Marriage, sex and death

Or should it be sex, death, and marriage? Hello from the depth of my creative cave.

I’ve been offline for a long time (sorry) trying to dig my way through this novel about Abigail, her husband, Ben, and his brother, Daniel, all of whom are caught in the love triangle that is a Levirate marriage (or yibbum as it is known in Hebrew).

It’s been slow going – unfortunately, I’ve thrown out somewhere in the region of 50,000 words – but I am now beginning to believe again that this novel will come to an end and will be published sometime this year.

In terms of actual progress, I’ve written around 60,000 keep-able words of the draft; I’ve killed the husband, Ben; and I am creating a tension between Abigail and Daniel that is starting to get momentum.

Image by Christiana Rivers
Image by Christiana Rivers

There is sex, but this is more than a novel about sex – it is about people and their decisions, their lives, their relationship with Judaism and community and family. Who am I kidding? It is also about sex and how it can drive us, blind us and generally muddy the water when it comes to life.

One of other big challenges is working out just how Levirate marriage laws apply in contemporary Orthodox Judaism – and what that means for the plot. It has not been as simple as I had initially imagined it would be and I am going to have to seek halachic guidance from a rabbi. But more on that later…

If you would like to hear about the book’s release (and any associated deals I might run), please join my mailing list. I promise you won’t be spammed, in fact, I am naughty for not having sent out an email in …forever!

Stay well, Shosha xx


Top image from

3 Replies to “Marriage, sex and death”

  1. In the Ashkenazic world, Yibbum is — IN MOST INSTANCES — no longer “performed” with Chalitzah being “executed” instead. [I have learned that there are a few very unusual circumstances where Chalitzah can NOT be performed even though the Brother-in-Law does not wish to “trap” the Widow. In such [RARE] instances, Yibbum WILL be “performed” and then a Get will be issued to the Widow.] However, in the Sephardic world, Yibbum *is* “performed”… and this is a “debate” in the Shulchan Aruch that goes back to the Talmud. Keeping in mind that NORMALLY the Torah prohibits VERY STRONGLY [with the Prohibition being called “Eishes Ach”] the marriage between a woman and her Brother-in-Law (i.e., her husband’s brother), one Tanna in the Talmud states that if a man performs Yibbum because of physical desire or a desire for money or for any such “ulterior” motive — that it is “close to” violating the Torah’s prohibition of Eishes Ach. While the other Rabbis disagree and state that once the Torah mandated Yibbum, we do not look at the Brother-in-Law’s motives, there is some disagreement among later authorities as to whose opinion we follow. The Shulchan Aruch follows the “majority opinion” that we do NOT look at the motives of the Brother of the Deceased while the Ramah (the Decisor for Ashkenazim) leans toward the view that we DO take this into account. Interestingly enough Rabbi M. Feinstein ZT”L apparently had a question where the woman (who was now a widow) was of Ashkenazi background while the husband’s family was Sephardic and the question was — could she be “part of” the Mitzvah of Yibbum since her background would prohibit Yibbum. [I believe that the answer was that she could / should follow the custom of her husband…]

    1. Hi Zvi, thanks for this! So interesting. I’m looking for sources that might allow yibbum to go ahead when both parties are of Ashkenazi background. Do you know of any?

Comments are closed.