Yevamot 15 - Did Beit Shammai do it?
Earlier we learned that a marriage permitted according to Beit Shammai would lead, according to Beit Hillel, to a serious consequence of a child being a mamzer and being forbidden to marry a Jew. The question therefore is, did Beit Shammai actually follow their point of view in practice?
One attempt to decide this is by analyzing the story of Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri, who said, "How are we do resolve it? Should we simply agree with Beit Shammai? But the child is mamzer according to Beit Hillel! And if we simply agree with Beit Hillel - but the child of the marriage they allow is not fit to marry a Kohen, and soon we will not have priests! Rather, let's do this: in every such case let us do a chalitzhah, but not a yibum. Since we ban yibum, we will never come into problem with Beit Hillel: even if they do halitzah, it is meaningless, and so no harm. And according to Beit Shammai, this will also be acceptable, because they require either a yibum or chalitzah." However, the Sages never got to vote and put this measure into practice.
Can we deduce from this that Beit Shammai actually acted according to their view? For otherwise, what "previous cases" are we talking about?
Not necessarily! It could be that this measure was not flawless for a different reason. By previous cases we mean the cases of Beit Hillel: the husbands who married their wives following the view of Beit Hillel will now observe their wives getting chalitzah from another man, implying that the husband's marriage was illegal until then! This cannot be, for "All the Torah's ways are pleasantness and all its paths are peace."
Art: Double portrait of a husband and wife by Wolfgang Heimbach