Halitzah: The Ceremonial Release from Levirate Marriage

Halitzah is the ritual that releases a childless widow from levirate marriage, wherein her brother-in-law must marry her to give her a child in his brother's name.

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Another instance of agunah in connection with halitzah is where the only brother of the deceased is a minor. Since a minor cannot perform halitzah, the widow has to wait until the boy reaches the age of 13 before she is free to remarry. So far no legal remedy has been found for this problem.

Reform Judaism in the 19th century rejected the requirements of either levirate marriage or halitzah, although Reform rabbis have been known to participate in the rite if the widow feels herself bound by conscience not to remarry without halitzah.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.