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and may not enter into levirate marriage. This indicates that the levirate bond does apply to a sota, which contradicts Rav’s statement. The Gemara retorts that Rav could have said to you: I spoke to you about a sota whose infidelity was definite, and you speak to me of an uncertain sota. There is no proof that this wife who secluded herself with another man was actually unfaithful, and due to the uncertainty she must still undergo ḥalitza. The Gemara raises a difficulty: And what is different about a definite sota? Is it different because the term defilement is written with regard to her?

But with regard to an uncertain sota, who was alone with a specific man enough time to engage in relations, defilement is written as well. As it is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Yosei ben Keifar said in the name of Rabbi Elazar: With regard to one who remarries his divorcée after she had been married to another man, an act prohibited by Torah law, if he remarried her following actual marriage to another, she is forbidden to her first husband. However, if he remarried her following mere betrothal to another man, she is permitted, because it is stated: “Her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she was defiled” (Deuteronomy 24:4), and a woman who was merely betrothed was never defiled, as no sexual relations had taken place.

And the Rabbis say: Both this one and that one, i.e., whether she had been fully married or merely betrothed to another, she is forbidden to her first husband. Rather, how do I establish the phrase: “After she was defiled”? This verse does not refer at all to the case of a woman who married another man lawfully, as she is not called “defiled.” Rather, it comes to include a sota who secluded herself with another man, as she is forbidden to her husband due to the concern that she might have committed adultery. This baraita shows that a sota is termed “defiled,” despite the fact that hers is an uncertain case.

The Gemara rejects this argument: And what does: Secluded herself, mean in this context? It means that she had actually engaged in relations. And why does the baraita call this: Secluded herself, instead of the more straightforward: Engaged in sexual relations? The baraita employed a euphemistic expression, but it actually means that she engaged in intercourse. The Gemara asks: If this is referring to a woman who had engaged in relations, the term defilement is already explicitly written with regard to her, in the chapter that deals with a sota. Why is it necessary to derive that she is defiled from a different source, as in the context of a sota herself the verse states: “She being defiled secretly” (Numbers 5:13)?

The Gemara explains that “may not take her again to be his wife after she was defiled” does not teach that she is called “defiled,” but rather that the halakha establishes upon her a prohibition. In other words, if the husband engages in relations with his wife after she had had intercourse with another, he transgresses a prohibition. And the Gemara comments that Rabbi Yosei ben Keifar does not hold the opinion that there is a prohibition in the case of a sota, as he maintains that a husband who has relations with his sota wife does not transgress any prohibition at all, and the same is true even if she definitely fornicated with another man.

What is the rationale of Rabbi Yosei ben Keifar? In his opinion, “after she was defiled” does not refer to a sota but to a woman who had been legally divorced from her first husband and subsequently married another man. This is indicated by the fact that both becoming, i.e., betrothal, and matrimony are written in this context: “Becomes another man’s wife” (Deuteronomy 24:2) and: “Or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife” (Deuteronomy 24:3). Here it is clear that the reference is to halakhically valid marriage, whereas a sota had never been another man’s wife, as she cannot marry another man while she is still married.

§ The Gemara discusses a similar case. Rav Yehuda raised a dilemma before Rav Sheshet: In the case of one who remarries his divorcée after she had married another, and then he dies childless, what is the halakha with regard to the levirate marriage of her rival wife? According to the opinion of Rabbi Yosei ben Keifar, do not raise the dilemma, since Rabbi Yosei ben Keifar said that it is with regard to one who remarries his divorcée that defilement is written, and therefore the status of her rival wife is the same as hers.

And if one would claim that the dilemma does in fact arise because it is written: “That is an abomination” (Deuteronomy 24:4), and the emphasis on “that” serves to limit the range of the prohibition and teaches that this halakha applies only to her and not her rival wife, still, the accepted interpretation of this verse is as follows: She is an abomination, but her children are not abominations. In other words, if he transgressed the prohibition and remarried this woman, their children are not disqualified from marrying priests. If so, the term “that” does not come to exclude her rival wife from this halakha, and therefore her rival wife is an abomination for the purposes of levirate marriage, just like the wife herself, and she too is exempt.

Rather, let the dilemma be raised according to the opinion of the Rabbis. Although the Rabbis said that it is with regard to a sota that defilement is written, perhaps here they apply the principle that a verse does not depart from its literal meaning. In other words, notwithstanding the fact that the Rabbis derive from here a halakhic ruling concerning a sota, the straightforward meaning of the verse should not be entirely disregarded. Accordingly, as the context here is remarriage to one’s divorced wife, this verse would teach that hers is a case of defilement.

Or perhaps once a verse is uprooted from its context, it is entirely uprooted and no longer teaches anything about the subject matter of the chapter in which it is written. This would mean that the sole significance of this particular verse is in reference to a sota. There are those who say the opposite: According to the opinion of the Rabbis, do not raise the dilemma, as once a verse is uprooted from its context, it is entirely uprooted. Consequently, there is no defilement when a man remarries his divorcée, neither with regard to her nor concerning her rival wife.

