Monday, 19 June 2017

Bava Batra 148: One Tree, Two Gifts; Deathbed Schemes; Gift Retraction

The rabbis discuss the case of a tree and it's fruit.  Can one give his palm tree as a gift to one person but give the actual dates to a different person?  Perhaps this situation is similar to that of one who sells a house to another on the condition that the top floor still belongs to the original owner.  This is understood to be allowed as "additional rights", including the building of projections from that upper floor.  Thus a date tree could be sold while the dates are reserved for the seller.

The rabbis return to the question of one who offers gifts of property on his deathbed.  If he dies, the gifts cannot be retracted.  If he survives, he is permitted to retract the last gift, which was reserved as a place for him to live.  To determine that he did not use this as a tactic to distribute his land in an unorthodox manner, the rabbis suggested that he would have to be left with no land of his own.  Currently, the rabbis wonder whether such a person might actually have land hidden away somewhere for himself.  Likely not, the rabbis presume in the end.

The Gemara discusses the notion of full and partial retractions of gifts given on one's deathbed.  Numerous possible circumstances are suggested.  Many of these are left unresolved.  It seems that the rabbis continue to be extremely concerned about the lengths that people might go to bequeath their property to whom they choose.  Many of these conversations leave me wondering how much the halacha were actually adhered to in ancient Jewish community.  At the very least, people have always wanted what we have wanted.  We continue to be hesitant to do what we are told to do when what we want to do is something different.

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