כ״ב באב ה׳תשע״ו (August 26, 2016)

Bava Kamma 88a-b: Ordinances of Usha

Our Gemara discusses the story of a woman who wrote a will, giving her inheritance to her son. After her death, her husband contested the will, arguing that the inheritance belonged to him. Rabbi Yossi bar Hanina concludes that takkanot Usha allows the husband to take possession of his wife’s property after her death, even if she sold it while she was alive.

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.

map of GalileeThe Sanhedrin’s first stop after leaving Jerusalem was the city of Yavneh, which was established as a center of Torah study by Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, and became most famous under the direction of Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh. 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 Kokhba 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 Yavneh, 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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