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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bible, the Brother, and the Widow


Deuteronomy 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not be married abroad unto one not of his kin; 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. 6 And it shall be, that the first-born that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel. 7 And 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.' 8 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'; 9 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.' 10 And his name shall be called in Israel the house of him that had his shoe loosed. 

It seems the living brother is shamed in the community if he resists this obligation. The living brother is thus encouraged to add an additional wife or marry for the first time his deceased brother's wife.  Some men would welcome the opportunity while others would resent it.


In some instances it is possible such an institution may be beneficial to the widow, for example if she unable to support herself, yet that does not seem the primary motivation of the law - see verse 6. Also see verse 5, she is  not free remarry anybody she chooses, since she is prohibited from marrying outside her husbands kin, even an outside wealthy man.

See http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9859-levirate-marriage : Marriage with a brother's widow. This custom is found among a large number of primitive peoples, a list of which is given by Westermarck ("History of Human Marriage," pp. 510-514). In some cases it is the duty of a man to marry his brother's widow even if she has had children by the deceased, but in most cases it occurs when there are no children, as among the Hindus ("Institutes of Manu," v. 59-63).)]. 


JPS page 422 states Biblical, Near Eastern and Roman inheritance law assigned special responsibilities to the husband's brother - to continue the deceased line of the childless widow.


Are we to understand this law is handed down from God at Mount Sinai ?

It seems much more probable that levirate laws were extant or developed among the ancient Israelites and then ascribed to divine authority.

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JPS  - Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler

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