Levirate Marriage and Ḥaliẓaḥ
Levirate Marriage and Ḥaliẓaḥ
LEVIRATE MARRIAGE AND ḤALIẒAḤ.
Levirate marriage (Heb. יִבּוּם; yibbum) is the marriage between a widow whose husband died without offspring (the yevamah) and the brother of the deceased (the yavam or levir), as prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:5–6:
If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger [the last words according to av translation, which is correct]; her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel.
When the levir does not marry the yevamah, the ceremony of Ḥaliẓah (Heb. חֲלִיצָה) takes place, whereby the woman becomes released from the levirate tie (zikkat ha-yibbum) and free to marry someone else:
If the man like not to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate unto the elders, and say: "My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother unto me." Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him; and if he stand, and say: "I like not to take her"; then shall his brother's wife draw nigh unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say: "So shall it be done unto the man that doth not build up his brother's house." And his name shall be called in Israel "The house of him that had his shoe loosed" (Deut. 25:7–10).
In the Bible
The events concerning Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38) indicate that the practice of levirate marriage preceded the Mosaic law (cf. Gen. R. 85:5). However, it appears that levirate marriage then differed from that of Mosaic law in that the obligation also appears to have been laid on the father of the deceased husband (Gen. 38:26) and no mention is made of a release by way of Ḥaliẓah. Some scholars expressed the opinion, following the view of Josephus (Ant., 5:332–5) and several Karaite authorities (Gan Eden, Nashim, 13, 30; Adderet Eliyahu, Nashim 5), that the events concerning Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 4) also indicate a levirate marriage, but it appears that in this case the duty of the go'el to marry Ruth was incidental to the laws concerning the redemption of property of the deceased; hence the variation in a number of details from the prescribed levirate marriage laws (Ibn Ezra, Deut. 25:5; Naḥ-manides, Gen. 38:8).
In the Talmud
need for levirate marriage and ḤaliẒah
The word ben ("son") in Deuteronomy 25:5 is interpreted in the Talmud, in the Septuagint, and by Josephus (Ant. 4:254) to mean "off-spring" and not only a male child (cf. Gen. 3:16), so that a levirate marriage is only obligatory when the deceased husband leaves no offspring whatever, whether from the yevamah or another wife, including a child conceived during his lifetime but not born until after his death, even if that child subsequently died (Yev. 2:5, 22b; Nid. 5:3; and Codes). The words, "if brothers dwell together" (Deut. 25:5) have been interpreted by the scholars as confining the application of levirate marriage to the brothers of the deceased who were born prior to his death (Yev. 2:1, 2). Thus if the birth of the levir precedes his brother's death by as little as one day and there are no other brothers, the yevamah must wait until he reaches the age of 13 years and a day, when he becomes legally fit either to marry her or grant her Ḥaliẓah (Nid. 5:3; Yev. 105b). The law of yibbum applies only to paternal, not maternal, brothers (Yev. 17b). If the deceased is survived by several brothers, the obligation of yibbum or Ḥaliẓah devolves on the eldest but is nevertheless valid if performed by another brother (Yev. 24a; 39a). If the deceased brother had several wives, fulfillment of the obligation in respect of one wife suffices and exempts the other wives (Yev. 4:11, 44a; and Codes).
The tie (zikkah) between the yevamah and the yevam arises immediately upon the husband's death. From this stage, until she undergoes levirate marriage or Ḥaliẓah, the yevamah is known as a shomeret yavam ("awaiting the levir") and relations between the levir and her kin are prohibited (as incestuous), as if he were married to her. Only a putative marriage can be contracted between a shomeret yavam and an "outsider," who is obliged to divorce her, although their offspring are not considered *mamzerim (Yev. 13b; al. Yad, Ishut 4:14).
