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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth

Folio 18a

it might have been assumed [that this holds good only] while she is alive but that after death the bond is broken,1  hence it was taught that the levirate bond is not automatically2  dissolved.

May it be suggested that the following supports his view: 'If his deceased brother's wife died, the Ievir is permitted to marry her sister', which implies her sister Only but not her mother?3  — The same law may apply even to her mother; but because he taught in the earlier clause, 'if his wife died he is permitted to marry her sister', in which case her sister only is permitted and not her mother, the latter being forbidden Biblically, he also taught in the latter clause, 'he is permitted to marry her sister'.

R. Huna b. Hiyya raised an objection: IF HE ADDRESSED THE MA'AMAR TO HER AND DIED, THE SECOND MUST PERFORM HALIZAH BUT MAY NOT ENTER INTO THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE.4  The reason then5  is because he addressed to her6  the ma' amar, but had he not addressed a ma'amar to her,5  the second also would have been permitted to enter into the levirate marriage with him. Now, if it be maintained that the levirate bond does exist,7  the second, owing to this bond, would be the rival of the 'wife of his brother who was not his contemporary'!8  — Rabbah replied: The same law, that the second must perform the halizah with, but may not be married to the levir, applies even to the case where no ma'amar was addressed to her;6  and the ma'amar was mentioned only in order to exclude the view of Beth Shammai. Since they maintain that the ma'amar effects a perfect contract,9  he teaches us [that it was not so].

Abaye pointed out the following objection to him:10  In the case of two [contemporary] brothers one of whom died without Issue, and the second determined11  to address a ma'amar to his deceased brother's wife12  but before he managed to address a ma amar to her a third13  brother was born and he himself died, the first14  is exempt15  as 'the wife of his brother who was not his contemporary' while the second16  either performs the halizah or enters into the levirate marriage.17  Now, if it be maintained that a levirate bond does exist,18  the second, owing to this bond, would be the rival of 'the wife19  of his brother who was not his contemporary'!20  Whose view is this? It is that of R. Meir, who holds that no levirate bond exists.

Does R. Meir, however, maintain that no Ievirate bond exists?18  Surely we have learned: In the case of four brothers two of whom were married to two sisters, if those who were married to the sisters died, behold their widows perform the halizah but may not be taken in levirate marriage [by either of the levirs].21  Now, if R. Meir is of the opinion that no levirate bond exists,22  these would come from two different houses,23  and one brother could marry the one while the other could marry the other! — The fact is that [R. Meir maintains that] no levirate bond exists; [but the levirate marriage is nevertheless forbidden] because he is of the opinion that it is forbidden to annul the precept of levirate marriages, it being possible that while one of the brothers married [one of the widowed sisters] the other brother would die,24  and thus the precept of levirate marriages would be annulled.25

If, however, no Ievirate bond exists, let [also the precept of the levirate marriage] be annulled! For R. Gamaliel who holds that no levirate bond exists26  also [maintains that] the precept of the levirate marriage may be annulled; as we learned; R. Gamaliel said, 'If she27  made a declaration of refusal28  well and good;29  if she did not make a declaration of refusal let [the elder sister] wait until [the minor] grows up30  and this one31  is then exempt as his wife's sister'!32  -The other33  said to him: Are you pointing out a contradiction between the opinion of R. Meir and that of R. Gamaliel?34  No [replied Abaye]; we mean to say this: Does R. Meir provide even against a doubtful annulment35  and R. Gamaliel does not provide even against a certainty!36  — It is quite possible that he who does not provide37  makes no provision even against a certain annulment, while he who does provide37  makes provision even against a doubtful annulment.38

