELY BETWEEN HIMSELF AND HERSELF! How, then, can we know it? — Rab Judah replied in the name of Samuel: When witnesses observed it from without.

The question was raised:43  Did it happen that the HALIZAH was performed privately BETWEEN HIMSELF AND HERSELF outside, AND THE CASE WAS BROUGHT BEFORE R. AKIBA IN PRISON,44  or perhaps it happened that the HALIZAH was performed BETWEEN HIMSELF AND HERSELF in prison? — Rab Judah replied in the name of Rab: The incident occurred in prison and the case also came up for decision in prison.45

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Others, 'Samuel'. Cf. Tosaf. supra 96a, s.v. [H].
  2. That the halizah of a minor is invalid and that it consequently prohibits the woman from contracting levirate marriage with any of the older brothers.
  3. Who stated (supra 96a) that the halizah of a minor has the same force as that of a divorce by a levir who is of age.
  4. His act is legally null and void. She is not thereby forbidden even to himself.
  5. That a sister-in-law who was a minor may not perform halizah.
  6. V. Deut. XXV, 7.
  7. Which excludes the male minor.
  8. Since both man and sister-in-law (woman) were mentioned in the same verse (ibid.). As the male minor is excluded so is the female minor excluded.
  9. Lit., 'and said'.
  10. In Jerusalem. Cf. Ber. 28b, 30a.
  11. I.e., on this earth, opp. to 'heaven' above.
  12. I Kings IX, 3. Hence it must always form the centre of attraction for all engaged in prayer.
  13. Cf. BaH. Wanting in cur. edd.
  14. Lam. III, 41, emphasis on lift up.
  15. When everyone present was expected to take his usual seat.
  16. Cf. B.M. 84a.
  17. One of Rabbi's disciples. 'Abdan' is a contraction of 'Abba Judan' by which name he is known in the Palestinian Talmud. (Cf. Tosaf. s.v. [H], a.l.).
  18. During the discourses of the Master the disciples were seated on the ground in Eastern fashion; and R. Ishmael, in making his way towards his seat in the front rows, was compelled to stride over the heads of the assembly.
  19. Lit., 'my master', a designation applied to R. Judah the prince who was in his time the Master par excellence.
  20. R. Ishmael.
  21. Abdan.
  22. A slight upon Rabbi's recognized high position but one he well deserved for allowing Abdan publicly to annoy R. Ishmael.
  23. Desiring him to arrange for her a halizah ceremony.
  24. To ascertain whether she has developed the marks of puberty and is consequently eligible to perform halizah.
  25. Rabbi.
  26. Which excludes the male minor.
  27. Deut. XXV, 7.
  28. R. Jose. Thus it is proved that it is R. Jose's view that was presented supra as that of 'the Sages'.
  29. Cf. supra note 4.
  30. V. Glos. s.v. Mi'un. The Talmudic text may imply that the two daughters-in-law, as minors, refused to contract levirate marriage with the brothers of their dead husband, so that the names of the deceased were 'blotted out of Israel' (cf. Golds.). Accordingly the rendering of the text should be 'two (of) his (several) sons were drowned'. The text, however, might also be rendered: 'His two sons were drowned (after) his two daughters-in-law had made declarations of refusal (against them)'.
  31. As an atonement for his ill-treatment of R. Ishmael; thus enabling him to enter the hereafter free from all sin.
  32. R. Jose [H] = [H] lit., 'of the school of my master', or 'of Rabbi', was a title of scholastic distinction given to many eminent scholars who were Rabbi's disciples or contemporaries, and similarly also to predecessors as well as to immediate successors among the early Amoraim. V. Nazir, Sonc., ed., p. 64, n. 1.
  33. [H] (cf. [H], 'to babble') 'talkers', children of six or seven years of age, who may legally purchase or sell movable property. A child at this age, being regarded as sufficiently developed to understand certain commercial transactions, is also regarded as sufficiently developed to perform a halizah.
  34. One year prior to puberty, or the age of eleven years and one day, when her vows and consecrations are valid if on examination she is found to understand their significance and purpose. (Cf. Nid. 45b).
  35. R. Simeon and R. Johanan ha-Sandelar, the halachah being in agreement with the first Tanna who maintains that three judges are required for a halizah.
  36. V. BaH. Cur. edd. omit.
  37. Cf. supra 101b.
  38. Even ex post facto, which is the case spoken of in our Mishnah, halizah is invalid if no three eligible judges were present.
  39. Of which our Mishnah speaks (cf. supra n. 3).
  40. In agreement with R. Judah (cf. supra 101a).
  41. To indicate that even in the dispute between the first Tanna and R. Judah the halachah is in agreement with the former.
  42. Cf. our Mishnah. Cur. edd. read here 'they performed halizah'.
  43. The ambiguity in our Mishnah is due to a reading which omits the Waw in [H] so that it is possible to join 'in prison' either to the previous, or to the following clause (cf. Tosaf. s.v. [H]).
  44. During the revolt of Bar Kokeba (132-135 C.E.) R. Akiba was for a time held by the Romans as a prisoner and was subsequently martyred.
  45. [Tosaf.: Rab Judah had it on tradition that it was so, even as it is related in T.J.: R. Johanan ha-Sandelar passed outside the prison wherein R. Akiba was incarcerated, calling out, 'Who requires needles?', 'Who requires forks?' … 'How is it where the halizah was performed between himself and herself?' R. Akiba thereupon looked out through the window and replied: 'Hast thou of needles (kushin)? Hast thou kasher?', thus intimating that it is legal. V. Tosef. quoted in [H], for a slightly different version].