The shomeret yavam may not undergo levirate marriage or Ḥaliẓah until three months after the date of her husband's death (Yev. 4:10 and Codes) as with any other widow, who must await this period before remarrying. She is therefore entitled to *maintenance from her husband's estate during this period, but not thereafter, according to the halakhah of the talmudic period – neither from her husband's estate nor from the levir. However, if the levir evaded her after she had sued him in court either to marry her or grant her Ḥaliẓah the rabbis fined him to pay her maintenance (Yev. 41b; Rashi, and Tosafot thereto), and this was also the law if he became ill or went abroad (tj, Ket. 5:4, 29d; Yad, Ishut 18:16).
In biblical law the levir does not require a formal marriage (kiddushin) to the yevamah since the personal status tie, the zikkah between them, arises automatically upon the death of the husband of the yevamah. However, the scholars prescribed that the yevamah should be married like all women, in this case by kiddushei kesef or shetar, these kiddushin called "ma'amar" (lit. "declaration"): "first he addresses to her a ma'amar and then they cohabit" (lit. "he takes her into his home"; Tosef., Yev. 7:2; Yev. 52a). The scholars ruled that the levir who marries the yevamah succeeds to the estate of his deceased brother (Yev. 4:7), interpreting the passage "ve-hayah ha-bekhor asher teled" (Deut. 25:6) as referring to the firstborn of the brothers on whom the duty of levirate marriage devolved and hence that the continuation of this passage, i.e., "shall succeed in the name of his brother" (meaning "shall succeed to the inheritance") refers to the levir undergoing levirate marriage. This argument was described as "having entirely deprived the text of its ordinary meaning through a gezerah shavah" (see *Hermeneutics; Yev. 24a). According to R. Judah (Yev. 4:7), "where there is a father, he inherits the son's property," otherwise the brothers succeed to the estate (Tosef., Yev. 63) and the levir marrying the yevamah inherits only a brother's proportionate share. He interprets the above passage literally, as referring to the firstborn of the union between the levir and the yevamah, who succeeds to the estate of the deceased brother (interpreted similarly by Tar. Yer., Ibn Ezra, and Rashbam, Deut. 25:6; Rashi, Gen. 38:8 – from whom Naḥmanides Gen. ibid. differs). The amoraim commented, however, that R. Judah did not differ from the scholars but merely excepted the case of the deceased who is survived by his father, for the levir is compared to the *first-born ("ve-hayah ha-bekhor asher teled"), who does not inherit in his father's lifetime (Yev. 40a). Even according to the scholars whose opinion was accepted, the levir does not succeed to a contingent inheritance (ra'ui), i.e., to property due to come to the deceased brother (such as the proportional share of his father's estate which the deceased, but for his death, would have inherited), but only to property already owned by the brother at the time of his death, as in the case of the firstborn (Bek. 8:9; see *Succession). The *ketubbah, i.e., the widow's jointure, is a charge on the property which the levir inherits from the deceased and he is prohibited from alienating the latter by way of sale or gift – any such attempted alienation being void (Ket. 82a). In a case where the levir inherits no property from his brother, the scholars determined that the widow must receive her ketubbah from the levir's property "so that he shall not consider it easy to divorce her" (Yev. 39a). A levir who chooses to perform Ḥaliẓah receives no more than a brother's share of the deceased's estate (Yev. 4:7) and upon Ḥaliẓah the widow becomes entitled to receive her ketubbah from her deceased husband's estate (Yev. 85a; Sh. Ar., eh 165:4).
