הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁהָלַךְ בַּעְלָהּ וְצָרָתָהּ לִמְדִינַת הַיָּם וּבָאוּ וְאָמְרוּ לָהּ מֵת בַּעְלִיךְ לֹא תִּנָּשֵׂא וְלֹא תִּתְיַיבֵּם עַד שֶׁתֵּדַע שֶׁמָּא מְעוּבֶּרֶת הִיא צָרָתָהּ MISHNA: In the case of a woman whose husband and rival wife traveled to a country overseas, and witnesses came and told her: Your husband died, she shall not marry any other man, in case she requires levirate marriage with her brother-in-law, i.e., yavam, in which case she is prohibited from marrying anyone else. And she also shall not enter into levirate marriage until she knows whether she, i.e., her rival wife, is pregnant. If her rival wife bears a child to her late husband, she does not have a levirate bond with her brother-in-law, and she is therefore prohibited from marrying him.
הָיְתָה לָהּ חָמוֹת אֵינָהּ חוֹשֶׁשֶׁת יָצְתָה מְלֵיאָה חוֹשֶׁשֶׁת רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר אֵינָהּ חוֹשֶׁשֶׁת If she had a mother-in-law overseas, but her late husband had no brothers, she need not be concerned that a brother to her husband may have been born. But if her mother-in-law departed from her town pregnant, this widow should be concerned that perhaps her late husband now has a brother, with whom she is obligated in levirate marriage. Rabbi Yehoshua says: Even in such a case she need not be concerned and may marry whomever she wishes.
גְּמָ׳ מַאי הִיא צָרָתָהּ הָא קָא מַשְׁמַע לַן לְהָא צָרָה הוּא דְּחָיְישִׁינַן אֲבָל לְצָרָה אַחֲרִיתִי לָא חָיְישִׁינַן GEMARA: The Gemara asks: What is implied by the extra word: She, in the expression in the first clause of the mishna: Whether she, i.e., her rival wife, is pregnant? The Gemara answers that it teaches us this: We are concerned about a possible pregnancy of this rival wife who went overseas with her husband, but we are not concerned about the possibility that he married another rival wife overseas and sired a child by her.
לֹא תִּנָּשֵׂא וְלֹא תִּתְיַיבֵּם וְכוּ׳ בִּשְׁלָמָא יַבּוֹמֵי לָא דְּדִלְמָא מִיעַבְּרָא וְקָפָגְעָה בְּאֵשֶׁת אָח דְּאוֹרָיְיתָא אֶלָּא לֹא תִּנָּשֵׂא אַמַּאי הַלֵּךְ אַחַר רוֹב נָשִׁים וְרוֹב נָשִׁים מִתְעַבְּרוֹת וְיוֹלְדוֹת It was taught in the mishna: She shall not marry any other man and shall not enter into levirate marriage until she knows whether her rival wife is pregnant. The Gemara asks: Granted, she may not enter into levirate marriage, because perhaps her rival wife is pregnant, and if so, this widow would encounter the Torah prohibition proscribing a brother’s wife. If a child is born to her late husband, levirate marriage is not required and she is prohibited from marrying her brother-in-law. But why should she not marry another man? Follow the majority of women, and as most women become pregnant and give birth, it is probable that her rival wife did have a child.
לֵימָא רַבִּי מֵאִיר הִיא דְּחָיֵישׁ לְמִיעוּטָא Shall we say that the mishna follows the opinion of Rabbi Meir, who is concerned about the minority? There is a minority of women who do not give birth, and Rabbi Meir takes this minority into consideration and requires the widow to wait and clarify whether or not she is required to enter into levirate marriage.
אֲפִילּוּ תֵּימָא רַבָּנַן כִּי אָזְלִי רַבָּנַן בָּתַר רוּבָּא רוּבָּא דְּאִיתֵיהּ קַמַּן כְּגוֹן תֵּשַׁע חֲנוּיוֹת וְסַנְהֶדְרִי אֲבָל רוּבָּא דְּלֵיתֵיהּ קַמַּן לָא אָזְלִי רַבָּנַן בָּתַר רוּבָּא The Gemara rejects this: You can even say that the mishna follows the opinion of the Rabbis. When the Rabbis follow the majority, it is an evident majority, which is extant and can be examined. For example, in a situation where a piece of meat is found in front of nine stores selling kosher meat and one store selling non-kosher meat, if it is not known from which store the meat came, it may be assumed that it came from one of the stores that sells kosher meat. And similarly, the Sanhedrin reaches its decisions by a majority vote of its members. But with regard to a non-evident majority, which is based solely upon general statistical information, such as the assertion that most women become pregnant and give birth, even the Rabbis do not follow the majority.
וַהֲרֵי קָטָן וּקְטַנָּה דְּרוּבָּא דְּלֵיתָא קַמַּן הִיא וְאָזְלִי רַבָּנַן בָּתַר רוּבָּא דְּתַנְיָא קָטָן וּקְטַנָּה לֹא חוֹלְצִין וְלֹא מְיַיבְּמִין דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי מֵאִיר אָמְרוּ לוֹ לְרַבִּי מֵאִיר יָפֶה אָמַרְתָּ שֶׁאֵין חוֹלְצִין אִישׁ כְּתִיב בַּפָּרָשָׁה וּמַקְּשִׁינַן אִשָּׁה לְאִישׁ אֶלָּא מָה טַעַם אֵין מְיַיבְּמִין The Gemara challenges: But the case of a minor boy or minor girl, as pertains to levirate marriage, is dependent upon a non-evident majority, and nevertheless the Rabbis follow the majority in their ruling, as it is taught in a baraita: A minor boy or minor girl may not perform ḥalitza and may not enter into levirate marriage; this is the statement of Rabbi Meir. The Rabbis said to Rabbi Meir: You have aptly stated that they may not perform ḥalitza, since “man” (Deuteronomy 25:7), i.e., an adult male, is written in the section of the Torah pertaining to ḥalitza. Though an adult female is not mentioned explicitly, we employ an analogy based on juxtaposition of the woman to the man and require that the female involved in ḥalitza be an adult as well. But what is the reason that they may not enter into levirate marriage, about which the Torah’s phraseology does not specifically indicate adults?
