On Mourning

Yevamot (4:10) | Yehuda Gottlieb | 13 years ago

The Mishnah in Yevamot (4:10) states

A yavamah may not perform chalitzah and is not taken in through yibum until she has waited three months, and likewise all other women may not enter into eirusin (halachic engagement) and nisuin (marriage) until they have waited three months (following their previous marriage).

The reason for this decree is to ensure that a situation will not arise in which the paternity of a child born during the second marriage will be thrown into doubt. This is achieved by delaying the second marriage for three months. If at the end of that period the woman shows no signs of pregnancy, we are certain that she did not become pregnant by the first husband. Thus, any child born afterwards is definitely the offspring of the second husband.

In the same Mishnah, R’ Yosi is of the opinion that “all previously married women may enter into eirusin immediately, except a widow”. According to R’ Yosi, a widow is not permitted to enter into eirusin straight after the death of her husband, as she must fulfil a thirty day mourning period.

The Gemara (Yevamot 43a) outlines a number of challenges that attempt to refute the opinion of R’ Yosi. In one of these attempted refutations, Rava compares the mourning period of the week preceding Tisha B’Av with the mourning period following the death of a close relative. The kal vachomer dictates that since in a mourning period (the week of Tisha B’Av) where the halacha is that it is forbidden to engage in business activities, yet it is permissible to enter into eirusin, it should logically follow that in the mourning period where it is permitted to engage in business activities (the thirty days of mourning for a husband) that it should be permissible to enter into eirusin during this time.

A lengthy discussion ensues in the Gemara, but the conclusion of the Gemara is stated by Rav Ashi (43b): “present mourning is different from mourning about the past and communal mourning is different from individual mourning. Rashi explains the difference that the aveilut during Tisha B’Av is of a public and historical nature; therefore we are able to be more lenient in letting people do eirusin in this time. The same cannot be said for an individual, “fresh” aveilut where doing eirusin in this time is deemed totally inappropriate.

However, this explanation does not address the contradiction of business activities. Why should business activities be deemed forbidden in a public, ‘older’ aveilut, whereas in the individual, ‘recent’ aveilut it is permitted?

Tosfot (s.v. shani) answers this question in a practical way. They state that the reason that business activities are forbidden in the week preceding Tisha B’Av is precisely because it is a public and past aveilut. If business activities were permitted, people would see a shopkeeper going to work during this week, and feel that this shopkeeper was not appropriately mourning for the destruction of . Tosfot focuses on the word ‘rabbim’. The reason why Tosfot feels that eirusin is permitted in the week before Tisha B’Av is specifically because it is an ‘older’ aveilut. Tosfot focuses on the two aspects of the aveilut separately - the public aspect to forbid business activities, and the ancient aspect to allow eirusin during this time.

This explanation is problematic according to Rashi, who seems to be saying we are lenient during the week of Tisha B’Av because of both aspects combined (public and ancient aveilut). How then does Rashi understand the inconsistencies of business activities during these two times?

R’ Kornfeld (http://www.dafyomi.co.il/yevamos/insites/ye-dt-043.htm) states%20states) that it could be that Rashi understood the Gemara in a way similar to that of Tosfot, that Tisha B’Av is more stringent when it comes to doing business activities, but for a different reason than the reason that Tosfot gives. According to Rashi, the very fact that Tisha B’Av is not an individual aveilut requires that steps be made to help arouse people to mourn. The Chachamim made certain enactments in order to help people focus on the aveilut and ponder the destruction of and not be distracted. Therefore, they prohibited things which cause people to take their minds off of mourning, such as business activities. That is, the actual fact that business activities are forbidden may not be a law of aveilut at all! They did not prohibit eirusin, though, on such days, because eirusin is a momentary act that will not detract from one’s concentration on mourning for . Following the death of a husband, though, since the aveilut is personal and recent, the mourner will not become distracted from his aveilut by undertaking business activities.

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