Yevamot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Six



The final mishnah of our chapter outlines the procedure of halitzah.


Mishnah Six

[This is the procedure in the performance of] the commandment of halitzah:

1)                     He and his deceased brother’s wife come to the court, and they offer him appropriate advice, for it is said, “Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him” (Deut. 25:8). 

2)                     She then says: “My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a levir (yavam)” (verse 7). 

3)                     Then he says: “I do not wish to marry her” (verse 8). 

4)                     [These sayings] were spoken in the holy tongue (Hebrew). 

5)                     “Then his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, pull the sandal off his foot and spit in his face” (verse 9) spit that the judges can see.

6)                     “And make this declaration: Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house”.

7)                     Thus far they used to dictate.  

a)                                 When Rabbi Hyrkanus was under the terebinth at Kefar Etam he dictated the reading and completed the entire section, the practice was established to complete the entire section.

8)                     “And he shall go in Israel by the name of ‘the family of the unsandaled one’” (verse 10). [The recitation of this verse] is a commandment [to be performed] by the judges and not by the disciples.  

a)                                 Rabbi Judah says: it is a commandment incumbent upon all present to cry “[the man] that had his shoe pulled off, [the man] that had his shoe pulled off, [the man] that had his shoe pulled off.”



Most of this mishnah is straightforward so I will only explain the parts that require commentary.

Section one:  Verse 8 says that the elders must speak to the yavam.  This is interpreted by our mishnah as giving him advice as to whether he should have yibbum or halitzah.  The advice should be appropriate, meaning that if he is very old and she is young, or they are in some other way apparently not compatible, they court tells him that he should have halitzah and not yibbum.

Section four:  Since the Torah says that these verses must be recited by him and by her, they must be recited in Hebrew.  We will learn more about what things must be done in Hebrew and what can be done in other languages when we learn the seventh chapter of Sotah.

Section five: Our mishnah interprets the words, “in the presence of the elders” to mean that the elders must be able to see the spit.

Section seven:  The judges would dictate to the yevamah what to say up until this verse.  However, at first they would not dictate verse 10.  However, at a later time period, Rabbi Hyrkanus began to dictate the final verse and that became the established practice.