As recorded in Yevamos 10b and Yevamos 32a, a yavam (brother of a man who died married, but childless) cannot marry his sister-in-law (yevamah) after performing chalitzah (the ritual in which he decides not to perform levirate marriage with her), based on Devarim 25:9.

מ''ט דר''ל אמר קרא אשר לא יבנה כיון שלא בנה שוב לא יבנה

What is the reason of Resh Lakish? — Scripture stated, That doth not build, since he has not built he must never again build.

(Soncino translation)

So I know the source of the prohibition of marrying one's chalutzah; I'd like to know why it's forbidden -- what's the טעמא דקרא, if you will.

  • You only looking for sourced ideas, or home grown thoughts are ok too?
    – user6591
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 2:06
  • I'd prefer a source, but I suppose it would depend on the quality of the home grown idea. You have something for me?
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 2:12
  • just a thought. Ill type it up. See what you think.
    – user6591
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 2:15
  • Well its not exactly טעמא דקרא since its not in מקרא. Rather, it is a דרשה
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 16:00
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/81623/9682
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 18:46

3 Answers 3


I'm basing this off of some things that I learned from R' Tzvi Berkowitz. I don't recall his sources, so he'll just be my source.

The mitzvah of Yibbum is building off of the relationship that existed between the deceased brother and his wife. This is why the yavam can "marry" the yevama even בעל כרחה (against her will) and even שלא מדעת (without awareness) - because a normal kinyan is not being made, but it is continuing the relationship that existed. The prohibition of a shomeres yavam to marry outside of her zikah to Yibbum (יבמה לשוק) is similarly based on the same idea - she still has a residual relationship to her deceased husband which prevents her from marrying anyone else until it is addressed through either Yibbum or Chalizta. (There are some Rashis near the beginning of Kesubos which hint at such an idea.)

Based on this, the question can be addressed as follows: once he has performed Chalitza, he has essentially severed the relationship, and the prohibition of Eishes Ach, marrying his brother's wife, which was only suspended (or never started, but let's not get into that) for the sake of the mitzvah of Yibbum, sets in, and he can no longer marry her once the relationship with the deceased brother is severed.

  • If you think about it, it's kinda like what 6591 said in his earlier answer, but slightly different. +1, nice idea.
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 4:25
  • 3
    @Shokhet "It's the same, only different" :) - his was more philosophical, mine was more technical/metaphysical (read "lomdish"). Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 4:26

I'm going to build an idea off of the Netziv on that passuk, so I'll mention his point first. He mentions the idea that yibbum has to do with neshamos like the Ramban says in Vayeishev, but then goes on to say a different pshat. That taking off ones shoe is symbolic of removing the teva of the body and natural order in order to single oneself out for Hashem, as he writes in Shmos 3 5 as well. However, there, the point is to be a constant Merkava for the Shekhina, no regular Jew is expected to be on this level. But at the moment an opportunity to perform a mitzvah is presented, and its not possible to do it without first 'removing the teva', and this is the shoe, this is a mitzvah And requirement to do at that moment, and the mitzvah will supersede the teva of his body. But the Yavam can't 'take his shoe off instantaneously', as we see he doesn't want to be miyavem her for a wife. Therefore the Yavama takes the shoe off his foot, as if saying you were not able to take off your shoe.

Basing myself on this I would say once the Yavam dropped the ball and couldn't live up to that moment of mi laHashem eilai, it's too late. Doing something purely for the sake of Hashem can't be mulled over and thought about till he decides it's worthwhile.

Another idea is that Yibum is described as an honor for the dead brother, so that his name won't be erased from Yisroel. At that moment when the Yavam said no and went through the Chalitzah process, he already disgraced his brother's memory. There is no fixing that.

  • That's kind of what I was thinking also; +1.
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 2:44
  • @Shokhet ah. Great minds..:)
    – user6591
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 2:45

Not to negate the halachic-mechanics answer (which I like), but I think there's psychology at play here as well. At a simpler level, all rights in Judaism are tied to obligations, and it's just not fair to leave people hanging. Here's this widow, trying to figure out what to do with her life now. It's either going to be "the brother will step up and do the right thing", or "he's not, so spit at him, then make a clean break and walk away from that family and start a new chapter." The brother needs to make a serious, one-time-and-this-is-final decision.

Recall that if the living brother does marry the widow, he becomes the heir to the deceased's estate as well. So suppose the living brother isn't super-mature or considerate. Right now he looks at his sister-in-law and thinks, "Hm ... I'm hot stuff, she's a Size 2, I bet I can find a Size 0 lady out there ...", so he does chalitza and drives off into the sunset in his flashy sports car.

Then, a few years later, he needs to pay for Botox, a hair transplant, and alimony from that Size 0 relationship that didn't work out (or worse, he's still married to Size 0 lady and wants an extra wife to bring in more money) -- and suddenly his dead brother's bank account looks quite attractive! So he calls up his brother's widow. "Hey, Shprintza ... remember me? Oh you're still single? That's fantasti!--umm, so sorry to hear that ... but you know ... we really ought to do the right thing for the memory of my dear brother and your dear husband, God rest his soul..."

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