The Mishnah (3:4) records a debate involving a yabam that is faced with two yevamot (from two marriages) who are sisters:1
Prior to yibum or chalitza there is somewhat of a bind between the yabam and yevama – a zika. Since in this case, the two yevamot are sisters, they are defined as achot zekukato, the sister of a zika. The Chachamim maintain that biblically this situation is not important and the widows would require yibum or chalitzah. Nevertheless the Rabbanan insisted that only chalitzah be performed. R’ Shimon however argues that the widows are exempt from any requirement of yibum or chalitzah. We shall seek to understand his position.
The Gemara (28b) explains that R’ Shimon learns his law from the following pasuk: “You shall not take a woman in addition to her sister, to make them rivals (litzror)…” R’ Shimon understands that as soon as they would be in a situation of being tzarot, there is no obligation to perform yibum (“take them”).
The Nimukei Yosef explains that a zika is considered “as if” they are married. Consequently, each of the yevamot, are considered like his wife’s sister – achot isha- a forbidden relationship. The Chidushei Anshei Shem notes that according to this understanding R’ Shimon’s ruling would only apply if both sisters became yevamot at the same time. Were that not the case the brother would be obligated to perform to yibum to the first yevama as she would be considered “married” to her first.
The Tosfot (19b) however understands that R’ Shimon does not agree that a zika is binding.1 Accordingly we must then understanding that the basis of R’ Shimon’s position is the pasuk cited above. In other words, irrespective of zika, the Torah decrees that when two sisters are yevamot to one2 yabam they are exempt from yibum or chalitza.
Rashi (28b) explains that according to R’ Shimon once the Torah treats the case of achot zkuka as an erva and exempts them from yibum and chalitza, each would be prohibited to the remaining brother, as they would now be considered an eshet ach.
Last week’ issue discussed the exemption that applied to tzarot. That exemption is learnt from the same pasuk that R’ Shimon uses. The Tosfot Yeshanimexplains that R’ Shimon understands that the pasuk teaches us about the case of achot zekukot, or more broadly, tzarat erva by way of a zika. That being the case, according to R’ Shimon, it is expanded to other tzarot erva as well. Consequently the Tosfot Yeshanimunderstands the exemption to be more in-line with the exemption of tzarot erva rather than achot isha.
1 See Yevamot (18b) that seems to support this position. Also see the Ritva (Miluim 12) who attempts to resolve this difficulty.
2 There is discussion whether R’ Shimon also argues in the case where there are two brother’s remaining. The Tosfot (28b) understand that in such a case, R’ Shimonwould agree with the Chachamim. The Ritva (29a) on the other hand maintains that the debate would continue.
Receive our publication with an in depth article and revision questions.
Listen to the new Mishnah Shiurim by Yisrael Bankier