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Is There Capital Punishment For A Shomeres Yavam

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Apr 12, 2019

לרפואת ר' יצחק חיים יחיאל בן אסתר 

ור' מרדכי בן שרה


Continuing our discussion about the question of whether the איסור of יבמה לשוק is an איסור ערוה or not, we present a gemara in Bava Basra [135a] from which Rav Yosef Engel [Asvan Di-oraisa Klal 8] clearly proves that it IS an איסור ערוה. 


ההוא דהוה מוחזק לן דלית ליה אחי ואמר בשעת מיתה דלית ליה אחי אמר רב יוסף מאי ליחוש לה חדא דמוחזק לן דלית ליה אחין ועוד הא אמר בשעת מיתה דלית ליה אמר ליה אביי הא אמרי דאיכא עדים במדינת הים דידעי דאית ליה אחי

The Gemara relates: There was a certain man who was presumed by us, i.e., the court, to have no brothers, and he said at the time of his death that he has no brothers. Rav Yosef said: With what possibility need we be concerned with regard to his wife, in terms of her requiring levirate marriage? For one, he is presumed by us to have no brothers, and furthermore, he said at the time of his death that he has none. Abaye said to him: But don’t people say that there are witnesses overseas who know that he has brothers? Therefore, we should be concerned that this report is accurate.


השתא מיהת הא ליתנהו קמן לאו היינו דר' חנינא דאמר רבי חנינא עדים בצד אסתן ותאסר

Rav Yosef responded: In any event, now the witnesses are not present before us, so this possibility does not need to be taken into account. Isn’t this the same as Rabbi Ḥanina’s ruling in a case where women who were captured and subsequently liberated claimed that they were not raped in captivity (Ketubot 23a)? As although people said there were witnesses elsewhere who could testify that they were raped, Rabbi Ḥanina says that they were permitted to marry a kohen, reasoning: Just because there may be witnesses in the north [istan], i.e., in a distant place, will the woman be forbidden?


אמר ליה אביי אם הקלנו בשבויה (משום דמנוולא נפשה לגבי שבאי) נקל באשת איש.

Abaye said to him: If we were lenient with regard to a captive woman, due to, among other reasons, the fact that she makes herself repulsive before the captor so that he will not want to rape her, and we assume that she was not raped, should we be lenient with regard to a married woman?


Writes the Rashbam:


ניקל באשת איש - בתמיה דאיכא איסור חנק. 

This is a wonder. There is no capital punishment for having relations with a woman who is a שומרת יבם, so what is the Rashbam talking about??!!


Explains the Bach [the Rabbi - not the composer]: 

 "אף על גב דעכשיו אינה אשת איש וליכא חנק כי אם לאו דלא תהיה אשת המת החוצה לאיש זר, מכל מקום מאחר דקודם שמת בעלה היתה בחזקת אשת איש עדיין בחזקת אותו איסור עומדת, וזהו איסור חנק - לא חנק ממש - רק איסור חנק שהיה בה לא נסתלק ממנה על שנפטרה מזיקת יבמה". 


Says the Bach - The Rashbam doesn't mean that there is a literal punishment of חנק - just that the איסור that involved חנק that devolved upon this woman remains in force until she is released from her זיקה [the linkage to her late husband's brother - not the disease]. 


So we have a clear proof from this gemara [according to the understanding of the Bach of the Rashbam] that יבמה לשוק is an איסור ערוה. 


However it must be noted that the gemara continues by relating that Rava told Rav Nosson "חוש לה" which can mean to be careful and she should be forbidden until she performs חליצה [Rashbam]. But Rabbeinu Gershom offers an interpretation that it means to PERMIT her. This would possibly mean that Rava holds that this is not a case of ערוה and therefore we may be lenient [Sefer Yosef Ometz].  





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