A man must free the widow of his childless brother from the obligation to marry him if he is unwilling to marry her

The Literal Commandment

When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. But if the man does not desire to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, 'I do not desire to take her,' then his brother's wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, 'Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' In Israel his name shall be called, 'The house of him whose sandal is removed.' (Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

 

The literal commandment is that a childless widow should perform a certain ceremony to indicate that a levirite marriage with her brother-in-law will not occur.

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

Pictures of Messiah

Although Messiah died, He was resurrected three days later. He never married a woman so He did not have a childless widow nor was He the brother of a deceased and childless man. While this commandment does not picture Messiah directly, it does show G-d's gracious provision for the widows by ensuring they had heirs and a provider... and a way out of that circumstance if they so choose.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

No evidence is given in Scripture that Messiah literally fulfilled this command: He did not have a brother who died and left a childless widow for Him to marry (or free) and thus did not violate this command.

 

Traditional Observance

This commandment is traditionally observed in the process that is literally described in the commandment (with the removing of a sandal and spitting in the face before a court). This process is called halizah and it is preferred in most contemporary Jewish communities above the levirite marriage alternative.

 

Other Notes

We are able to fulfill this commandment today and a man should free the widow of his childless brother through halizah if either of them indicates they have no desire to marry the other.

 

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Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 129
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 4
  • Mishneh Torah Book Women
  • Mishneh Torah Category 22- Levirate Marriage and Release
  • Reference Deuteronomy 25:9
  • Scripture Book Deuteronomy
  • Chapter 25
  • Verse 9
  • English then his brother's wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, 'Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.'
  • Hebrew ט וְנִגְּשָׁה יְבִמְתּוֹ אֵלָיו, לְעֵינֵי הַזְּקֵנִים, וְחָלְצָה נַעֲלוֹ מֵעַל רַגְלוֹ, וְיָרְקָה בְּפָנָיו; וְעָנְתָה, וְאָמְרָה, כָּכָה יֵעָשֶׂה לָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִבְנֶה אֶת-בֵּית אָחִיו.
  • Greek 9 καὶ προσελθοῦσα ἡ γυνὴ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ ἔναντι τῆς γερουσίας καὶ ὑπολύσει τὸ ὑπόδημα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἓν ἀπὸ τοῦ ποδὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐμπτύσεται εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀποκριθεῖσα ἐρεῖ Οὕτως ποιήσουσιν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ, ὃς οὐκ οἰκοδομήσει τὸν οἶκον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ·
  • Parashah 49- Ki Tetze
  • Positive/Negative Positive
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 599
  • Sef. Hach. Command The precept of chalitzah, to release a childless widow
  • Category Marriage and Family
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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