כ״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ה (November 14, 2014)

Yevamot 41a-b: The Waiting Period

We have already discussed the concept of havhana (literally “a period of distinction”), that it is necessary for a woman to wait three months when moving from one relationship to another in order to clarify who is the true father in the event that the woman becomes pregnant (see 33). This rule appears in the Mishna on our daf, which teaches that a woman whose husband passes away with no children will receive neither yibum nor halitza for three months after his death. Furthermore, according to the Mishna, even in non-yibum situations this rule applies, whether the woman was divorced or widowed, whether the first marriage ended after eirusin (betrothal) or nissuin (full marriage). As we have learned, a Jewish wedding is made up of two parts – kiddushin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage). Although it is called betrothal, kiddushin is not just a commitment to marry – it is actual marriage. For example, if the couple chooses not to complete the marriage with nissuin, they will need a formal get (divorce). In the time of the Mishna, these two parts normally took place about a year apart, in order to give the bride and groom time to prepare for the wedding and for their marriage, but today they are done one after the other at the wedding ceremony.

Rabbi Yehuda permits someone whose failed marriage was only at the betrothal stage to get married without waiting three months, since it is reasonable to assume that the couple did not engage in sexual relations during that period. Similarly, even someone whose failed marriage was a full marriage of nissuin would be allowed to receive kiddushin immediately, since no sexual relations will take place until a later stage in the marriage. An exception would be the community in the southern part of Israel (Yehuda), where it was common practice to allow – and even encourage – a betrothed bride and groom to spend time together before the nissuin.

The custom in Yehuda to allow the bride and groom to spend secluded time together – which was understood to make it likely that they would consummate their marriage before the concluding ceremony – was a response to a governmental decree in the time of the Mishna that every Jewish bride was to spend a night with the local Roman governor before her marriage. Although the Gemara in Ketubot records that many efforts were made to avoid this decree, one method was to encourage a romantic, and indeed sexual, relationship between the couple even before the nissuin.

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