אָמַר לָהֶם קָטָן שֶׁמָּא יִמָּצֵא סָרִיס קְטַנָּה שֶׁמָּא תִּמָּצֵא אַיְלוֹנִית וְנִמְצְאוּ פּוֹגְעִים בְּעֶרְוָה וְרַבָּנַן סָבְרִי זִיל בָּתַר רוּבָּא דִּקְטַנִּים וְרוֹב קְטַנִּים לָאו סָרִיסֵי נִינְהוּ זִיל בָּתַר רוֹב קְטַנּוֹת וְרוֹב קְטַנּוֹת לָאו אַיְלוֹנִית נִינְהוּ אֶלָּא מְחַוַּורְתָּא מַתְנִיתִין רַבִּי מֵאִיר הִיא He said to them: I am concerned about the minor boy, lest he be confirmed as a sexually underdeveloped man when he grows up, and I am concerned about the minor girl, lest she be confirmed as an aylonit, a sexually underdeveloped woman, when she grows up. Then levirate marriage would not apply, and they would end up encountering a forbidden relative if they consummated the levirate marriage. And the Rabbis hold: Follow the majority of minor boys, and most minor boys are not sexually underdeveloped when they grow up. Likewise, follow the majority of minor girls, and most minor girls are not in the category of aylonit when they grow up. This indicates that the Rabbis disagree with Rabbi Meir even with regard to a non-evident majority. Rather, it is clear that the mishna is following Rabbi Meir, who is concerned about the minority.
בְּמַאי אוֹקֵימְתָּא כְּרַבִּי מֵאִיר אֵימָא סֵיפָא הָיְתָה לָהּ חָמוֹת אֵינָהּ חוֹשֶׁשֶׁת אַמַּאי הַלֵּךְ אַחַר רוֹב נָשִׁים וְרוֹב נָשִׁים מִתְעַבְּרוֹת וְיוֹלְדוֹת מִיעוּט מַפִּילוֹת וְכׇל הַיּוֹלְדוֹת מֶחֱצָה זְכָרִים וּמֶחֱצָה נְקֵבוֹת סְמוֹךְ מִיעוּטָא דְמַפִּילוֹת לְמֶחֱצָה נְקֵבוֹת וְהָווּ לֵיהּ זְכָרִים מִיעוּטָא וְלֵיחוּשׁ The Gemara asks: In what manner did you establish the mishna? You established it in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Meir. However, say the latter clause: If she had a mother-in-law overseas, she need not be concerned that her mother-in-law may have given birth to another son. Why should she not be concerned about this? Follow the majority of women, and most women become pregnant and give birth. The minority become pregnant and miscarry. And among all women who give birth, half of the children are male and half are female. Therefore, we can join the minority who miscarry to the half who give birth to females, and then the male children born would be only the minority. Nevertheless, if the mishna actually follows Rabbi Meir, who is concerned about minority circumstances, let him be concerned that a yavam might have been born, necessitating a levirate marriage.
דִּלְמָא כֵּיוָן דְּאִיחְזְקָה לַשּׁוּק לָא חָיֵישׁ רֵישָׁא דְּאִיחְזַק לְיִיבּוּם תִּיַּיבַּם The Gemara rejects this: Perhaps, since the widow is legally presumed to be permitted to marry a man from the general public, since her husband had no known brothers, Rabbi Meir is not concerned about the minority. The Gemara challenges: If so, in the first clause of the mishna, where the widow is legally presumed to require levirate marriage, as her husband had no children, she should be permitted to enter into levirate marriage without concern that her rival wife might have given birth.
אָמַר רַב נַחְמָן אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר אֲבוּהּ רֵישָׁא דְּאִיסּוּר כָּרֵת חָשְׁשׁוּ סֵיפָא דְּאִיסּוּר לָאו לֹא חָשְׁשׁוּ The Gemara answers that Rav Naḥman said that Rabba bar Avuh said: In the first clause of the mishna, which relates to a prohibition proscribing a brother’s wife when levirate marriage does not apply, which bears the punishment of karet, they were concerned about the minority possibility because of the severity of the prohibition. But in the latter clause of the mishna, which relates to an ordinary prohibition, that of a woman whose husband died childless marrying without performing ḥalitza, the prohibition is not so severe. Therefore, they were not concerned about the minority and relied upon the presumption.
אָמַר רָבָא מִכְּדֵי הָא דְּאוֹרָיְיתָא וְהָא דְּאוֹרָיְיתָא מָה לִי אִיסּוּר כָּרֵת מָה לִי אִיסּוּר לָאו אֶלָּא אָמַר רָבָא Rava said in opposition to this contention: Now since this prohibition is by Torah law and that prohibition is by Torah law, what difference is it to me if it is a prohibition bearing the punishment of karet and what difference is it to me if it is an ordinary prohibition? If both prohibitions are by Torah law there is no justification for distinguishing between a severe prohibition and a minor one? Rather, Rava said that we must reject this contention, and say: