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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q8.29 TOC > Q8.31

Question 8.30:
How long after a spouse dies can the surviving partner remarry? Must they marry their spouse's younger brother?


There is a law in the Torah that a childless widow who wants to marry her brother-in-law ought to marry him (a "leverite" marriage, or in Hebrew "yibum"). The child would then be named after the first husband. If either she or the brother refuses, they perform a ceremony called chalitzah, which involves his taking off his shoe and her spitting in it and saying "This is what is done to someone who won't carry on his brother's name." The definition of shoe for this law is quite rigorous, and the court generally has a ceremonial shoe set aside that fits this definition.

However, no one does yibum anymore. The feeling is that modern man is too likely to be interested in this as quasi-incest and not enough for loftier motives for this to be the proper choice. In the western communities, chalitzah has been the preferred choice since the 10th century. In Sepharadic communities, and those from Moslem countries, it has been the choice for a little over a century or so.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>