I. Messianic Marriage
At first glance, there can be no greater severance of marital bonds than the death of a spouse. But on a spiritual level, death is only temporary. The soul lives on forever. Is marriage completely ended by death or is that merely permission to remarry? This question has both theological and practical implications.
R. Sa’adia Gaon (Emunos Ve-Dei’os 7:6) asks whether, on the general messianic resurrection, formerly married couples will remain married. If not, presumably couples who wish to remain together must remarry. You can imagine that when mashi’ach comes, smart money will move from weapons manufacturers to wedding providers. R. Sa’adia Gaon leaves the question open, saying that Moshe will be alive to answer it for us.
However, Sefer Nitzachon (quoted in Hagahos Yad Sha’ul, Yoreh De’ah 366:3) contends that a widow who remarries will remain married to her second husband on resurrection. In other words, her death does not dissolve her second marriage.
II. Personal Resurrection
The above discussion revolves around the general resurrection in the messianic future. What if a woman is resurrected by miracle, as happened in the Bible (1 Kings 17; 2 Kings 4)? Is she still married to her husband or is she free to marry any man she chooses? For example, if we take literally the story in Megillah (7b) that Rabbah killed R. Zeira on Purim and then brought him back to life, was R. Zeira still married to his wife (R. Avraham ben Ha-Rambam says that he merely injured and healed him)?
Ba’er Heitev (Even Ha-Ezer 17:1) quotes the Kenesses Ha-Gedolah who says that the original marriage is still binding. As support, he cites the story of R. Chaninah bar Chachinai’s wife. On seeing her husband after years of separation, she died and he brought her back to life through prayer. If they were then no longer married, the story would have quite an anticlimactic ending.
Similarly, Pischei Teshuvah (ad loc., 1) quotes the following proof from the Birkei Yosef. He quotes a passage in the Talmud Yerushalmi as proof. The Yerushalmi (Gittin 7:3) quotes R. Yossi’s view that if a man divorces his wife on condition that he does not return by a specific time and he dies, she may not remarry immediately because he might be miraculously resurrected. While we do not follow this view because we are not halakhically concerned with miracles, there is no evidence that we reject the view that the marriage remains if a miracle occurs.
This all relates to death within a marriage without subsequent remarriage. If a spouse remarries, that might further sever the original bond.
R. Moshe Sofer (Responsa Chasam Sofer 2:355) addresses a remarried woman whose first husband’s bones are collected and buried. Normally, the collection and burial require mourning on that day even if mourning had already been observed on death (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 403:1). While the Shulchan Arukh (ibid.) only mentions the deceased’s children mourning, the Shakh (Yoreh De’ah 375:8) says that all close relatives should mourn. Does a remarried woman mourn for her first husband?
The Chasam Sofer rules that she does not. His first argument is logical. The Sifra (on Lev. 21:3) infers that a cohen becomes impure for the death of an “engaged” (arusah) sister (kerovah eilav, close to him) but not a married sister. Her marriage halakhically terminates their closeness. If marriage ends a closeness that derives from birth, certainly it terminates a closeness that emanates from a previous marriage.
He brings another proof from R. Eliezer’s position in Gittin (83a) on a conditional divorce. R. Eliezer held a minority view that permits certain kinds of conditional divorces. The Gemara states that, according to him, a condition is nullified on remarriage. For example, if a man divorces his wife by saying that she is allowed to marry any man except Shimon (for example), and she remarries and then divorces or becomes widowed, she may then marry Shimon. Rashi (ad loc., sv i be-chutz) states that on remarriage, the original marriage is totally disconnected. Similarly, the Chasam Sofer suggests by comparison, on remarriage the connection that triggers the obligation to mourn the first husband is severed.
He also cites Mo’ed Katan (21b) about belated comfort to a mourner. If you miss shivah, you may still comfort a mourner privately as long as the mourning continues (thirty days or a year, depending on the relative). However, if a man remarries within thirty days of his wife’s death, for whatever reason (see Tosafos), you may not comfort him in front of his new wife out of sensitivity for the new spouse. While this does not necessarily imply that the first marriage is completely severed, it sheds light on the Chasam Sofer‘s question. A woman mourning for her first husband may cause difficulty with her new husband.
R. Yosef Shaul Nathanson (Hagahos Yad Shaul, Yoreh De’ah 366:3, cited in She’arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halakhah 199:7) addresses a question of burial rights that he faced. A woman had children with a first husband and none with a second. After her death, her burial place was disputed. Should she be buried next to her first husband or her second? In some communities (is it only Hungarians?), women and men are buried in separate sections. However, it is clear in halakhic literature, indeed in multiple places in Shulchan Arukh, that husband and wife are buried next to each other. But which husband/wife? We understand that after a divorce, spouses will not be buried next to each other. But remarriage after death, sometimes after decades together, may be different.
R. Nathanson quotes the Sefer Nitzachon and the Chasam Sofer as proof that the first marriage is entirely severed and the woman should be buried next to her second husband. Even if death does not fully dissolve marital bonds, remarriage ends all connection.