ט״ו באייר ה׳תשע״ה (May 4, 2015)

Ketubot 91a-b: Dividing the Inheritance

As we learned yesterday, the ketubat benin dikhrin is the agreement written into the ketuba that guarantees payment of the mother’s ketuba to her sons, over and above any other inheritance that they receive from their father. The Mishna on our daf teaches that the ketubat benin dikhrin will only be paid to the children if there is some money that will be left in the estate to be divided up. If there will be no money left in the estate, we choose to apply the inheritance laws first, rather than ketubat benin dikhrin, because otherwise the Torah inheritance laws – yerusbah – will be missed out on entirely.

Ketubat benin dikhrin was first established by in order to encourage a bride’s father to be open-handed in the dowry that he offered. If he knew that it would be his grandchildren who would inherit the money after his daughter’s passing, he would likely be more generous. This Rabbinic rule is seen as being appropriate only if the Torah inheritance laws can be applied to at least a small amount of the estate.

The Gemara teaches that if a man was married to two women and at the moment of the man’s death there was a sufficient amount of money to pay both ketubot, then the ketubot will be paid to the women’s children, even if the value of the estate later drops. On the other hand, the Gemara is unsure how to rule in the opposite case, in which at the time of death there is not enough money to pay the ketubot and still have money left to divide as an inheritance, but the value of the estate later increases.

To answer this question, the Gemara tells the story of the children of the house of Tzartzur who found themselves in just such a situation. Rav Amram tried to convince the children whose mother had the larger ketuba to offer a compromise to those whose mother had a smaller ketuba, but they refused to do so. Finally the case came before Rav Nahman, who ruled that just as the heirs receive it in a case where the estate gets smaller, so too do the heirs receive it when the estate gets larger.

According to Rashi, Rav Nahman’s ruling is that we always follow the situation at the moment of death. Thus, in the case in question, there is not enough money to both pay ketubot and apply the biblical inheritance laws, so the ketubot will not be paid and the estate will be divided up as an inheritance. Tosafot quote the R”i, who understands Rav Nahman’s statement that “the heirs receive it” as saying that it should be the same in both cases, i.e. the ketubot will be paid to the sons according to the original agreement.

May the Fourth Be With You!

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