Said Abaye to R. Joseph: Rab Judah's statement39  is Samuel's;40  for we learnt:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'burst', 'split'.
  2. Lit., 'by nothing', 'without formality', i.e., without the due performance of the halizah.
  3. Because she is presumably regarded as his mother-in-law.
  4. Supra 17a, q.v. for notes.
  5. Why the levirate marriage is forbidden to the second
  6. The first, the widow of the first deceased brother.
  7. Between the widow and the levir, from the moment her husband, the first brother, died.
  8. With whom levirate marriage is forbidden.
  9. Lit., 'acquires perfect possession', i.e., the widow is regarded as the legal wife of the second brother, and his own wife thus becomes her rival and is consequently exempt even from the halizah.
  10. To Rabbah.
  11. Lit., 'stood'.
  12. The widow of the first deceased brother.
  13. Lit., 'to him'.
  14. The widow of the first deceased brother.
  15. From the halizah and levirate marriage of the third brother.
  16. Her rival, the widow of the second deceased brother.
  17. With the third brother. Infra 19a.
  18. v. supra p. 99' n. 5.
  19. The bond being regarded to be just as binding as actual marriage.
  20. And she should be exempt.
  21. 'Ed. V, 5' infra 23b, 26a, 7b; because, obviously, both are bound by a levirate bond to both surviving brothers and each is the sister of a woman who is connected with either of the brothers by such a levirate bond.
  22. V. supra p. 99' n. 5.
  23. None of them standing in any marital relationship with either of the surviving brothers.
  24. And be prevented from marrying the other widow.
  25. Since the surviving brother would not be able to marry (or to participate in the halizah of) the second widow who is now his wife's sister.
  26. Infra 51a.
  27. A minor who was married to one brother while her sister had been married to another brother who died without issue.
  28. A minor may refuse to live with her husband and no divorce is needed in her case. V. Glos. s.v. mi'un.
  29. Lit., 'she refused'. By her declaration of refusal her marriage becomes null and void retrospectively. As she has thus never been the legal wife of the Ievir, her sister (being no more his 'wife's sister') may contract the levirate marriage with him.
  30. And becomes the legal wife of the surviving brother.
  31. l.e., the elder sister.
  32. Infra 79b, 109a; which shews that R. Gamaliel permits the annulment of the law of the levirate marriage. Similarly, if R. Meir maintains, like R. Gamaliel, that no levirate bond exists, he should also permit the annulment of the precept of the levirate marriage.
  33. Rabbah.
  34. Though they may agree on the question of the levirate bond, it does not necessarily follow that they agree also on the question of permission to annul the precept of the levirate marriage.
  35. Supra; the possibility that one of the brothers might die.
  36. It is a certainty that when the minor becomes of age the elder sister will be precluded from both marriage and halizah. This wide divergence of opinion is unlikely. Hence the fear of annulling the levirate marriage cannot be the reason for R. Meir's ruling in the above cited Mishnah; and consequently R. Meir cannot be of the opinion that no levirate bond exists.
  37. Against the annulment of the precept of the levirate marriage.
  38. So that R. Meir need not necessarily agree with R. Gamaliel on this point though he will agree with him on the question of the levirate bond.
  39. That if a woman awaiting the decision of the levir died, the levir is still forbidden to marry her mother (supra 17b end).
  40. Not Rab's who also was his teacher.

Yebamoth 18b

If the brother of the levir had betrothed the sister of the widow who was awaiting the levir's decision,1  he is told, so it has been stated in the name of R. Judah b. Bathyra, 'Wait2  until your brother has taken action;'3  and Samuel said, 'The halachah is in accordance with the ruling of R. Judah b. Bathyra'.4  The other5  asked him: 'What [objection could there be] if the statement6  be attributed to Rab?7  Is it the contradiction between the two statements of Rab?8  Surely it is possible that these Amoraim9  are in dispute as to what was the opinion of Rab!' — Since this ruling was stated with certainty in the name of Samuel, while as to Rab's view [on the matter] Amoraim differ, we do not ignore10  the statement attributing it with certainty to Samuel in favour of the one11  which involves Amoraim In a dispute as to the opinion of Rab.

