כ״א באייר ה׳תשע״ז (May 17, 2017)

Bava Batra 115a-b: The Order of Inheritance

The Mishna on today’s daf delineates the order of inheritance according to biblical law:

  1. sons of the deceased or the sons’ descendants
  2. daughters of the deceased or the daughters’ descendants
  3. brothers of the deceased or the brothers’ descendants
  4. the father of the deceased
  5. the father of the deceased’s brothers.

In theory, this order can lead to a situation where a person’s granddaughters may receive his inheritance, even though his daughters will not. In the event that someone dies with both a son and a daughter, the son will receive the inheritance. Should that son die before his father, leaving daughters but no sons, then when the father dies his granddaughters will receive the inheritance – based on their father’s right to inherit – rather than their aunt, even though she is a more direct descendant.

This anomaly was, apparently, part of the debate between the tzdokim (Sadducees) and the perushim (Pharisees of the Talmud). Thus we find Rav Huna quoting Rav as ruling that anyone who suggests that in such a case the daughter will share the inheritance with the granddaughters will be disregarded, since such a suggestion is ma’aseh tzdokim – the work of the Sadducees.

The disagreements between the Sages of the Talmud and the Sadducees existed on a number of different levels, ranging from broad concept of faith, like the question of the existence of a World to Come, to practical issues of halakha where the Sadducees rejected the oral traditions of the Sages of the Talmud. Generally speaking, the Sadducees were among the elite population who had close relationships with the later Hasmonean kings, and they had significant political power, even as they were a minority of the population. Their attempts to create tension between the Sages and the monarchy led the Sages to publicly reject their positions, even when there may have been good reason to consider them.

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