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Tomor became a widow while Sheloh was still young Beraishis 38 (11) . Many days passed 38 (12). Tomor took off her widow's garb 38 (14) at the time that Sheloh had grown up and later put it on again 38 (19).

For how long was it customary to wear widow's garb and did Tomor follow the custom?

  • A thought - In the beginning of Ki Tetze, it says that when a man takes a non-Jewish (Cananite) captive woman as wife, she mourns for her parents for a month. Then it says that she removes her "captivity dress". I know that Tamar was not a slave, but I gather that she was Cananite. Perhaps, there are similarities to this concept? – DanF Dec 20 '16 at 15:59
  • It appears from the pesukim that she continued to wear "widows' garb" as a sign that she was waiting for the yibum to be done. This is different from the period of mourning or a woman not subject to yibum who would not wear mourning as a sign that she was ready to remarry. I do not have a source for this as it is from logic only. – sabbahillel Dec 20 '16 at 16:47
  • @sabbahillel I thought there is a view that סברא דאורייתא . Your logic sounds like an answer to me. – Avrohom Yitzchok Dec 20 '16 at 22:07
  • @AvrohomYitzchok OK I will put it in as an answer. – sabbahillel Dec 20 '16 at 22:12
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It appears from the pesukim that she continued to wear "widows' garb" as a sign that she was waiting for the yibum to be done. This is different from the period of mourning or a woman not subject to yibum who would not wear mourning as a sign that she was ready to remarry. I do not have a source for this as it is from logic only.

Vayeishev 38:11

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה לְתָמָר כַּלָּתוֹ שְׁבִי אַלְמָנָה בֵית אָבִיךְ עַד יִגְדַּל שֵׁלָה בְנִי כִּי אָמַר פֶּן יָמוּת גַּם הוּא כְּאֶחָיו וַתֵּלֶךְ תָּמָר וַתֵּשֶׁב בֵּית אָבִיהָ:

Then Judah said to his daughter in law Tamar, "Remain as a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up," for he said, "Lest he too die, like his brothers." So Tamar went, and she remained in her father's house.

This means that she lived as a widow while waiting for שֵׁלָה to grow up and perform Yibum (or Chalitza) with her. She would be unable to marry anyone else until he was ready.

Vayeishev 38:14

וַתָּסַר בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וַתְּכַס בַּצָּעִיף וַתִּתְעַלָּף וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּפֶתַח עֵינַיִם אֲשֶׁר עַל דֶּרֶךְ תִּמְנָתָה כִּי רָאֲתָה כִּי גָדַל שֵׁלָה וְהִוא לֹא נִתְּנָה לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה:

So she took off her widow's garb, covered [her head] with a veil and covered her face, and she sat down at the crossroads that were on the way to Timnah, for she saw that Shelah had grown up, but as for her she was not given to him for a wife.

This implies that she dressed as a widow (and not a single woman) in order to show that she was not eligible for marriage.

Vayeishev 38:19

וַתָּקָם וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתָּסַר צְעִיפָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וַתִּלְבַּשׁ בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ:

Then she arose and went away, and she took off her veil, and she donned her widow's garb.

This again implies that as a widow who was not eligible to remarry, she dressed in a certain way that was understandable by the society in which she lived.

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