Thursday, 29 June 2017

Bava Batra 158: Husband and Wife (then Mother and Son) are Crushed: Who Died First?

Our new Mishna is a play on our previous Mishna.  If a husband and wife - who has no children by this husband - are crushed by a house and we do not know who died first, there is a problem.  The husband heirs will claim that she died first, leaving all of her property to him, and his inheritance will include her wealth.  The wife's family will claim that the husband died first, and they are owed her ketubah and whatever property she brought into the marriage.  

In this case, the Mishna says that Beit Shammai instruct all of their inheritance to be divided.  Beit Hillel say that property brought into the marriage retains its ownership status.  Thus the ketuba bequeathed to the husband's heirs, for it is his property.  Any usufruct property that the wife brought into the marriage is returned to her father and his heirs.

The Gemara demonstrates that great rabbis will debate and debate.  They continue to disagree about whether Beit Shammai, Beit Hillel, or other opinions are correct in this case.

We learn a second new Mishna, and in this case Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel actually agree!  If a son and a mother are crushed by a house and we do not know who died first, the mother's paternal family will argue that the son died first so that they can collect more inheritance.  The heirs of the son will claim that the mother died first and as he collected her inheritance before he died, he can collect more.  Both houses agree that in this case the property should be divided.  But Rabbi Akiva says that in this case the property retains its previous ownership status.  Ben Azzai chides Rabbi Akiva.  Are you seriously going to argue when Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel finally agree on something?!

As part of its argument regarding this Mishna, the Gemara suggests that the air in Eretz Yisrael must make a person wise as great rabbis changed their opinions there.  The importance of keeping one's wealth within a woman's tribe is suggested here,  One rabbi posits that ben Azzai was a disciple-colleague of Rabbi Akiva.  We know this because of his less formal language with Rabbi Akiva.  As such, his challenge is not regarded as rude, but familiar.

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