Historic Congregational Items
Halitzah Shoe

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Record 7/9
Copyright Statement
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Collection KKMI
Date 1792-March 21,1792
Description Halitzah shoe from 1792. Made of Kosher leather, missing laces and fastenings. Unknown origin.
Dimensions H-5 W-3.5 L-10.5 inches
Made 1792
Material Leather
Object Name Halitzah Shoe
Provenance Halitzah (literally 'taking off' the shoe) is the rite by which a widow whose husband has died without issue is released from the bond of Levirate marriage (in which the brother of a childless man is obliged to marry his widow).

In the book of Deuteronomy (25: 5-10) the law is promulgated that the widow of a childless man is obliged to marry his brother, but if the levir ("brother-in-­law") refuses to marry her, he has to undergo the rite of halitzah.

On the day set for the halizah, immediately after the morning service, when all the people are still in the synagogue, the three judges and their two assistants, who also act as witnesses, meet at the appointed place. The three judges sit on one bench, the two assistants on a bench placed beside it; the "yabam" (brother-in-law) and the yebamah stand between them. Before the ceremony, a public examination establishes the relationship of the parties and their maturity.

After these preliminary details, and after the yabam makes a public declaration that he has not been forced by outside influence to submit to the halizah, but acts of his own free will, the ceremony commences. The yabam must have his right foot, on which the shoe is placed, washed very scrupulously, and after he has strapped it on he must walk four cubits in the presence of the judges. He then presses his right foot against the floor while she loosens the straps with her right hand and, holding his leg in her left hand, takes off the shoe and throws it some distance away. Then she places herself in front of the yabam, spits on the floor in front of him, and repeats these words after the presiding judge:

"So shall it be done unto that man who will not build up his brother's house, and his name shall be called in Israel, 'the house of him that hath his shoe loosed."
Images courtesy of Congregation Mikveh Israel.

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Last modified on: April 19, 2012