Daf Yomi Yevamos 29
“Rabbi, we want to get a gett (divorce).”
I was shocked. Tim and Faith seemed like the perfect couple.
“Why? Did something happen?” I inquired.
They shook their heads. “No, nothing,” they replied, “we’ve just grown apart and out of love and we’ve decided it’s time to move on.”
“What about the kids?” I asked incredulously.
“Oh, we’ll share custody. It’s amicable, they’ll be fine. We just don’t love each other anymore. It’s time to move on.”
When a man dies childless, his brother must perform the levirate marriage with the widow (yibum). Biblically, this simply means cohabitation. The Rabbis instituted, however, that they have a proper wedding ceremony like any other, called maamar, which means ‘speaking’ the betrothal.
The Mishnah states: There were three brothers, two of whom were married to two sisters and one was single. One of the married brothers died and so the single brother performed maamar with the widow, but did not consummate the marriage (i.e. they did not perform biblical yibum). After that, the other married brother died. Of course he may not take the new widow as a wife, because one may not marry two sisters, but may he remain married to the first sister with whom the marriage was not yet consummated?
The House of Shamai says: He keeps his wife and the new widow is exempted, because she is his wife’s sister. The House of Hillel says: He must divorce his wife with a gett and with chalitzah (annulment of the levirate marriage) and the sister-in-law with chalitzah. This is the meaning of ‘Woe to him concerning his wife and woe to him concerning his brother’s wife.’
A successful, happy marriage takes a lot of work. It means constantly thinking about how to make your spouse the happiest person on the planet. You must make them feel like a queen or king. You need to constantly think of ways to make them feel special and find ever-creative ways to show your love if you want the marriage to flourish and stay fresh. Simply to ‘move on’ because you’ve grown bored is a total cop out and I guarantee that after the honeymoon period, you won’t be any happier with the next person.
But here’s the really bad news. It’s not all that rosy out there. You might look around and see smiling, happy couples and think ‘They’re so in love. Why isn’t my marriage so blissful?’
The hard truth: You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. Over the years, Rabbanit and I have dealt with people whose marriages faced crises ranging from infidelity to domestic violence to questions of sexual identity and more. To the world, these couples appeared perfect; but it was all a show.
That is the meaning of ‘Woe to him concerning his wife and woe to him concerning his brother’s wife.’ You might think that the grass is greener elsewhere and that everyone else has a rosier marriage. But you have no idea about your brother’s marriage.