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The first half of Yevamos 3:7 says

שְׁלֹשָׁה אַחִים, שְׁנַיִם מֵהֶן נְשׂוּאִים שְׁתֵּי אֲחָיוֹת, וְאֶחָד נָשׂוּי נָכְרִית, מֵת אֶחָד מִבַּעֲלֵי אֲחָיוֹת, וְכָנַס נָשׂוּי נָכְרִית אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ, וּמֵתָה אִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁל שֵׁנִי, וְאַחַר כָּךְ מֵת נָשׂוּי נָכְרִית, הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲסוּרָה עָלָיו עוֹלָמִית, הוֹאִיל וְנֶאֶסְרָה עָלָיו שָׁעָה אֶחָת. ‏

Reuven, Shimon and Levi are brothers. Reuven and Shimon are married to Rachel and Leah, who are sisters, and Levi is married to Esther, who isn't related to them. Reuven dies. Levi does yibum with Rachel. Leah dies, then Levi dies. Rachel is forbidden to Shimon forever because she fell to him for yibum at one point and was forbidden to him then.

The Rambam says:

הטעם מפני שהיתה אחות אשתו ונפלה לפניו ליבום ואשתו קיימת וכבר נתבאר שהיא אסורה עולמית אבל צרתה ר"ל נכרית לא מצינו בה דין בגמ' ולא דבר לאחד מן הגאונים והדין אצלי בה שהיא חולצת ולא מתייבמת לפי שאני מסופק אם אסורה משום ערוה ותהיה צרתה פטורה מן החליצה ומן הייבום או אסורה עליו מדרבנן שאמרו הואיל ונאסרה עליו שעה אחת נאסרה עליו עולמית והיא כמו שנייה וצרת שנייה או חולצת או מתייבמת ולפיכך תחלוץ להחמיר: ‏

The reason Rachel is forbidden to Shimon is because she was his wife's sister and fell before him for yibum while Leah was alive, and we already explained that she's forbidden to him forever. But regarding Esther, we haven't any discussion in the Gemara or Geonim. My ruling is that she does chalitza and not yibum, because I'm not sure whether (a) Rachel is forbidden as an ervah and exempts her co-wife from chalitza and yibum, or whether (b) she's only forbidden miderabanan, because the Rabbis said "because she was forbidden at one point we'll forbid her forever", and in that case she's like a secondary ervah, whose co-wife does chalitza and not yibum. Therefore she should be stringent and do chalitza.

3:9 gives a similar but simpler case:

שְׁנֵי אַחִין נְשׂוּאִין לִשְׁתֵּי אֲחָיוֹת, וּמֵת אַחַד מֵהֶן, וְאַחַר כָּךְ מֵתָה אִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁל שֵׁנִי, הֲרֵי זוֹ אֲסוּרָה עָלָיו עוֹלָמִית, הוֹאִיל וְנֶאֶסְרָה עָלָיו שָׁעָה אֶחָת: ‏

Reuven and Shimon are married to Rachel and Leah [like before], Reuven dies, then Leah dies. Rachel is forbidden to Shimon forever because she was forbidden to him at one point.

The Rambam says here, based on the Gemara:

דין זאת המשנה נקדם אצל בעלי המשנה קודם הלכה השביעית מזה הפרק ואיחרה בחבור אע"פ שלא היה צריך אליה אחר כן: ‏

This mishnah was in place before mishnah 7, and they kept it in even though it wasn't really needed when we alread have mishnah 7.

(All translations here are my own and very loose.)

My question:

If the possibility I labeled (b) in mishnah 7 is correct, then mishnah 9 isn't redundant anymore. It's included to teach an additional chiddush: that in the case of that mishnah she's completely exempt. Why doesn't the Rambam take the Gemara's statement that mishnah 9 is redundant as a proof for (a)?

