ט״ו בסיון ה׳תשע״ז (June 9, 2017)

Bava Batra 139a-b: Collecting Money After a Wife Dies

When a woman passes away and her husband inherits her property, do we view him as someone who purchased the property or someone who inherited the property? The difference presented by the Gemara between these two possibilities is whether someone who was owed money by the wife who passed away can collect. A milveh al peh – a loan made with a verbal agreement – collects from the estate, but not from someone who purchased property.

One suggestion made by the Gemara was based on one of takkanot Usha that allowed the husband to take his wife’s property from a purchaser after she dies.

What are takkanot Usha?

According to the Gemara in Massekhet Rosh HaShana (31a), at the time of the destruction of the Temple, as the Jewish people were sent into exile, God joined them by removing His presence from the Temple in a series of stages. In a parallel move, the gradually removed itself from its offices on the Temple Mount, as well, making its way to the Galilee, where most of the remaining Jews were to live under Roman rule.

The Sanhedrin’s first stop after leaving Jerusalem was the city of Yavne, which was established as a center of Torah study by Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, and became most famous under the direction of Rabban Gamliel of Yavne. Throughout its continuing travels, the Sanhedrin was headed by descendants of the family of Hillel.

It appears that the Sanhedrin was moved to Usha in the aftermath of the Bar Kokheva revolt, where a series of Rabbinic enactments – called takkanot Usha – were established. Under the leadership of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel there was an unsuccessful attempt to return the Sanhedrin to Yavne, but due to the overwhelming devastation in the southern part of the country, they returned to the Galilee, first to Usha and then to Shefar’am.

Takkanot Usha deal mainly with establishing the norms of monetary relationships within families. While these enactments were not included in the Mishna , they were known to the amora’im based on oral traditions.

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