The laws of family faithfulness, Yibum and Chalitza.
1. The word “Kidushin” comes from the word “Kadosh” – holy. Marriage in Jewish law assumes family loyalty and faithfulness. At the moment of Kidushin the groom sanctifies his future relationship with his bride. Even though the Torah forbids relations with a non-married woman also, the relations with a married woman breaks the most severe prohibition of adultery and destroys the family purity. At the time our nation had the Supreme Court – Sanhedrin, relations with a married woman were punished by death. Today, for the last two thousand years we don’t have Sanhedrin, yet in our day too such relations have grave consequences.
2. Besides of course various punishments after death, and possible punishments in this world, while alive, the results of adultery are as follows:
- The woman becomes forbidden to both her husband and to the adulterer. The husband divorces her and the adulterer can not marry her. The woman loses her Kesubah, (we discuss the Kesubah further in Parshas Naso).
- If a married woman had a child from a Jewish adulterer, the child is considered a Mamzer. This makes it impossible for him or her to marry a regular Jew. Mamzerim can either marry each other or someone who converted to Judaism. Their children will also be Mamzerim for all generations.
3. Any woman who married according to Jewish law but did not get a kosher “Get” – Jewish divorce, is considered to still be married. Obviously, the divorce issued by a non-Jewish court is not valid according to Torah law. If she remarries without getting a Get, her relationship with the second husband is considered adultery.
4. In case a couple never had a kosher marriage and now wants to get divorced, it is preferable that they get a kosher Get. However, if this is difficult to do, for example, the husband refuses to have a Get written, a knowledgeable Rabbi should be consulted. In some cases there may be no need for a Get since their marriage may have not been valid according to Jewish law.
5. All the above mentioned laws have many details and therefore in any case that a woman was unfaithful to her husband, a Rabbi has to be consulted. There are cases when even though the wife tells her husband she was with another man, he does not believe her and they are permitted to continue living together. Similarly, if a woman says she got pregnant from another man implying that her child is a Mamzer, she is not always believed and the child may remain kosher according to Torah law. Only a very knowledgeable and competent Rabbi can make decisions in each case.
6. After a kosher Get, the woman is not allowed to remarry for three months. This law prevents a situation where a remarried woman is pregnant and it is unclear whether the father is her first husband or the second. If the divorced couple wants to marry each other back again, this is permitted immediately. Note, that a woman who got divorced and married somebody else will never be able to marry her first husband again, even if her second husband divorces her or dies.
7. If a married man dies without children and he has a brother on his father’s side, his wife can not remarry until either Yibum or Chalitza is performed. Yibum is marriage between a brother of the deceased and the widow. In our day Yibum is performed quite rarely, mostly in Sephardic congregations. Chalitza is a procedure of taking off the brother’s shoe by the widow. This symbolizes the termination of a connection – before Chalitza, if Yibum was made, the widow could have a child with the soul of the deceased. Now, this possibility no longer exists and the soul of the dead brother will have to look for other rectifications. Obviously, Chalitza can be performed only in front of qualified Rabbis.
8. Chalitza is made no earlier than in three months after death of the husband, after it becomes established that the widow is not pregnant. After Chalitza, the widow can marry whoever she wants except any brothers of the deceased – if Yibum was not been made they are now forbidden to her. (Note, that in general close relatives of the husband, like his father or son, are forbidden to his widow, however, the brothers would be permitted, in case he died without children, but after Chalitza they become forbidden as well.)