Shlomo and the Baby, by Popa

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    moi aussi

    coffee addict,you mentioned twice “if the brother was born after the marriage he can’t do yibum”. Where does marriage come in? If the brother was born after DEATH of his childless brother, there’s no yibum.

    (To some people marriage feels like death, but I don’t suppose that’s what you meant)

    sem graduate

    moi aussi: how can both the mother in law and daughter in law be potential yevamos? The mother in law had another child – the husband of the daughter in law. Based on what I learned in sem, the husband of the daughter in law died after the babies were born. Also, yibum cannot happen if the baby was born after death. However, if the mother in law is pregnant at the time of death, you have to wait to see if the baby will survive thirty days. If it does, chalitza needs to occur. If the mother in law is not pregnant at the time and there are no other siblings, how can the torah require yibum – that would make it impossible for the wife to ever remarry because she never knows if her deceased husband will suddenly have a “brother” making her marriage assur…

    moi aussi

    real israeli, I never learned these things in sem, I’m just learning them now. It seems that both brothers have to be alive at the same time, so the pregnant mother in law is insignificant.

    Your question about how both mother in law and daughter in law can be potential yevamos, is explained in one of my earlier posts.

    sem graduate

    First of all, if the son was still alive when the baby was born and died right after, there would be a requirement of yibum. Second of all, how would the daughter in law having the live baby affect the mother in laws requirement/lack thereof in terms of yibum – she definitely doesnt have to do it with her grandson so why would she be motivated to say the baby is hers?

    ☕️coffee addict

    moi aussi,

    you are correct thank you for pointing that out now it makes sense


    The Brilliant Wisdom of King Solomon

    by Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.

    in loving memory of Hindy Cohen

    The Brilliant Wisdom of King Solomon by Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.



    The Book of Kings [Sefer Melachim]

    Two women came to King Solomon and stood before him. One woman (#1) said: “My Lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while with her in the house. On the third day after I gave birth, she also gave birth. We live together; there is no outsider with us in the house; only the two of us were there. The son of this woman died during the night because she lay upon him. She arose during the night and took my son from my side while I was asleep, and lay him in her bosom, and her dead son she laid in my bosom. When I got up in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead! But when I observed him (later on) in the morning, I realized that he was not my son to whom I had given birth!”

    The other woman (#2) replied: “It is not so! My son is the live one and your son is the dead one!”

    The first woman (#1) responded: “It is not so! Your son is the dead one and my son is the living one!”

    They argued before King Solomon.

    King Solomon said, “Bring me a sword!” So they brought a sword before the King. The King said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other”

    The woman (#2) turned to the King, because her compassion was aroused for her son, and said: “Please my Lord, give her the living child and do not kill it!”

    The King spoke up and said: “Give her (#2) the living child, and do not kill it, for she is his mother!” All of Israel heard the judgment that the King had judged. They had great awe for the King, for they saw that the wisdom of God was within him to do justice. . The woman was rightfully awarded custody of her son.


    According to the Abarbanel and Metzudas David, King Solomon studied the countenance of each woman as they presented their claims and counter-claims, and by means of his penetrating and heavenly wisdom, understood which of the two women was telling the truth.

    Still, to prove this to the people, he had to demonstrate it in a way that everyone would acknowledge. Perhaps that is why he pretended not to know who said what, and repeated their arguments in reverse order, by repeating Woman #2’s argument first, and Woman # 1’s argument second.

    He even pretended to apply the well-known law of dividing disputed property. If two people come to court holding on to the ends of a piece of clothing, and each claims it to be his, the court divides it and gives each one half. King Solomon seemed to pretend to be ignorant of the many complicated details of this law, and to think that it applied to babies as well, which would have been ridiculously simpleminded. No judge would ever make such a foolish mistake. Yet, he succeeded in convincing the two women that he was serious.


