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In (פרשת וישב (פרק לח we have the story of Yehuda marrying off Er to Tamar and then perform a pre-מתן תורה version of יבום with Onan, who also subsequently dies.

Which left Yehuda’s third son,Shelah, to perform יבום, but Rashi in פסוק י׳א says Yehuda wasn’t planning on letting him marry her.

If he wasn’t going to allow his son to marry Tamar, then why didn’t he perform חליצה and allow her to marry someone else?

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    I heard once that this version of yibum was the Canaanite version - a secular law, not the Torah's version, so it's entirely possible that there may not have been a chalitza possibility. Another possibility is that chalitza is equivalent to divorce which was considered a major no-no in the past. – Harel13 May 17 at 3:35
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    @Harel13 Agreed. But it seems she didnt want chaliza either. Chalizah has no bearing on the man at all. It is only for the woman. – interested May 17 at 10:03
  • @interested good point. – Harel13 May 17 at 12:51
  • Not exactly. It is also for the dead brother. – interested May 23 at 22:31
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The Ramban* explains that Yehuda had in mind to eventually marry off Shela to Tamar when Shela was older and would listen to his fathers rebuke, as Yehuda had let Er and Onan marry too young when they were not inclined to listen to his advice. So if Shela/Yehuda would have done chalitza, Tamar would no longer have been able to marry into Yehuda's family anymore as Yevamos 10b says:

אמר קרא (דברים כה, ט) אשר לא יבנה כיון שלא בנה שוב לא יבנה
The passuk says regarding Chalitza:"he did not build the house of his brother" once he has not built 9i.e done chalitza) he may never build again (i.e do Yibbum).

Tamar misunderstood Yehuda's intentions so tried to marry herself into the family much earlier.


*והנכון בעיני שהיה שלה ראוי ליבם אבל לא רצה אביו שייבם אותה ועודנו נער פן יחטא בה כאחיו אשר מתו בנעוריהם כי נערים היו אין לאחד מהם שתים עשרה שנה וכאשר יגדל וישמע למוסר אביו אז יתננה לו לאשה וכאשר המתינה ימים רבים וראתה כי גדל שלה בעיניה והוא עודנו נער לאביו כי אין לו עשר שנים והיה ממתין לו עוד אז מהרה תמר ברוב תאותה להוליד מזרע הקדש ועשתה המעשה הזה

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Before matan Torah there was no such thing as chalitza. The before matan Torah Yibbum isn't the same as after. After Maran Torah Yibbum is only performed by the brother of the deceased. The gemara Yevamos 5b implies there was no mitzva of Yibbum before Matan Torah. The Cli Chemda (Vayeshev 3) understands that yibbum before matan Torah was different because there was no option of Chalitza.

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