QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that, in the laws of inheritance, when no direct descendant is alive to inherit the deceased, the ownership of the estate goes back in history, so to speak, until one of the ancestors of the deceased is found who has a living relative, who is entitled to inherit his ancestor's property. The Gemara explains that this law applies even if the property must be viewed as going as far back as Reuven, the oldest son of Yakov Avinu.

RAV GERSHON EIDELSTEIN shlit'a (in SHIUREI REBBI GERSHON) questions this law. The Gemara in Yevamos (46a) derives many of the laws of Gerus (conversion) from the procedures performed by the Jewish people at Har Sinai at the time of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. The Gemara clearly understands that the Jewish people had the status of converts at that time. However, there is a well-known principle that "Ger she'Nisgayer k'Katan she'Nolad Dami" -- "a convert who converts is like a newborn child." This means that the convert is no longer considered related to his previous family members. If this is so, how can an inheritance go back to Reuven such that his descendant should inherit it? No Jew is considered related to Reuven after Matan Torah!


(a) Rav Gershon records the classic statement of the MAHARAL (in GUR ARYEH, Parshas Vayigash) who asks this question in a different context. The Torah says that the Jewish people "cried about their families" (Bamidbar 11:10). The Gemara (Shabbos 130a) interprets this to mean that at the time of Matan Torah, the Jewish people cried about the familial relationships that were now forbidden to them once they received the Torah. The Maharal asks that according to the concept of "Ger she'Nisgayer k'Katan she'Nolad Dami," no relationships became forbidden such that the Jewish people should have cried! Since everyone had the status of a convert at the time of Matan Torah, no one was considered related to his former family members. The Gur Aryeh answers that the concept of "Ger she'Nisgayer..." applies only to a person who willingly converts. The Jewish people were forced to convert by Hash-m, as it were, as the Gemara in Shabbos (88a) relates, "Kafah Aleihem Har k'Gigis" -- "he held over them the mountain like a barrel." This unique form of conversion does not give one the status of a "Katan she'Nolad.

(b) Rav Gershon adds an answer of his own. The concept of "Ger she'Nisgayer..." applies only to a person who was a Nochri and became a Jew. The Jews before Matan Torah, however, were already semi-Jewish, since they already had received some Mitzvos. They therefore were not considered "k'Katan she'Nolad" when they converted. (Y. MONTROSE)



QUESTION: The Gemara relates that the Tzedukim used to say that the daughter of the deceased inherits together with the daughter of the son of the deceased. Rebbi Yochanan disproved their assertion from the verses that discuss Anah. One verse states that Se'ir had a son named Anah, while another verse states that Se'ir's son, Tziv'on, had a son named Anah. Rebbi Yochanan derives from these verses that Tziv'on had relations with his mother, Se'ir's wife, and gave birth to Anah. The verse is teaching that Se'ir is still called the father of Anah because of the rule that one's grandson is considered his own son. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the daughter of a son should have to share an inheritance with the daughter of the deceased, since such a situation is similar to a case of a son and a daughter, in which case the son receives all of the inheritance.

TOSFOS (DH Melamed) quotes RABEINU TAM who asks that Rebbi Yochanan's proof seems inconclusive. The Tzedukim could have responded that the verse refers only to sons of sons, not to daughters of sons!


(a) RABEINU TAM answers that Anah in fact was a woman, and thus Rebbi Yochanan's proof against the Tzedukim is well-founded.

How can one suggest that Anah was a woman, when the verse itself refers to Anah with the masculine word "Hu" ("he") and not "Hi" ("she")? Rabeinu Tam answers that the verse refers to her as "Hu" only because she inherited along with her brother.

(b) The RITVA answers that it is possible that there is no difference between the daughter of a son and the son of a son, as both are linked to their grandfather through the son. However, this is not a valid answer to the Tzedukim's claim (see 116a for the real answer), because even if one agrees that the daughter of a son is like a son, it does not mean that she is better than an actual daughter. It appears from this statement that the Ritva understands that the word "like" a son is not to be understood literally.

(c) The RASHBAM (DH b'Kach) understands that Anah was a male, and that Rabeinu Tam's point is explicitly addressed in the Gemara. When the Gemara says, "Rebbi, b'Kach Atah Potreni" -- "My teacher, with this you are letting me go?" it refers to this weakness in the teaching of Rebbi Yochanan, which prompted another teaching. (Y. MONTROSE)