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Under the Biblical system of levirate marriage known as Yibbum, Chalitzah (Hebrew: חליצה) is the ceremony by which a widow and her husband's brother could avoid the duty to marry after the husband's death.

The ceremony involves the taking off of a brother-in-law's shoe by the widow of a brother who has died childless (Ruth 4:7), through which ceremony he is released from the obligation of marrying her, and she becomes free to marry whomever she desires (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). It may be noted that only one brother-in-law need perform the ceremony. The old custom of the levirate marriage (Genesis 38:8) is thus modified in the Deuteronomic code by permitting the surviving brother to refuse to marry his brother's widow, provided he submits to the ceremony of Chalizah.

In the Talmudic period the tendency against the original custom was intensified by the apprehension that the brother-in-law might desire to marry his brother's widow from other motives than that of "establishing a name unto his brother", and therefore many rabbis of Talmudic as well as of later times preferred chalizah to actual marriage (Yevamot 39b). Thus the ancient institution of the levirate marriage fell more and more into disuse, so that at present Chalizah is the general rule and marriage the rare exception.

In theory, however, the Biblical law of levirate marriage is still presumed to be in force, and in the ceremonies attending upon chalizah the presumption is that the brother-in-law brings disgrace upon himself and upon his family by refusing to marry his brother's widow.