    Notwithstanding the outcome, many believe that Woman #1 still made a convincing and persuasive argument. She made it clear that there were no witnesses because they lived alone. Perhaps she suspected that Solomon would be able to tell how old the baby was and identify the mother. According to the Radak and the Metsudas David, her argument was bolstered by the claim that no one else knew the identities of the babies, nor had one been sick, that the neighbors might remember whose baby it was. When she first got up, it was still dark. She could not recognize the baby, so she did not suspect that it was not hers. All she knew was that it was dead. But when it got light, she saw it and realized what had happened. She asserted that her baby boy was born three days earlier, and therefore there was some reliable distinction available.

    Woman #2 had only a brief presentation and did not claim to have any proof. She simply said that the live child was hers. All she did was state her case.

    Based on the first round of oral arguments, it would appear that Woman #1 had the better claim, and that she was the real mother.

    It is noteworthy, that Woman #1 did not bring the corpse of the dead child for further identification (blood or DNA testing). Perhaps the child was buried already, or its features were already changed making recognition difficult.


    According to the Devorim Rabah, King Solomon then repeated the arguments of both women, verbatim, without adding anything, making sure that he properly understood the arguments of both sides, listening carefully, and if there was anything that he misunderstood, the women had an opportunity to correct him.


    Second, the woman who was lying (#1) was initially interested in taking the living child for herself, otherwise she never would have asserted such a bold and aggressive claim in the first place.

    I have always wondered what made the liar speak and suddenly lose interest in having the child for herself? Why did she reverse herself? It defies logic.


    The Torah describes the practice of Yibbum in the Parsha of Ki Setzei (Devarim 25:5,7,9):


    Rule # 1: The man must die childless. According to the Talmud Bavli Yevamos 87b, Dying childless includes instances where a man once had children, but these children were already dead at the time of his own death.

    Rule #2: Grandchildren: According to the Talmud Bavli Yevamos 70a, if the deceased man has no living children but he does have living grandchildren, he is not considered to be childless, and therefore, there is no Yibbum obligation.

    Rule # 5: Minor: According to the Talmud Bavli Yevamos 105b, if the brother of the deceased is a minor, the widow is still bound to him, and does not have the option of freeing herself through Chalitzah since a minor lacks capacity to perform the ceremony. Instead she must wait until the brother reaches the age of majority (Bar Mitzvah 13) in order for him to render Chalitzah at that time. Only then may she remarry. According to the Talmud Bavli Niddah 45a if she wants to marry him, she must wait until he reaches 9 years of age.


    The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 2:175) asserts that the husbands of the two women were father and son, making the two women, mother-in-law (#2) and daughter-in-law (#1) to each other.

    According to the Meiri in his commentary to Talmud Bavli Yevamos 17a, the two Midrashim may be complementing each other – thanks to our 5-rule Yibbum analysis.

    King Solomon realized all of this and suspected that since the only one with a strong motive to lie was the daughter-in-law (#1), the child must really belong to the mother-in-law (#2).

    Perhaps this also explains why King Solomon ordered that the child be cut in half.

    Dear Mr. Cohen: Thank you for your letter of August 6. I appreciate having a list of the major Jewish holidays for the coming year. Your article on the famous Solomonic judgment was utterly fascinating. I was familiar with the law of Yibbum (though not in all the detail you describe)… The mother-in-law daughter-in-law explanation causes the whole incident (including Solomon’s confidence in the false mother’s reaction) to make sense. I guess even the most difficult riddle can be solved when you have three thousand years’ worth of scholars to work on the problem. Many thanks for the insight, conveyed with style and absolute clarity. Justice Antonin Scalia, United States Supreme Court

    ☕️coffee addict

    A very interesting pshat chafetcchaim

    moi aussi

    real israeli raised a valid point. The mother in law was not a potential Yevama, because the live baby, whether it was her son or her grandson, exempted her from Yibum.

    YW Moderator-42

    When it says “potential yevama” it means that her husband had just died and she needed offspring (child or grandchild) to exempt her from yibbum. He explains this in the next paragraph.

    moi aussi

    The Midrash (Koheles Rabah 10:16) tells us that the reason both of these women were so desperate to have the living child declared theirs was that they were both potential Yevamos (widows subject to Yibbum).

    Why was the mother in law desperate to have the living child declared hers? If it’s not hers, it’s her son’s child, either way she’s exempt from Yibum. She was never a potential Yevama.

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