#51 - Bava Batra 114-120
Niece Versus Aunt
A major debate was waged between the Sages and the Tzedukim (Sadducees) who denied the authority of the Oral Law which ruled that if a man leaves behind a daughter she has no rights of inheritance together with her niece, her deceased brother’s daughter. Their argument was that the daughter who is directly descended from him should have as much right to inherit her father as the granddaughter who is only directly descended from his son and thus one generation removed. They were mistaken of course because a grandchild is considered as a child and the granddaughter has the status of a son.
When the Sages finally overcame the Tzedukim on this issue it was the 24th day of the Month of Tevet and that day was observed as a day of celebration during the time of the Beit Hamikdash.
One of the refutations presented by the Sages to their argument was based on an analysis of two passages in apparent conflict. In the Torah’s account of the family of Sair the Chorite which lived in the land eventually occupied by Esav, Anoh is identified as the son of Sair and the brother of Tzivon (Bereishet 36:20). Four passages later (36:24) this same Anoh is identified as the son of Tzivon. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zahkai’s resolution of this apparent contradiction is that Tzivon was indeed both the brother and father of Anoh. This was the result of Tzivon’s incestuous relationship with his mother which produced Anoh, who is his son but also his brother because they share the same mother.
The first of the above-mentioned passages nevertheless refers to Anoh as a son of Sair, while according to the scenario just described he is really only a grandson, the son of his son Tzivon. That passage also calls these descendants of Sair as “the residents of the land” and thus teaches us that Sair’s grandson Anoh inherited his grandfather in the same manner that his son did.
Once we see from this subtle message that grandchildren are considered like children in matters of inheritance it follows that the daughter of the deceased son has the same power as her father. Had her father been alive when her grandfather died his sister would have no claim according to what the Torah sets as the laws of inheritance. She therefore has the same power and inherits the entire estate to the exclusion of her father’s sister.
Bava Batra 115b
Like Father Like Son
In his old age King Solomon’s many wives turned his heart towards idolatry and he was no longer as faithful to Hashem as was his father David. As punishment Hashem set up two enemy forces to oppose him. One of these was led by the Edomite Hadad. When Yoav, the commander-in-chief of David’s army vanquished Edom and slaughtered all of its males, the young Hadad, who was a scion of the royal family, escaped to Egypt where he was virtually adopted by the reigning Pharaoh.
As long as either David or Yoav was alive Hadad was afraid to leave the security of Egypt to initiate any action against them. Then came the turning point. “Hadad heard, in Egypt, that David reposed with his ancestors and that Yoav, the military commander, had died, and Hadad said to Pharaoh: Send me away and I shall go to my land.” (Melachim I 11:21) Thus began Hadad’s career of causing trouble for David’s heir.
Why, asks Rabbi Pinchas ben Chama, is David’s passing described as “reposing with his ancestors” while Yoav’s as “dying”?
In his commentary on Melachim, Rashi offers two answers to this question. The first is that David’s death was a natural one while Yoav’s was the result of an execution (ordered by Solomon at his father’s request). The second one is mentioned by Rabbi Pinchas in our gemara. Since David left behind a son, Solomon, to succeed him as king, he could not really be considered as dead. Although Yoav also left behind children none of them was capable of succeeding him in his role and he is therefore considered dead.
Although this statement of Rabbi Pinchas does not relate directly to the laws of inheritance of property discussed in this perek, it appears here, along with the preceding statement of Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai regarding the importance of a man leaving behind a son to inherit him, because they are both extensions of the concept of inheritance as continuity.
“Who leaves behind no replacement” is how the person who fails to leave behind a son to inherit him is critically described (Tehillim 55:20). While this focuses on the dimension of continuity as expressed in the transmission of property, Rabbi Pinchas’ statement deals with the vacuum created by the passing of a man whose position in life is not filled by his son. This is described as death. When one leaves behind a son to succeed him, as did David, his passing only has the appearance of death – like someone asleep – but in actuality he lives on through his son.
Bava Batra 116a