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In Yevamoth 3b, we learn that the reason for exempting fourteen women (of the fifteen enumerated in mishna 1:1) and their co-wives from yibum (levirate marriage) and chalitzah (the decision not to do levirate marriage) is due to a hekesh (textual comparison) with the case of a man's wife's sister.

מה אחות אשה מיוחדת שהיא ערוה וחייבין על זדונה כרת ועל שגגתה חטאת ואסורה ליבם, אף כל שהיא ערוה וחייבין על זדונה כרת ועל שגגתה חטאת אסורה ליבם

As a wife's sister is singled out in that she is a forbidden relative, the penalty for presumptuous intercourse with her is kareth (spiritual excision) and for unwitting intercourse a sin-offering, and she is forbidden to the levir, so also any woman who is a forbidden relative, and the penalty for presumptuous intercourse with whom is kareth and for unwitting intercourse a sin-offering, is forbidden to the levir. [translation from here]

The same hekesh is then used to exclude the co-wives of the fourteen women from yibum and chalitzah.

The gemara then comments that this hekesh shows that a different group of six women do not exempt their co-wives from yibum and chalitzah, by finding an attribute of the case of a man's wife's sister that is not shared by the cases of the six women, namely, that in the case of a man's wife's sister, the sister may marry another one of the yavam's (levir's) brothers, whereas the six women may never marry any of the brothers of the yavam.

My question: why do we not argue that the first hekesh is invalid, by saying that in the case of a man's wife's sister, the sister is permitted after the death of the wife, whereas in the other fourteen cases, the women never become permitted to the yavam?

It's clear that we're willing to use such an argument by dint of having done so to include co-wives of the six women in yibum and chalitzah. Why do we not do so here?

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Nice question.

Tosfos there deal with a similar question that I believe would answer yours, too:

מה אחות אשה מיוחדת כו'. וא''ת מה לאחות אשה שכן בידו לרבות כדפריך בפ' הבא על יבמתו (לקמן דף נד. ושם) וי''ל דאהיקש דר' יונה דסוף שמעתין (דף ח.) סמיך

According to Tosfos, this Gemara is working in tandem with the hekesh of R' Yona which specifically signals to us to link all of the arayos regarding their halachos.

As to what the Gemara's point by the "6 arayos" is then, I think the Gemara is not merely pointing out a mere difference (pircha), but instead is explaining that the whole concept of exempting from the mitzva of yibum can only be discussed if there is a conceivable case of yibum, which by the 6, there isn't.

  • The hekesh of R' Yona says that we could compare all the arayot to a brother's wife to permit yibum, and so along comes עליה to forbid. But that still relies on the viability of a hekesh with a wife's sister to include in that argumentation arayot besides a wife's sister, no? – magicker72 Nov 19 '14 at 12:19
  • @magicker72 It seems from Tosfos that R' Yona's hekesh says to connect all of the arayos in spite of possible differences between them. We have a rule: אין משיבין על ההיקש, We don't point out differences between 2 subjects when the Torah clearly signals to compare them. I think that's what Tosfos means. – Shmuel Wise Nov 19 '14 at 15:24
  • I've edited your answer to put the Tosfos in blockquotes, which I think looks nicer. As an aside, you might want to check out other lomdus questions; you'll probably find some interesting things there :) – Shokhet Dec 5 '14 at 5:23

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