(He later changed his mind and rules like possibility (a) in Yibum Vachalitza 7:11. This might be the reason he changed his mind, but my question here is about the contradiction within the Peirush Hamishnayos.)

  • How do you know that in mishnah 9 Rachel is completely exempt? – Joel K May 26 at 14:13
  • Well, as long as Leah's alive, Rachel is exempt based on 1:1. Let's say she marries someone else, and then Leah dies 50 years later after Rachel is already a grandmother Is she now forbidden to her husband? I guess it's theoretically possible but it's a huge chiddush. – Heshy May 26 at 15:34
  • Ok. But isn’t the same point true in mishna 7? Rachel is completely exempt while her second husband is alive. The only question the Rambam has is regarding the status of Esther. – Joel K May 26 at 15:57
  • @JoelK no, because Leah died before Levi. There's no question that Rachel and Esther are both fine as long as Levi's alive. – Heshy May 26 at 15:59
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    This Rambam is very hard. If Rachel is derabanan she and Ester both need chalitsa. And the Rambam seems to start the safek by Ester. – kouty May 27 at 19:03
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Even if one understands mishnah 7 according to possibility b), mishnah 9 is still redundant. Ignoring the status of Esther, we learn the following from mishnah 7:

  • Reuven dies, Rachel is forbidden to Shimon (her sister's husband) and instead marries Levi (via yibbum)
  • Leah dies, Rachel remains married totally to Levi.
  • Levi dies, Leah is forbidden to Shimon (even though he is no longer her sister's husband) because she was once forbidden to him. Since this is an issur miderabbanan, she (or her co-wife) will need chalitzah from Shimon to release her from the bond caused by her marriage to Shimon's brother, Levi.

Now consider the case of mishnah 9, where there is no Levi. We would infer the following from the rules presented in mishnah 7:

  • Reuven dies, Rachel is forbidden to Shimon (her sister's husband) and instead marries an unrelated man (call him David).
  • Leah dies, Rachel remains married totally to David.
  • David dies, Leah is forbidden to Shimon (even though he is no longer her sister's husband) because she was once forbidden to him. This is an issur miderabbanan. She can marry whomever else she wishes.

Nothing would change if, in this case, Rachel remained unmarried after the death of Reuven:

  • Reuven dies, Rachel is forbidden to Shimon (her sister's husband) and instead can marry whomever she wishes, but has not yet re-married.
  • Leah dies, Leah is forbidden to Shimon (even though he is no longer her sister's husband) because she was once forbidden to him. This is an issur miderabbanan. She can still marry whomever else she wishes.

Thus all the information contained in mishnah 9 is already present in mishnah 7, which is why the Gemara (and Rambam) say that mishnah 9 is redundant.

  • Is there a case where yibum would be allowed, mideoraisa, but not required? Because that's what you're postulating here, and I'm not aware of any precedent. – Heshy May 27 at 11:21
  • @Heshy In which case am I postulating that? – Joel K May 27 at 11:23
  • In your second and third sets of bullets. Third is simpler to talk about. "Leah dies, Leah is forbidden to Shimon (even though he is no longer her sister's husband) because she was once forbidden to him. This is an issur miderabbanan. She can still marry whomever else she wishes." The implication is if it weren't for this issur derabbanan, she would be allowed but not required to marry Shimon, even though he's her late husband's brother. – Heshy May 27 at 11:30
  • @Heshy Ah. Now I get you. But isn't this the very same chiddush contained in Rambam's understanding b) in mishnah 7? When Levi dies, mideroaita Rachel would be permitted to marry Shimon (even though he used to be married to her sister and is still her late husband's brother) and would therefore be obligated to perform either yibbum or chalitzah due to her subsequent marriage to Levi – Joel K May 27 at 11:38
  • Maybe. But I could have heard that there's a difference when she's also falling to him in yibum from another brother, kind of like R' Shimon in 2:2 (who we don't follow, but it's also not exactly the same case). – Heshy May 27 at 12:34

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