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"At the same time, he can refuse to free the woman but the woman cannot refuse to marry the man." When halitza was first conceived, women throughout the world were considered the property of their husband’s family.

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"It was humiliating for me and it was humiliating for my brother-in-law," Sarah said of the ceremony.Even in cases of goodwill, halitza is fraught with anxiety.In a 2009 article on the subject, Lubitch described the case of a 60-year-old woman whose first husband had died 40 years earlier, and who had married and divorced in the interim.Rare as it is, halitza continues to evoke feelings of helplessness in the women it touches."In halitza, if the brother-in-law doesn’t want to marry his brother’s wife, he has a way out," said Elisheva Baumgarten, director of the Heller Center for the Study of Jewish Women at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.The second solution harks to medieval times, when some rabbis included a clause in the Jewish marriage contract (ketuba) stating that yibbum would not be required if the groom died childless.

Such a clause "would not be a violation of Jewish law," said Rabbi Michael Broyde, a judge for the Rabbinical Council of America and a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

What I am urging is for them to find ways around it, just as the rabbis have done in other matters," she said. The first, called shtar halitza, which she terms "far from perfect," would at least ensure the widow’s freedom.

Just prior to the wedding, the groom’s brother would sign a document promising to immediately perform halitza in the event of his brother’s death, or incur a heavy penalty.

When she went to the Rabbinate to marry a third time, the registrar noticed that she had never received halitza from her first husband’s brother whose whereabouts she did not know.

When the brother was located, he turned out to be diabetic and his legs had been amputated.

No civil marriage exists in Israel and non-Orthodox marriages performed in the country are not recognized by the state.