Previous Folio / Yebamoth Directory / Tractate List / Navigate Site
Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth
[The law, surely,] concerning all the others also was arrived at1 by exposition!2 — Granted that in respect of [exemption from] the levirate marriage [the law in relation to them] was arrived at by exposition, the principle of prohibition [of sexual intercourse] with them has been explicitly enunciated in Scripture, [while as regards] his daughter3 the very principle underlying the prohibition [of intercourse with her] has been arrived at by exposition; for Raba4 stated: R. Isaac b. Abdimi told me, 'Hennah5 is derived from hennah6 and zimmah7 is derived from zimmah'.8
Now that it has been stated that preference is given to whatever is arrived at by exposition, the Tanna should have placed9 HIS WIFE'S SISTER last!10 — As he was dealing with a prohibition due to sisterhood11 he mentioned also HIS WIFE'S SISTER. Then let him relegate9 the entire passage12 to the end!13 — But [this is really the explanation]: The Tanna follows the order of the respective degrees of kinship. He, therefore, mentions [first] HIS DAUGHTER, THE DAUGHTER OF HIS DAUGHTER AND THE DAUGHTER OF HIS SON because they are his own next of kin; and since he enumerated three generations of his relatives in descending order he enumerated also three generations of her14 relatives in descending order. Having enumerated three generations of her14 relatives in descending order he proceeded to enumerate also three generations of her relatives in ascending order. He then mentions HIS SISTER and HIS MOTHER'S SISTER who are his blood15 relatives;16 and while dealing with prohibitions due to brotherhood he also mentions HIS WIFE'S SISTER. And it would indeed have been proper that HIS DAUGHTER-IN-LAW should be placed before THE WIFE OF HIS BROTHER WHO WAS NOT HIS CONTEMPORARY, since it is not on account of kinship17 that the latter is forbidden, but as he was dealing with a prohibition due to brotherhood he mentioned also THE WIFE OF HIS BROTHER WHO WAS NOT HIS CONTEMPORARY and then mentioned HIS DAUGHTER-IN-LAW.
What argument can be advanced for using18 the expression EXEMPT19 and not that of20 'prohibit'?21 — If 'prohibit' had been used it might have been assumed that the levirate marriage only was forbidden but that halizah22 must nevertheless be performed,23 hence it was taught24 [that halizah also need not be performed]. Let it then be stated,25 'She is forbidden to perform halizah!26 — No harm, surely, is thereby done.27 But why indeed should not [the expression of prohibition be applicable to halizah]? If you were to say that halizah is permissible, [one might say that] levirate marriage is also permitted!28 — As a rival29 is forbidden only where the commandment [of the levirate marriage] is applicable but is permitted where the commandment is not applicable,30 it was therefore necessary to use the expression, EXEMPT.31
What justification is there for stating, FROM THE HALIZAH AND FROM THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE when it would have been sufficient to state32 FROM THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE only?33 — If FROM THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE only had been stated it might have been assumed that she must perform halizah34 though she is exempt from the levirate marriage, hence it was taught35 that whoever is subject36 to the obligation of levirate marriage is also subject to halizah and whosoever is not subject to the obligation of the levirate marriage is not subject to halizah.
Let it [first] be stated,37 FROM THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE [and then] FROM THE HALIZAH,38 or else only FROM THE HALIZAH?39 — This Mishnah represents the view of Abba Saul who maintains that the commandment of halizah takes precedence over that of levirate marriage.40
— [They were intended] to exclude the respective rulings of Rab and R. Assi.1 What, [however, do the numerals] exclude according to Rab and R. Assi? — If they share each other's views, one numeral would serve to exclude the rival of one who made a declaration of refusal,2 and the other to exclude the rival of a wife whom [her husband] remarried after having divorced her.3 If they do not share the views of each other, [each would regard] one [numeral as serving] to exclude the ruling of his colleague;4 and the other numeral, as serving to exclude either the rival of one who made a declaration of refusal2 or the rival of a wife whom [her husband] remarried after having divorced her.3
Whence is this law8 derived?9 — [From] what our Rabbis taught: And thou shalt not take a woman to her sister, to be a rival to her, to uncover her nakedness, 'aleha [beside her] in her lifetime,10 what need was there for the expression ''aleha'?11 Because it was stated, Her husband's brother shall go in 'aleha [unto her],12 it might have been imagined13 that Scripture14 speaks even of any of all the forbidden relatives enumerated in the Torah. Hence it was here10 stated, ''aleha'15 and elsewhere12 it was also stated ''aleha'.16 Just as elsewhere it is in the case of a precept17 so here also it is in the case of a precept;17 and yet did not the All Merciful say, Thou shalt not take.18 We are thus in a position to know the law concerning herself;19 whence do we derive the law concerning her rival? — From the Scriptural expression, To be a rival to her.10 We have so far deduced the law concerning her rival only. Whence do we arrive at the law concerning her rival's rival? — From the fact that Scripture uses the expression li-zeror20 and not that of la-zor.21 Thus we have deduced the law concerning a wife's sister, whence is the law concerning the other forbidden relatives to be inferred? — It can be answered: As a wife's sister is singled out in that she is a forbidden relative, the penalty for presumptuous intercourse with her is kareth22 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 kareth22 and for unwitting intercourse a sin-offering, is forbidden to the levir. Now we know the law concerning themselves only;23 whence is the law con cerning their rivals deduced? — It may be answered: As a wife's sister is singled out in that she is a forbidden relative, kareth is incurred by presumptuous intercourse with her and a sin-offering for unwitting intercourse, and she is forbidden to the levir, and her rival is forbidden, so also in the case of any woman who is a forbidden relative, and for presumptuous intercourse with whom is incurred the penalty of kareth and for unwitting intercourse a sin-offering, and who is forbidden to the levir, her rival is forbidden. Hence have the Sages said: FIFTEEN [CATEGORIES OF] WOMEN EXEMPT THEIR RIVALS AND THEIR RIVALS' RIVALS, AND SO ON, AD INFINITUM, FROM THE HALIZAH AND FROM THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE. One might assume that the six more rigidly forbidden relatives24 are also included in the ruling,25 so that their rivals also26 are forbidden,27 hence it must be stated:28 As a wife's sister is singled out in that she is a forbidden relative, kareth is incurred for presumptuous intercourse with her and a sin-offering for unwitting intercourse, she may be married to the other brothers, but is forbidden to the levir, and her rival is forbidden, so also in the case of any woman who is a forbidden relative, for presumptuous intercourse with whom is incurred the penalty of kareth and for unwitting intercourse a sin-offering, who may marry one of the other brothers, but is forbidden to the levir, her rival also is forbidden; excluded, however, are the six more rigidly forbidden relatives. Since they may not be married to the other brothers, their rivals are permitted; for [the law of] 'rival'29 is applicable only [to widows] of a brother.30
Thus we have deduced the prohibition. Whence, however, is the penalty inferred? — Scripture said, For whosoever shall do any of these abominations etc. [shall be cut off from among their people.]31
The reason,32 then, is because the All Merciful has written, ''aleha',33 otherwise it would have been said that levirate marriage may be contracted with the wife's sister; what is the reason? Is it because we assume that a positive precept,34 supersedes a negative precept?35 Surely, it is possible that36 the rule that a positive precept supersedes a negative precept applies only where the latter is a mere prohibition; does it, however, supersede a prohibition involving the penalty of kareth?35 Furthermore, whence is it derived that it may supersede even a mere prohibition?
- To Next Folio -