The Duty of Ḥaliẓah
According to the Torah, the duty of Ḥaliẓah is imposed only when the levir willfully refuses to marry the yevamah, and not when he is unable to or prohibited from marrying her, for "whoever is subject [lit. "goes up"] to levirate marriage is subject to Ḥaliẓah, and whoever is not subject to levirate marriage is not subject to Ḥaliẓah" (Yev. 3a). Thus, for example, where a levirate marriage is precluded because the relationship would be incestuous, the widow (supposing she is the levir's daughter or his wife's sister) is also exempted from Ḥaliẓah. According to Bet Hillel, if one of the deceased's several wives is prohibited from marrying the levir she also exempts her co-wives (ẓarah, "rival") and the "rivals of her rivals" (if the rival has married another man) from levirate marriage and Ḥaliẓah, but Bet Shammai's opinion was that the rival is not thus exempted (Yev. 1:1; 1:4; cf. Yev. 16a and tj, Yev. 1:6, 3a). On the other hand, it was determined that at times the duty of Ḥaliẓah exists even where levirate marriage is forbidden – as between a priest and divorcee –by a "prohibition of holiness" (issur kedushah); in such a case Ḥaliẓah is still required for, as in all cases of negative precepts, the marriage, even if prohibited, is nevertheless valid once it has taken place (Yev. 2:3 and Rashi ad loc.; tj, Yev. 1:1, 2c; see *Marriage, Prohibited). This rule also applies when doubt exists as to whether levirate marriage is incumbent on the widow, in which case Ḥaliẓah is required (Git. 7:3, et al.). In cases where the levir is seriously ill or there is a big difference in their ages, or the levir is "not suitable" (eino hagun) for the widow, etc., efforts were made to arrange for Ḥaliẓah rather than marriage.
Priority between Levirate Marriage and Ḥaliẓah
In the course of time some scholars accepted the view that the duty of the Ḥaliẓah always took priority over that of levirate marriage, a view stemming from the attempt to reconcile the prohibition on a man marrying his brother's wife (Lev. 18:16) with the command of levirate marriage. These biblical commandments induced the Samaritans to confine the application of levirate marriage to a woman who had undergone kiddu-shin but not nissu'in (see *Marriage) – in which case she would not be considered a relative with whom marriage was prohibited (Kid. 75b–76a; tj, Yev. 1:6) – while some Karaite scholars were led to interpret the word "brothers" as relatives and not literally (Gan Eden Nashim, 13; Adderet Eliyahu, Nashim, 5). The two biblical provisions do not conflict, however, for the prohibition in Leviticus 18:16 applies only where the deceased brother is survived by descendants, whereas the mitzvah of levirate marriage applies only when the deceased brother dies without issue, in order that the levir shall "succeed in the name of his brother." The mitzvah of levirate marriage and the prohibition of marrying a brother's wife "were said as one" (Mekh. Ba-Ḥodesh; Sif. Deut. 233; tj, Ned. 3:2, 37d). Hence in the beginning, when the parties carried out the precept for the sake of fulfilling a commandment, levirate marriage took priority over Ḥaliẓah; but when the precept was carried out for other reasons, the scholars said that Ḥaliẓah took priority over levirate marriage, and "a levir who marries the yevamah other than for the sake of fulfilling a commandment commits incest" (Bek. 1:7 and Rashi ad loc.); and "… I am inclined to think that the child of such a union is a mamzer" (Abba Saul, Tosef., Yev. 6:9; Yev. 39b). The question of priority was much disputed by the scholars. In the third generation of tannaim, levirate marriage was customarily upheld (Yev. 8:4), while the Babylonian amoraim left the choice between marriage and Ḥaliẓah to the levir, although some "reenacted the priority of levirate marriage over Ḥaliẓah" (Yev. 39a–b). The Palestinian amoraim apparently held that Ḥaliẓah took priority (Bar Kappara in tj, Yev. 109a, makes no mention of the above "re-enactment" of levirate marriage priority).
The Order of Ḥaliẓah
Ḥaliẓah which releases the widow from the obligation of levirate marriage enables her to marry freely, except that the scholars prohibited a priest from marrying her (Yev. 24a). The Ḥaliẓah ceremony is designed to shame the levir for not "building up his brother's house" (Deut. 25:9). It has been seen as an act of kinyan (*acquisition), whereby the widow buys from the levir the inheritance of his deceased brother (Rashbam ibid.; cf. Ruth 4:7–8), or as a form of mourning for the levir's brother "for he shall be forgotten now that no offspring shall be raised in his name" (Jehiel of Paris cited in Seder Ḥaliẓah to Sh. Ar., eh 169:57, no. 82; Responsum of Isaac Caro at the end of Responsa Beit Yosef). Although the formalities of Ḥaliẓah are performed by the yevamah, the levir is called the Ḥoleẓ, i.e., "loosener" (Yev. 4:1, 5–8; 5:6; et al.), for the levir "participates in Ḥaliẓah in that his intention to loosen is required," hence a deaf-mute levir who lacks such intention is called the Neḥlaẓ and not the Ḥoleẓ (Yev. 12:4; Nimmukei Yosef 104b, and Maim. commentary ad loc.).
