1) A WOMAN WHO INHERITS
OPINIONS: The Mishnah (143b) states that if a woman increases the value of an estate before it is divided among the heirs, she does not receive the increased value for herself; rather, it is shared by all of the heirs. If, however, she explicitly stated that she was ready to receive her portion and Beis Din delayed dividing the estate, then she does receive the value of the increase that she caused to her portion of the estate.
The Gemara asks what right a woman has to any portion of the estate. A woman does not inherit any part of her deceased husband's estate; she receives only her Kesuvah (or Mezonos (support) from the estate until she receives her Kesuvah, in which case all of her income is given to her husband's heirs, who support her from the estate).
The Gemara answers that the Mishnah refers to a case in which the woman inherits. What case is this?
(a) The RASHBAM gives several possible scenarios in which a woman would inherit property. In one case, a man dies and is survived by several sons, as well as the daughter of another son who is deceased. That daughter inherits the share that her father was entitled to receive from his father's estate. The Mishnah may refer to a granddaughter in such a case. In another case, a man dies and leaves only daughters, in which case the daughters inherit his property. The Mishnah may refer to a case in which one of those daughters increases the value of the property.
The Rashbam describes a third scenario in which a woman can inherit: A man marries his brother's daughter, who is the brother's only child, and then both brothers die. Subsequently, the father of the two brothers dies. The offspring of both brothers take the place of their fathers to inherit their grandfather's property. Thus, the daughter, who was her father's only child, inherits the property together with the sons of the other brother (her husband).
There is a problem with all of these explanations. The Mishnah says that if the woman states, "See what my husband left for me," then she receives the increase that she caused to the value of the property. This clearly implies that she inherits her husband's property. How is it possible for a woman to inherit her husband's property?
Apparently, the Rashbam intends to answer this question (see end of MAHARSHA to Tosfos here) when he says that the Mishnah there does not refer to its previous case of a woman who inherits, but rather it refers to a different case altogether -- the case of a widow who has not yet collected her Kesuvah but who has demanded payment from her husband's estate. In such a case, the Mishnah rules that if she increases the value of the property, then she keeps the increase in value. According to the Rashbam, the wording used by the woman in the last case of the Mishnah does not reflect at all on the previous case of the Mishnah, which is the case which the Gemara explains as referring to a woman who inherits.
The Rashbam suggests one more scenario which resolves this problem. The Rashbam presents a case in which a man, before he died, specifically stated that his wife should receive a portion (as a gift) together with his sons. In such a case, the woman indeed receives a portion of her husband's estate. However, there is a different problem with this explanation: the Mishnah seems to be discussing cases of Yerushah, inheritance, and in this case the woman receives a portion of the property as a gift, and not as an inheritance.
(b) TOSFOS in the name of the RI gives an answer to support one of the cases that the Rashbam describes (the case in which one of the sons married his brother's daughter). He explains that since a husband is entitled to all of the produce of any property that his wife inherits, and she may not use, sell, or consume that produce for herself, it is indeed relevant for her to say, "See what my husband left for me," because she had no rights to the use of the field while he was alive.
This explanation of Tosfos differs slightly from the way the Rashbam explains the scenario. The Rashbam presents a case in which both brothers die before their father dies, and all the grandchildren inherit directly from the grandfather immediately upon his death. Tosfos, however, implies that the property was already in the possession of the granddaughter's husband before the grandfather's death. According to Tosfos, the woman's father died first, and then her grandfather died and his property was inherited by his living son and by the daughter of his other son who died earlier. However, at the time that the daughter inherits her father's share of the grandfather's property, she is married to her father's brother, and thus he receives all of the rights to the produce of her newly inherited property. Then, when her husband dies, she gains the rights to the produce of her property. That is why she says, "See what my husband left for me."
(c) Tosfos gives another explanation in the name of the RIVAM. In the Rivam's scenario, there are several brothers whose father died long ago. One of the brothers has a daughter as an only child, and she marries another brother and then her father dies. Subsequently, her husband dies without children. When a person dies without children, his brothers inherit his property. In this case, the widow of the deceased inherits a portion of her husband's property in place of her father, who was her husband's brother. Thus, it certainly is appropriate for her to say, "See what my husband left for me." The RIF gives a similar explanation.
(The RI rejects this explanation, because the Gemara implies that the other heirs who inherit Reuven's property are the "Yesomim," the orphans, of Reuven, and not his brothers or their offspring. The RITVA, however, says that it is standard for the Gemara to use the term "Yesomim" to refer to any heirs, not just to the orphans left by the deceased. Alternatively, the other heirs are children, and that is why the Gemara refers to them as Yesomim.)
2) SENDING A GIFT FOR WHICH ONE MAY NOT DEMAND RECIPROCATION
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that -- in contrast to the practice of sending Shushvinus -- if a person sends to his friend a gift of wine or oil, he does not have the right to demand in court that his friend reciprocate the gift, because he has merely done an act of Gemilus Chasadim.
The RASHBAM suggests two possible cases that the Mishnah may be discussing. Perhaps the Mishnah's case is one in which a person sends a gift to a friend who is not getting married or having a wedding feast (and thus the gift clearly is not a gift of Shushvinus). The second explanation is that, indeed, the gift is sent to the wedding feast of a friend, but the sender does not go there personally to partake in the feast and to rejoice with his friend. Since he does not go there to rejoice, the gift is not considered a gift of Shushvinus; rather, it is an ordinary present and thus the giver may not demand reciprocation.
Both of these explanations are problematic.
(a) With regard to the first explanation, the TORAS CHAIM asks that there seems to be no reason for the Mishnah to teach the Halachah about a gift that is sent when there is no wedding. It is obvious that when a person sends an unconditional gift to a friend and does not say that he is doing so only in order to receive a gift in return, he cannot demand later that his friend send him a gift in return.
(b) With regard to the second explanation, the TORAS CHAIM asks that if the Mishnah is discussing gifts sent to a wedding feast, then the Mishnah should mention that fact, since it is a great Chidush to say that if a person gives a gift but does not participate in the wedding feast, he does not have the right to receive gifts in return. Moreover, the Mishnah should not have described the case merely as, "One who sends jugs of wine and jugs of oil...." Rather it should have said, "But one who sends Shushvinus and does not partake in the wedding feast...."
(a) In defense of the first explanation, the PNEI SHLOMO answers that the Rashbam's intent is to explain as the ALIYOS D'RABEINU YONAH explains in the name of "Yesh Mefaresh" (which is also the explanation of the RAV AVAD). They explain that in the Mishnah's case, the recipient of the gift is making a "Se'udas Mar'us," a feast for all of his beloved friends. In such a case, when a person sends gifts to his friend who is making the feast, it certainly would be logical that he does so with the intention that when he, too, makes such a feast, this friend will send him gifts as well. Therefore, the Mishnah must teach that such a gift is only an act of generosity and reciprocation cannot be demanded in court.
(b) The PNEI SHLOMO answers the second question as well and contends that the Mishnah's wording indeed implies the case that the Rashbam suggests. The word, "ha'Shole'ach" -- "one who sends," implies that the giver merely sends gifts and does not come personally, because only when he comes personally are his gifts considered gifts of Shushvinus. Thus, it is not possible for the Mishnah to use the term, "One who sends Shushvinus...," because if he sends the gifts rather and does not bring them personally, they are not considered gifts of Shushvinus! (I. Alsheich)