We are finishing the tractate. The first part of the tractate focused on relationships which permit or prohibit the act of Yibum or marrying your dead brother’s wife. The second main theme is when a woman may remarry in the absence of normative proof. We have a Mishna that allows for two different results arising out of one husband. My favorite Mishna is a man takes his two wives oversees. The man did not return but both wives did and one said he is dead and one wife said he is still alive. They are both believed. One wife can remarry and one wife cannot.
The journeys in these cases fascinates me. Travelling in the ancient world was dangerous. Besides being eaten by a lion or a bear, there were marauding soldiers, thieves. Travel was not undertaken lightly. The difference between returning and not returning could be very arbitrary.
Recently a the Metropolitan Musueum of Art there was a bunch of pictures by Winslow Homer who painted sea faring scenes. One picture is very poignant. It is a man in a boat who is clearly in distress. In the foreground of the picture is a small boat…. A chance to be saved! salvation. The problem is his head is turned away from the boat . We don’t know if he will be saved We don’t know if he will be seen or he will see the boat.
Yefvamaos recognizes that life is dangerous. Life is full of tragedy and our job is to make the best of bad situations. The Tractate goes to great lengths to allow marriage, to avoid chained women or agunas. Travel like life is difficult. But it is good to know that Jewish law recognizes this and does its best to avoid bad outcomes. Life is arbitrary, but based upon many of the situations in Yevamaos, the law does its best to soften the pain,