Many details are stipulated for the order of the Ḥaliẓah ceremony (Yev. 12:6; Yad, Yibbum 4:1–23; Sh. Ar., eh 169); essentially they are as follows: The levir and the yevamah appear before the bet din, the levir wearing on his right foot a special shoe, the "Ḥaliẓah shoe"; the yevamah recites a passage indicating the levir's refusal to perform his duty to marry her; the levir responds by affirming his refusal – all this in Hebrew in the words prescribed in the Bible (Deut. 25:7, 9); the yevamah then removes the shoe from the levir's foot, throws it to the ground, spits on the ground before the levir, and utters the final prescribed passage (Deut. 25:9); finally, those present repeat the words "Ḥaluẓ ha-na'al" three times. The Boethusians held that the yevamah is required actually to spit in the levir's face and this is also stated in two manuscripts of the Septuagint, in Josephus' Antiquities, and in some of the apocryphal books, but the talmudic scholars held it to be sufficient if the elders see her spitting (Sif. Deut. 291). At the completion of the ceremony, the dayyanim express the wish "that the daughters of Israel shall have no need to resort to either Ḥaliẓah or levi-rate marriage" (Sh. Ar., eh 169, "abridged order of Ḥaliẓah," 56). At first it was customary to issue a deed of Ḥaliẓah as proof that the ceremony had taken place (Yev. 39b – as distinguished from a deed of divorce where the delivery of the deed constitutes the act of divorce), but in the course of time this practice was abandoned since "the ceremony was performed in public, before ten people, and she does not require documentary proof " (Sh. Ar., eh 169, "abridged order of Ḥaliẓah,"13; and end of commentary Seder Ḥaliẓah, no. 82).
In the Post-Talmudic Period
In the post-talmudic period, the dispute over the question of priority was continued. In the opinion of the Sura geonim, levirate marriage took priority, while those of Pumbedita thought otherwise, as did some of the Sura scholars (R. Hillai and R. Natronai). In the rabbinic period the Spanish scholars – particularly Alfasi (to Yev. 39b), Maimonides (Yad, Yibbum 1:2), and Joseph Caro (Sh. Ar., eh 165:1) – gave priority to levirate marriage, contending that otherwise there is no reason to shame and to submit the levir to the prescribed indignities and that the kabbalistic scholars said that "levirate marriage is very beneficial for the soul of the dead," and that Abba Saul who held that Ḥaliẓah took priority, "did not know this kabbalistic mystery," otherwise he would not have come to the conclusion he reached (Isaac Caro, quoted in Resp. Beit Yosef, loc. cit.). Such has actually been the custom, until the present day, of the Jews of Spain and of the Oriental communities in North Africa from Morocco to Egypt – in Yemen, Babylonia, and Persia. This was also the case in Ereẓ Israel (even at the end of the 1940s; see Mishpetei Uziel, eh no. 119) until the matter was settled by a takkanah of the chief rabbinate of Israel (in 5710–1949/50, see below). The scholars of northern France and Germany – particularly Rashi, Rabbenu Tam, Asher b. Jehiel (Tur., eh 165), and Moses Isserles (Rema,eh 165:1) – held that Ḥaliẓah takes priority though they did not all assign the same measure of priority to it. The acceptance of Rabbenu Gershom's decree (prohibiting polygamy) among Ashkenazi Jews (see *Bigamy) apparently contributed greatly toward the entrenchment of the rule that Ḥaliẓah takes priority – in order not to distinguish between a married and an unmarried levir – and Ashkenazi communities gradually came to adopt the practice of Ḥaliẓah to the exclusion of levirate marriage.