Said R. Kahana: I reported the statement12  in the presence of R. Zebid of Nehardea, when he said: You teach it thus;13  our version is explicit:14  'Rab Judah stated in the name of Samuel, "If a woman awaiting the decision of the levir died, [the levir] is forbidden to marry her mother", from which it naturally follows that he is of the opinion that a levirate bond exists'.15  Samuel is here consistent; for Samuel said, 'The halachah is in accordance with the view of R. Judah b. Bathyra'.

Said [both statements16  are] necessary. For had he only stated, 'A levirate bond exists', it might have been assumed to refer to the case of one levir only17  but not to that of two,18  hence we are taught19  [that the Same law applies also to two]. And if it had only been stated, 'The halachah is in accordance with the opinion of R. Judah b. Bathyra', it might have been assumed [that the levirate bond is in force] while the widow20  is alive but that after her death the bond is dissolved, hence we are taught21  that the levirate bond Is not dissolved automatically.22


GEMARA. R. Oshaia said: R. Simeon disputed the first case also34  Whence is this inferred? From the existence of35  a superfluous Mishnah. For in accordance with whose view was it necessary to teach the clause of the first [Mishnah]? If it be suggested, [according to that] of the Rabbis, [it may be retorted]: If when the levirate marriage had taken place first and the birth36  occurred afterwards, in which case he,37  found her38  permitted,39  the Rabbis nevertheless forbade her,40  is there any need [for them to specify prohibition in the case where] the birth36  occurred first and the marriage took place afterwards!41  Consequently42  it must have been required [in connection with the view] of R. Simeon; and the first [Mishnah] was taught in order to point out to you how far R. Simeon43  is prepared to go44  while the last Mishnah was taught in order to show you how far the Rabbis45  are prepared to go. It would, indeed, have been logical for R. Simeon to express his dissent in the first case, but he waited for the Rabbis to conclude their statement and then he expressed his dissent with their entire statement.46

How, in view of what has been said,47  is it possible according to R. Simeon to find a case of 'a wife of his brother who was not his contemporary'?48  — In the case of one brother who died and a second brother was subsequently49  born;50  or also in the case of two brothers51  where the second has neither taken the widow in the levirate marriage nor died.52

One can well understand [R. Simeon's reason]53  where the levirate marriage54  took place first and the birth55  afterwards, for in this case he found her permitted;56  where, however, the birth occurred first and the levirate marriage took place afterwards,57  what [reason [could be advanced]?58  -He holds the opinion that a levirate bond exists59  and that such a bond is like actual marriage.60

R. Joseph demurred: If R. Simeon is in doubt as to whether in the case of a 'levirate bond' and a 'ma amar' combined the widow should or should not be regarded as married, need there be any [doubt in the case of] a 'levirate bond' alone?61  Whence is this known?62  — We have learned: In the case where three brothers were married to three women who were strangers [to one another] and, one of the brothers having died, the second brother addressed to her,63  a ma'amar and died, behold these64  must perform halizah with, but may not marry the [surviving] levir; for it is said in the Scriptures, And one of then die [etc.], her husband's brother shall go in unto her,65  only she66  who is tied to one levir,67  but not she who is tied to two levirs.68  R. Simeon said: He69  may take in levirate marriage whichever of them he pleases70  and submits to the halizah of the other.71  He must not take both widows in levirate marriage since it is possible that a levirate bond exists72  and thus the two sisters-in-law73  would be coming