Rather, let the dilemma be raised according to the opinion of Rabbi Yosei ben Keifar. What is the dilemma? Although Rabbi Yosei ben Keifar said that it is with regard to one who remarries his divorcée that defilement is written, one can ask: Does the Merciful One limit this halakha by the phrase “that is an abomination,” which indicates: And her rival wife is not an abomination? Or perhaps this verse teaches that she is an abomination but her children are not abominations, which indicates that her rival wife is an abomination.

Rav Sheshet said to him: You learned it in a baraita that deals with a case of two yevamot who came before a yavam for levirate marriage. In a situation where one of the women was fit and the other disqualified, if he would like to perform ḥalitza he performs ḥalitza with the disqualified woman, and if he would like to enter into levirate marriage he enters into levirate marriage with the fit woman.

Rav Sheshet analyzes this baraita: What is the meaning of fit, and what is the meaning of disqualified? If we say that fit means fit for all men, and disqualified means disqualified in general, e.g., a woman who had already been divorced is disqualified from marrying any priest, despite the fact that she is fit to marry this particular man himself, then since for him she is suitable, what difference does it make for him whether she is disqualified from or fit for marriage to others?

Rather, is it not the case that fit means fit for him, and disqualified means disqualified for him? And what is that case in which a woman is fit or disqualified only with regard to him but not any other man? This is evidently referring to the case of one who remarries his divorcée. The deceased brother had remarried his divorced wife after she had married another man, and therefore she is disqualified from entering into levirate marriage with that particular man but she is permitted to other men. And it is taught there that if he would like to enter into levirate marriage, he may enter into levirate marriage even with the fit woman. This indicates that the rival wife of a remarried divorcée is fit for levirate marriage.

The Gemara rejects this argument: No; actually, fit means fit to all men, and disqualified means disqualified in general, e.g., a woman who had already been divorced is disqualified from marrying any priest. And that which you said: Since for him she is suitable what difference does it make for him, this is significant because of the statement of Rav Yosef.

As Rav Yosef said: Here Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi taught a valuable moral lesson, that a person should not pour the water from his well when others are in need of it. That is, one should not cause loss in any situation, even when this relates to his own personal life, if he might thereby cause a future loss to others. The same reasoning applies here: If he intends to perform ḥalitza it does not matter to him which of the women he chooses, but if he does so with the one who is fit to others, he thereby disqualifies her from marrying a priest, as the legal status of a woman who underwent ḥalitza is like that of a divorcée. It is therefore preferable to perform ḥalitza with the one who in any case was disqualified from marrying a priest.

The Gemara suggests: Come and hear a different baraita: With regard to one who remarries his divorcée after she had married another, she and her rival wife perform ḥalitza. The Gemara first analyzes the wording of the baraita: Can it enter your mind that both she and her rival wife must perform ḥalitza? After all, only one wife of a deceased brother undergoes ḥalitza, not two. Rather, say: Either she or her rival wife. This indicates that both women are unfit for levirate marriage.

The Gemara rejects this claim: And did you not already resolve a difficulty in the baraita by adjusting its language and not interpreting it as it is? If so, you cannot cite a proof from here, as you can adjust it differently and answer as follows: She performs ḥalitza, while her rival wife either performs ḥalitza or enters into levirate marriage. If so, this baraita provides no conclusive proof that might resolve Rav Yehuda’s dilemma.

§ On the same issue, Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan raised a dilemma: With regard to one who remarries his divorcée after she had been married to another, what is the halakha concerning the levirate marriage of her rival wife? Rabbi Ami said to him: And you can raise the dilemma with regard to this woman herself. Why not ask if she requires levirate marriage when her husband dies? Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba replied: The halakha of the divorcée herself is not a dilemma for me, as she is certainly forbidden.

Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba elaborates: As in this case we state an a fortiori inference: If she is now forbidden to one who was previously permitted to her, i.e., her first husband, with regard to one who was forbidden to her, the yavam, is it not all the more so the case that she remains forbidden to him? Where I raise the dilemma it is with regard to her rival wife. What is the halakha in this case? Is the aforementioned a fortiori inference strong enough to invalidate her rival wife or not? The divorcée herself is certainly exempt from levirate marriage, but the question is whether the a fortiori inference applies to the rival wife as well.

Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak would teach a different version of this discussion, as follows: Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan raised a dilemma: With regard to one who remarries his divorcée after she had been married to another, what is the halakha concerning her levirate marriage? Rabbi Ami said to him: And you can raise the dilemma with regard to her rival wife as well. Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba replied: The halakha of her rival wife is not a dilemma for me, as the a fortiori inference is not strong enough to invalidate a rival wife. Rather, where I raise the dilemma it is with regard to the divorcée herself. What is the halakha? Is the a fortiori inference strong enough that it can be accepted even in place of a mitzva to enter into levirate marriage, or not?

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
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