I was under the impression that if a man dies childless and has a brother, then the brother must do either yibbum (marrying his wife) or chalitzah (rejecting the marriage) -- his choice, but he has to do one or the other and the widow can't remarry until he does. But then I read in Sanhedrin 2:2 that the king does neither:

[The king] may not perform halitzah, nor may others perform halitzah for his wife. He may not contract levirate marriage nor may his brothers contract levirate marriage with his wife.

The mishna goes on to discuss that it's to his merit if he nonetheless does one of these, but others say we don't listen to him if he wants to. Either way, that sounds optional -- it's meritorious for him to do either yibbum or chalitzah, but he doesn't have to.

Is this the halacha? If so, are there other cases where a brother can simply not act at all, neither yibbum nor chalitzah, within the law, leaving the woman as an aguna - unable to get married?

I did not find clarification in the g'mara.

  • 3
    A mamzer brother with no legs judaism.stackexchange.com/q/53019/759 but that's kind of a bizarre case
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 2:13
  • 1
    Yes tgere is the case brought by the Terumas Hadeshen,that if the brother of the husband was a mumar before tgey got married then no yibum or chaltizah is necessary since she married on condition that she wouldn t marry the mumar brother. Just to clarify some explain tbat this condition renders the kiddushin null and void,its a whole to do sugya,but such a case is discussed
    – sam
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 2:33
  • @DoubleAA, that sounds like an answer; might I recommend you post it as such?
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 5:00
  • @msh I have no source
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 12:30

2 Answers 2


The Gemara addresses this in 19b, and Rashi there explains the mishna; he says the issue here is that yibbum and chalitzah both clash with the obligation of a king's honor. Chalitza -- to have him summoned before the court and for someone to spit in front of him; yibbum (this is cool!) -- for him to say "I'm filling in for my dead brother" ... the king should never appear to be anyone's "understudy."

The default, then, is that the obligation of a king's honor precludes either possibility. Rabbi Yehudah is of the opinion that the king may then choose to waive that obligation, at which point nothing is standing in his way of yibbum/chalitzah. The Sages opine that the matter is out of his hands:

לא חולץ ולא חולצין וכו': איני והאמר רב אשי אפילו למאן דאמר נשיא שמחל על כבודו כבודו מחול מלך שמחל על כבודו אין כבודו מחול שנאמר (דברים יז) שום תשים עליך מלך שתהא אימתו עליך מצוה שאני:

[R. Yehudah allows the king to waive his honor and then do yibbum/chalitzah] -- Really?! But Rav Ashi said: Even according to the opinion that a chief rabbi may successfully waive his honor, a king who attempts to waive his honor may not do so, as Deut. 17 obligates us to "firmly emplace a king", i.e. you must be in awe of him! [R. Yehudah would reply that] it's different [i.e. he may choose to forgo his honor] when it's a mitzvah [situation].

Just to hash out the consequences here: if there's an additional surviving brother, let that one do yibbum/chalitzah and then the widow can get on with her life. If the king is the only surviving brother, then yes it's a sad situation that the widow can't remarry; but then again you saw in that Mishna that a king's widow is also not allowed to remarry. In short, the national interest in a leader figure overrides those concerns.

There are cases in which there's no obligation for yibbum/chalitzah (e.g. Joe's paternal half-brother married his maternal half-sister); but what's happening here is that there is an obligation, but it's overridden by external halachic factors. No different, I suppose, than the following cases:

  • The brother had previously sworn not to get within twenty feet of any woman in that family

  • There was some weird life-or-death medical issue preventing both yibbum and chalitzh [suppose either of them has a horrible contagious disease]

  • Or just to use the Gemara's example, if the surviving brother is a chief rabbi, according to the opinions that he can't waive his honor either.

There's a broader question that's debated -- is yibbum/chalitzah simply the mechanism to allow the widow to remarry, or is it an all-out obligation? Suppose she's 90 years old and has zero interest in remarrying. But I don't think that's your case either.

