The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 20 May 2017 / 24 Iyyar 5777

Bava Basra 114 - 120

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Daughter Versus Granddaughter

The Rule: The Torah law of inheritance limits the power of a woman to inherit any part of her father's estate to a situation where she has no brothers. Anyone who is an heir passes along his right of inheritance to his own heir - a grandchild inherits the grandfather if the father has already passed away.
The Case: A man has a son and a daughter. The son dies in his father's lifetime, leaving behind a daughter. When this man eventually dies he is survived by the aforementioned daughter and granddaughter. The granddaughter claims she is the sole heir because her aunt's power to inherit has been nullified by the existence of a male sibling heir or any of his survivors. The daughter claims a share of the inheritance because she is more closely related than the granddaughter. Who is right?
The Debate: This was the subject of a great historical debate between the Talmudic Sages and the Tzedukim (Sadducees) who distorted Torah teaching through their literal misinterpretations of Chumash and through their faulty logic. When the Tzedukim attempted to establish a claim for the daughter they were forcefully challenged by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai to explain their case. Only one of their older representatives managed to present any sort of argument and thus went his reasoning: "If a granddaughter, who is only connected to her grandfather through his son, has a claim to inheritance, then the daughter who is directly connected to her father should surely have a claim."

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai dismissed this argument as a foolish effort to challenge Torah Law as handed down by tradition. "A granddaughter has the power to inherit her grandfather," he pointed out, "even when there are sons - her uncles - as heirs. (The daughters of Tzlofchad shared with their uncles, the sons of Chefer, in the inheritance of their grandfather Chefer.) But a daughter has no share in the inheritance when she has a brother. (The daughters of Chefer had no share with their brothers.) Just as she is eliminated from the inheritance by her brother so too is she eliminated by her brother's survivor, male or female."

The Tzedukim accepted the Sage's argument, and that day, the 24th day of Teves, was established as a minor holiday to celebrate the re-establishment of that oral law of inheritance.

  • Bava Basra 115b

Asleep But Alive

"Hadad in Egypt heard that David reposed with his ancestors and that Yoav, the military commander had died..."(Melachim I, 11:21)

Why, asked Rabbi Pinchas ben Chama, is King David's passing described as "repose" while that of Yoav as "death"?

David left behind a son who was worthy of being his successor and therefore is considered only to be asleep since his life's work is perpetrated by his successor. Yoav, who left behind no son worthy of being his successor, is described in the definitive term of death.

  • Bava Basra 116a

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