Problems of Levirate Marriage – The Apostate Levir
The scholars devote a great deal of discussion to the solution of problems centering around the laws of levirate marriage and Ḥaliẓah, arising both from objective factors and from the levir's conduct. The Mishnah (Git. 7:3) relates the case of a childless husband who fell ill and wrote his wife a "conditional" bill of divorce, effected upon his death, so that on his death the divorce would take effect retroactively to the date of delivery of the bill, with the intention of absolving her from the obligations of a yevamah. In the case of an "unsuitable" levir, or one suffering from a serious illness, or whose age differed greatly from that of the widow, it was sought to influence the levir in various ways to forgo marriage in favor of Ḥaliẓah. From the geonic period, mention is made (first in the Halakhot Gedolot, end of Hilkh. Yevamot) of the problem of the yevamah and the *apostate levir "in the land of the Berbers, among gentiles" or "who cannot be reached in a far land," which placed the yevamah in the position of an *agunah. Some of the geonim decided that she retained this status until released by the apostate levir, but others ruled that she was exempted from Ḥaliẓah if at the time of her marriage to the deceased his brother was already an apostate. It seems that the Babylonian academies were also divided on this question, Sura taking a lenient view and Pumbedita a strict one (L. Ginzberg, Ginzei Schechter, 2 (1929), 167f.). In later times the view that Ḥaliẓah was obligatory for the widow in every case became increasingly stronger and a solution for the problem was sought by the imposition – at the time of the kiddushin ceremony – of a condition specifying that the wife "shall be considered as not having been married if it shall be her lot to require levirate marriage at the hands of an apostate" (Rema, EH 157:4).
Problems of Ḥaliẓah
In an effort to overcome the problem that arose when a levir refused to undergo Ḥaliẓah, many French and German communities enacted takkanot awarding the levir a substantial share of the deceased brother's estate – financed partly at the widow's expense – although according to law the levir was entitled only to a brother's share upon Ḥaliẓah. The varying terms of these takkanot gave rise to frequent disputes, so that in practice the courts sought to compromise between the parties (Sh. Ar., eh 163:2, 165:4). As this, in turn, frequently caused the widow to be left at the levir's mercy, it became increasingly customary for the husband's brothers to write – at the time of the marriage – a "deed of undertaking to grant Ḥaliẓah" committing themselves to release the widow, whenever the need might arise, in a valid Ḥaliẓah ceremony, without delay or demand for consideration; this undertaking was enforced by way of a biblical *oath and a severe penalty or *ban. Where the levir was a minor at the time of his brother's marriage and his undertaking consequently un-enforceable, his father would write a deed guaranteeing that his minor son would, upon reaching maturity, provide the required undertaking to his sister-in-law. The father backed his guarantee – which was itself lacking in authority (see *Asmakhta) – by a monetary pledge to his daughter-in-law, which would be canceled on the production of the required undertaking (Gulak, Oẓar, 90–97). Many of the *aḥaronim decided in favor of obliging the levir to maintain the widow to whom he refused to grant Ḥaliẓah, despite the lack of unanimity among the rishonim on the circumstances and terms on which maintenance should be awarded, as otherwise "she may be kept an agunah forever" (Arukh ha-Shulḥan, eh 160:8).
In recent years the problem of Ḥaliẓah arising from the levir being absent abroad has become more acute, particularly in the case of countries in the Soviet bloc. Several halakhic authorities, led by Shalom Mordecai ha-Kohen *Shvadron, head of the Brezen bet din, have sought to avoid the widow's need to travel to the levir by permitting her to be represented at the Ḥaliẓah ceremony by an agent (Resp. Maharsham, pt. 1, nos. 14, 135), a view based on confining the prohibition on *agency in Ḥaliẓah to the levir only (Ket. 74a); however, most of his contemporaries dissented from this. It has also been rejected by modern Ereẓ Israel scholars (e.g., Mishpetei Uziel, 2 (1938), eh 88; Kunteres Sheliḥut ba-Ḥaliẓah) and this problem – like that which arises when the levir is a minor, placing the widow in a position of an agunah until he reaches the age of 13 years and a day – urgently awaits a solution, possibly along the lines already indicated.