  • The brother can be Matir his Neder so it is not impossible to do Chalitza. Also where is your source that a Chief rabbi is like a King? This wierd illness you mention should have a name.You have not added anything with asource to answer the question.This is more of an explanation of the question
    – user15464
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 13:05
  • Thanks. So the obligation exists but is overridden in this one specific case, it sounds like. Seeing this made me wonder whether it's not really an obligation (which you raise in your last paragraph) or if there's something beyond the king's honor that could override it. I saw but didn't understand the implications of the g'mara there. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 13:07

In this answer a man with amputated legs above the knee cannot do Chalitza and would normally have to do Yibbum whether sefaradi or ashkenazi. Seridei Eish III 49 quoting Or zarua 665.
So if this amputee is also forbidden by a Negative commandment to marry this woman in these cases: a

  • Petzua Daka - he has crushed genitals and cannot marry a Yisraelis (Devarim 23,2)
  • Krus Shofcho - he has cut off male organ and cannot marry a Yisraelis (Devarim 23,2), (or any other Seris Odom man caused amputation of genital parts see Yevamos75a),
  • Mamzer(es) either he or she were a Child from adultery/incest and cannot marry a Yisrael(is) (his brother could have been a Mamzer and permitted to marry a Mamzeres)Devarim 23:3),
  • Mitzri(s) sheni(a) - either he or she are 2nd generation Egyptian convert or Adomi(s) sheni(a)- he or she are 2nd generation Eisav convert) since His/mother Mother converted is a first deneration Mitzris Rishona or Adomis Rishona (those two are Chayvei Asei only allowed to marry Yisroel(is) in 3rd generations (his brother could have been a Mamzer and permitted to marry a Mitzris/adomis)(Devarim 23,9),
  • Nasin(a) He/she are Canaanites through his/her mother descended from the seven canaanite nations that is forbidden to he cannot marry a Yisrael(is) (his brother could have been a Mamzer and permitted to marry a Nasina)(Devarim 7,3)
  • Almana min haeirusin virgin widow from betrothal if he was a (now he's amputated and can't serve) Cohen Gadol (Vayikra 21,14)
  • Zonah A woman who has had forbidden relationship (e.g She was raped while married to her former husband) if he is a Cohen (Vayikra 21,7)
  • Gerusha (divorcee) if he is a Cohen and his brothers mother was a Challala/gerusha making his brother permitted to marry a Gerusha when alive, he cannot do Yibbum (Vayikra 21,7)
  • Challala A woman profaned from priestly status due to her Cohen Father marrying her divorcee/zonah/convert mother if he is a Cohen cannot do Yibbum (Vayikra 21,7)

even though they could perform Yibbum because of asei Doche Lo saase(Positive Mitzva of Yibbum overides negative Mitzva), since the Rabbis forbade them to do Yibbum in Yevamos 20b and they can't do Chalitza the Yevama Rachmana Nitzlan is grounded.*

*////Don't read from now on unless well versed in concepts\\ Since there are so many possibilities of different Chayvei Lavin together with amputaded legs it is not a rare exception rather a group of cases for which the possibility of one of them to happen is feasable. And even in a rare case we have a principal עשו חכמים חיזוק לדבריהם - The Rabbis hold by their decrees unless specific exceptions are stated by Chazal (see Gittin 5b). And here the Gemora Yevamos 20b says
ממזרת ונתינה נמי לא שכיחא אלא אמר רבא גזרה ביאה ראשונה אטו ביאה שניה
Even though Mamzer doing Yibbum is rare it is still forbidden because only the initial cohabitation is permitted from the Torah, any subsequent cohabitation is forbidden from the Torah for with lashes.So the Gezeira still explicitely applies applies however rare the case because of potential sin that could happen after Yibbum

Tosfos in Kesubos 56b Defines with regards to Issur cases the Chachamim maintained their word and did not make any exception, (but with monetory cases they did make exceptions to their decrees):
גבי מעוברת חבירו ומינקת חבירו שמעינן ליה דעשו חכמים חיזוק לדבריהם אף יותר משל תורה וי"ל דההיא דיבמות משום דקנסא הוא עשו חיזוק לדבריהם יותר וההיא דהזהב גבי תרומה וכן גבי גט דמייתי התם דאיסורא הוא התם עשו חיזוק כשל תורה והכא גבי כתובה שאינו לא איסור ולא קנס אלא ממונא בעלמא לא עשו חיזוק כלל

  • Maybe the rabbis weren't gozer in such a rare case? A self reference to your own zero score answer isn't much of a source
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 10:35
  • @doubleaa Since there are so many possibilities of different Chayvei Lavin together with amputaded legs that i mentioned it is not a rare exception rather a group of cases for which the possibility of one to happen is feasable
    – user15464
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 12:16
  • @doubleaa i spent some time editing the answer and made in bold the bit i wanted you to read as you're probably the only person reading the answer who would understand it
    – user15464
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 21:40
  • @monica ifyou can would you please my edited answer for which i took a very long time editting to make ituser friendly for english orientated speakers
    – user15464
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 21:48
  • 1
    Thanks for the edits; that's much more accessible now. Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 3:05

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