May 16, 2022

Yevamot 58

Today’s daf (Yevamot 58b) discusses the complex halachot concerning a woman who is a בת כהן (the daughter of a Kohen) – meaning that before her marriage she ate Terumah (the tithes given to the Kohanim) in her parents’ home, who then married a Kohen (which meant that after her marriage she ate Terumah in her marital home), whose husband died without children (at which time she returned to her parents home), and who had two brothers’-in-law (both Kohanim) where the older one hasn’t yet fulfilled yibum or halitzah, and the younger one has proposed and performed ma’amar with her. The problem with this is that until yibum or halitzah is fulfilled with the older brother she has a yibum connection to him, while at the same time, by fulfilling ma’amar with the younger brother, she undermines the connection with the older brother.
The question is then asked about what would happen if the older brother gave his yevama a ‘get’ (divorce bill) instead of performing halitzah. Significantly, while a ‘get’ severs the marital bond, only halitzah fully severs the yibum bond. And it is in response to this situation that the Gemara says that her receipt of the ‘get’, קרובה לבי נשא – ‘brings her back to her parents’ home’, אבל הא אגידא ביה – ‘but she is still connected to him’.
These words, though expressed as part of a detailed discussion about yibum, speak deeply to me today, on Yom Hazikaron. And this is because among the many people who are on my mind are the young women whose boyfriends, fiancés and husbands were killed during their service or in terrorist attacks, and who – while their loved one was alive – lived life independently. Yet who – after their death – returned, sometimes physically and certainly emotionally, to the arms of their parents to offer them comfort. Though it may be true that these women were ‘brought back to their parents’ home’ (קרובה לבי נשא), equally true is the fact that they continue to ache for their beloved and are ‘still connected to him’ (אבל הא אגידא ביה). Similarly, I also think of the young men, whose girlfriends, fiancés and wives were killed during their service or in terrorist attacks, and who have also come back to their parents’ home in one way or another, but who still feel connected to her, and still ache for her loss. And then I think more broadly of all those who lost a loved one that we honour and remember on Yom Hazikaron, and while each individual carrying this pain continues to live, they still remain deeply connected to their relative or friend.
Some might think that Yom Hazikaron provides closure. It does not. Instead, it reminds us of those who are missing in our family, in our community, and in our people, and rather than closing any gaps, it is the day that we focus on them. Ultimately, Yom Hazikaron is when we acknowledge that, though they may have died many years ago, we are still deeply connected to those whom we mourn and remember today. יהי זכרם ברוך.
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