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Her sister being forbidden to him as the sister of the woman connected with him by a Ievirate bond.
  2. With the consummation of the marriage.
  3. I.e., married the widow, when the Ievirate bond between her and the third brother will have been severed, and her sister will consequently be permitted to marry him.
  4. Infra 410. Meg. 18b. This shews that in the opinion of Samuel a levirate bond exists between a widow and the brothers-in-law whose decision she is awaiting. (V. previous note).
  5. R. Joseph.
  6. Cf. supra p. 101, n. 13.
  7. Cf. p. 101, n. 14.
  8. Lit., 'that of Rab upon Rab', i.e., Rab's presumed statement reported by Rab Judah is contradictory to the statement made in his name by R. Huna, supra 17b.
  9. R. Huna and Rab Judah, both of whom were disciples of Rab.
  10. Lit., 'leave aside'.
  11. Lit., 'and establish it'.
  12. Rab Judah's.
  13. Attributing the ruling to Rab Judah without mentioning the authority from whom it originated.
  14. I.e., specifically indicating the reported authority.
  15. V. supra p. 99, n. 5.
  16. Of Samuel.
  17. Cf. supra p. 98, n. 8.
  18. Cf. supra [H] 16.
  19. By the statement that the halachah is in accordance with R. Judah b. Bathyra.
  20. The sister-in-law awaiting the levir's decision.
  21. By the statement, 'a levirate bond exists'.
  22. V. supra p. 98, n. 24.
  23. Without issue.
  24. The widow of the first deceased brother who is now also the widow of the second.
  25. From halizah and marriage with the third brother.
  26. Both having been the wives of the second brother.
  27. The second brother.
  28. The first brother's widow.
  29. Before marriage took place.
  30. With the third brother.
  31. With reference to the first case of our Mishnah.
  32. The third brother.
  33. And thereby exempt the other.
  34. That mentioned in the previous Mishnah (supra 17a ad fin.). In his opinion the third brother may marry or submit to halizah from either of the two widows, even if he was born before the second brother had married the first brother's widow.
  35. Lit., 'that which was taught'.
  36. Of the third brother.
  37. The third brother on the date of his birth.
  38. The widow of the first brother.
  39. As an ordinary sister-in-law; she being no more the 'wife of his brother who was not his contemporary'. Lit., 'for when he found her he found her in a permitted state'.
  40. To marry the third brother.
  41. In which case the third brother's birth took place during the period when she was forbidden him as the 'wife of his brother who was not his contemporary.
  42. Lit., 'but not?'
  43. Who permits marriage with the third brother even where his birth occurred prior to the widow's marriage. v. supra note 6.
  44. Lit., 'the strength of R. Simeon'.
  45. Who forbid the marriage even when the birth followed the marriage. Cf 'pro note 4.
  46. Lit., 'against them'.
  47. Lit., 'but'; if R. Simeon permits marriage in both cases.
  48. To be forbidden the levirate marriage in accordance with the statement in the first Mishnah of the Tractate, supra 2b ab init.
  49. Lit., 'to him'.
  50. The levirate relationship here is entirely due to the deceased brother who was not the surviving brother's contemporary; and marriage is. therefore, rightly forbidden.
  51. The first of whom died without issue.
  52. The third brother, who was born after the death of the first, is forbidden to marry the widow whose connection with the first brother has never been severed, since the second has neither married her nor submitted to her halizah.
  53. For permitting the third brother to marry either of the widows.
  54. With the second brother.
  55. Of the third brother.
  56. V. supra p. 104, on 2-4.
  57. V. supra p. 104, n. 6.
  58. For R. Simeon's permission of marriage.
  59. Between widow and living levir.
  60. The widow is consequently regarded as the wife of the second brother from the moment the first died. When the third brother is subsequently born the widow has no longer any connection with the deceased brother and cannot any more be regarded in relation to the third, as 'the wife of his brother who was not his contemporary'.
  61. Obviously not. How then could it be said that R. Simeon definitely regards the 'levirate bond' alone as actual marriage?
  62. Lit., 'what is it?' where did R. Simeon express such doubt?
  63. The widow of the deceased brother.
  64. The widows of the two deceased brothers.
  65. Deut. XXV, 5.
  66. May be taken in levirate marriage.
  67. v. supra p. 98, n. 8.
  68. V. supra p' 97' n. 16.
  69. The levir.
  70. R. Simeon does not recognize a double bond. If the ma'amar addressed by the second brother was binding. the bond with the first brother, he maintains, was thereby severed, and there remains only the bond with the second; and if it was not binding then again only one bond exists, that with the first brother.
  71. Infra 31b. For the reason given anon.
  72. Between the levir (the second brother) and the first widow.
  73. The second brother's actual wife and the widow of the first to whom he addressed a ma'amar and who is his virtual wife.