י״ח בסיון ה׳תשע״ז (June 12, 2017)

Bava Batra 141a-b: Girls Vs. Boys

What are better, sons or daughters?

The Mishna (140b) brings a case of a man who says regarding his pregnant wife “if a boy is born he should be given a maneh (100 zuz).” The Mishna rules that if a son is born, he will be given that sum of money. Similarly, if the man says “if a daughter is born she should receive 200 zuz,” the child, if a girl, will receive that money. If the man says “if a boy is born he should receive a maneh, and if a daughter is born she should receive 200,” then if twins are born – one boy and one girl – then each will receive the money that was promised.

The Gemara on our daf wonders why all of the cases in the Gemara have the man offering a daughter more than a son – is a daughter preferable to a son? Several answers are offered by the Gemara:

Shmuel says that the case of the Mishna is when it is a first born child, and this follows the teaching of Rav Ḥisda who said that a first born girl is a siman yafeh – a good sign – for future sons. Some say this refers to the fact that an oldest daughter will help raise her younger siblings, while others interpret it to mean that it helps avoid eyna bisha – the evil eye. The Maharsha explains this as stemming from the fact that a first born son will receive a double portion, which is bound to create a certain amount of jealousy and tension between brothers. If a daughter is born first, all of that tension dissipates.

Rav Ḥisda says simply that he found his daughters to be better than his sons.

The Rashbam explains this statement based on his understanding that all of Rav Ḥisda’s sons died during his lifetime. Rabbeinu Tam argues that some of Rav Ḥisda’s sons remained alive, and suggests that his daughters married men who were great Sages and leaders of their generation. The Maharal says simply that Rav Ḥisda’s daughters were righteous and scholarly, and outshone his sons.

The Gemara concludes that the Mishna may follow the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda who felt that daughters must be given more since it is more difficult for them to go out and support themselves than it is for sons to do so.

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