Takkanah of the Chief Rabbinate of Ereẓ Israel
In 1944 the chief rabbinate of Ereẓ Israel enacted a takkanah obliging the levir to maintain the levirate widow until he released her by Ḥaliẓah, according to "law and precept," if a rabbinical court had certified that he refused to comply with its decision ordering him to grant her Ḥaliẓah. This takkanah, which gives expression to the view of those halakhic scholars who would oblige the recalcitrant levir to maintain the widow, has made this obligation part of the law of maintenance, rather than its being a fine for noncompliance. It was prompted by the fact of "much difficulty and suffering arising from the regrettable prevalence of cases of Jewish women who are in need of levirate marriage and are placed in the position of agunot because Ḥaliẓah has been withheld from them." A further takkanah of the chief rabbinate of the State of Israel (1950) completely prohibited the practice of levirate marriage in Israel while making Ḥaliẓah obligatory. This takkanah, extending also to the Sephardi and Oriental Jewish communities in Israel, was expressly justified on the grounds that "most levirs do not undergo levirate marriage for the sake of fulfilling a mitzvah, and also to preserve peace and harmony in the State of Israel by keeping the law of the Torah uniform for all."
In the State of Israel
The Rabbinical Courts Jurisdiction (Marriage and Divorce) Law, 5713–1953 of the State of Israel confers on the rabbinical court exclusive jurisdiction in a case where a woman sues her deceased husband's brother for Ḥaliẓah, and also with regard to maintenance for the woman until the day on which Ḥaliẓah is granted (sec. 5). Section 7 of the same law further provides that "Where a rabbinical court, by final judgment [i.e., when it can no longer be appealed against; sec. 8] has ordered that a man be compelled to give his brother's widow Ḥaliẓah, a district court may, upon expiration of three months from the day of making the order, on application of the attorney general, compel compliance with the order by imprisonment." A judgment compelling a levir to grant Ḥaliẓah will be given by the rabbinical court in similar circumstances to those in which it customarily sees fit to compel the grant of a divorce, and in certain additional cases, e.g., where the levir is already married (Tur and Sh. Ar., eh 165), but at all times only where compulsion is supported by halakhic authority so as not to bring about a prohibited "forced Ḥaliẓah" (Yev. 106a; Yad, Yibbum 4:25–26; Sh. Ar., eh 169:13). This procedure, so far as halakhically permitted, offers an effective means of dealing with a recalcitrant levir.
In 1995, the Rabbinical Courts Law (Upholding Divorce Rulings) (Temporary Provision) 5755–1995, was enacted. This law amended the procedure for compelling divorce (see in detail in entries on *Agunah and *Divorce). Section 6 of the Law provides that 30 days after a decision ordering the husband to give Ḥaliẓah to his brother's widow, the rabbinical court is empowered to impose the statutory sanctions, including imprisonment and restrictive orders. These sanctions are the application in Israeli Law of the harḥakot Rabbenu Tam (see *Agunah), which were enacted as a means of compelling divorce (See Sh. Ar., eh 154:21, Rema). Hence, today the Israel rabbinical court is authorized to compel the granting of Ḥaliẓah, and to employ the same methods of compulsion (imprisonment and restrictive orders) against the recalcitrant levir as it does against the recalcitrant husband who refuses to grant a get.
[Moshe Drori (2nd ed.)]
The Ceremony of Ḥaliẓah
The ceremony of Ḥaliẓah is invested with a special solemnity. The normal bet din, consisting of three ordained rabbis, is augmented for the occasion by two additional members (who can be laymen), "in order to give publicity to the matter" (Yev. 101a–b). The five members of the bet din meet at the place where the ceremony is to take place on the previous day, in order to "establish the locum" (Yev. 101b). The ceremony takes place the following morning, and the yevamah (more correctly yavmah) is enjoined to fast until the ceremony. She and the levir are also instructed, if necessary, to repeat the respective declarations which they have to make, according to Deuteronomy 25:7–10, in the original Hebrew. Questions are put to ascertain that there are no circumstances which might invalidate the ceremony, e.g., to ascertain that both are majors, in full possession of their normal mental faculties, that 91 days have passed since the death of her husband. Although yibbum, levirate marriage, is forbidden at the present time, the presiding rabbi nevertheless formally asks the levir which he prefers, to marry his sister-in-law or release her through Ḥaliẓah, to which he replies confirming the latter alternative. The ceremony proper then commences, the essence of which is that the yevamah, in accordance with Deuteronomy 25:9, has to draw a shoe off the foot of her brother-in-law. The Ḥaliẓah shoe must conform rigidly to the halakhic regulations laid down for it. It is made of leather including the sewing, the loops, and the straps, no metal whatsoever being permitted. It resembles a moccasin, and is fastened primarily with three loops. Long straps are attached to the top of the uppers. Since the shoe must be the property of the levir, it is given to him as an unconditional gift. He tries it on his right foot and is asked to walk in it, to see that it fits, even when it is unlaced; he repeats the procedure after it is tied in the prescribed manner, first by fastening the loops and then winding the straps around it. The laces are then undone.
Until recent times, in Eastern Europe the morbid custom obtained for the levir to lean against an upturned board used for the ritual washing of a corpse in order to emphasize that his status and rights as a levir derived from the death of his brother. This custom has been (largely) abandoned. The levir nowadays leans against a beam or a wall and presses his foot hard on the ground. The yevamah then makes the following declaration, in Hebrew: "My husband's brother refuses to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother unto me" (Deut. 25:7), to which he answers, also in Hebrew, and in one breath, the three words meaning "I like not to take her" (Deut. 25:8). The yevamah then bends down, places her left hand on the calf of her brother-in-law and with the right hand undoes the laces and the loops. She then raises his leg, slips off the shoe, and casts it away. She then collects some ordure in her mouth and spits on the floor in front of him (not "in his face"; see Deut. 25:9) and declares, again in Hebrew: "So shall it be done unto the man that doth not build up his brother's house; and his name shall be called in Israel beit Ḥaluẓ ha-na'al ("the house of him that had his shoe loosened"; Deut. 25:9–10). All those present thrice repeat the last three words. The members of the bet din then recite the formula "may it be the divine will that the daughters of Israel shall be liable neither to yibbum nor Ḥaliẓah."
[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]
A. Geiger, in: He-Ḥalutz, 6 (1861), 26–28; I.I. Mattuck, in: Studies… Kohler (1913), 210–22; I.S. Zuri, Mishpat ha-Talmud, 2 (1921), 113–23; Gulak, Yesodei, 3 (1922), 30–33; idem, Oẓar, 90–97; Finkelstein, Middle Ages, 229f., 245–7, 253–6; M. Price, in: Oriental Studies… Haupt (1926), 268–71; A.A. Judelowitz, Av be-Ḥokhmah (1927); Z. Karl, in: Ha-Mishpat, 1 (1927), 266–79; L. Ginzberg, in: Ginzei Schechter, 2 (1929), 166–81, 270f.; Ḥ. Albeck, in: Berichte der Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, 49 (1932), 66–72; idem (ed.), Mishnah, Nashim, 7–10; B.M. Lewin (ed.), Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, Yevamot (1936), 34–37, 67–80; H. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Halakhah, 3 (1943), 186–203; A.H. Freimann, in: Sinai, 14 (1943/44), 258–60; idem, Seder Kiddushin ve-Nissu'in Aḥarei Ḥatimat ha-Talmud (1945), 385–97; S. Assaf, Tekufat ha-Ge'onim ve-Sifrutah (1955), 275–7; M. Elon, in: Sefer Yovel le-Pinḥas Rozen (1962), 187f.; idem, Mafte'aḥ, 89–91; idem, Ḥakikah Datit… (1968), 31, 162, 172f.; M. Silberg, Ha-Ma'amad ha-Ishi be-Yisrael (19654), 381–6, 391; B. Schereschewsky, Dinei Mishpaḥah (19672), 226–36.