May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.
This week we learned Bava Batra 137 and 139. These are some highlights.
Bava Batra 137: An etrog was gifted to many on the condition it would be returned. If the etrog came back with the pitum off, did they all not fulfill the mitzvah?
Our Gemara teaches that a gift given on condition that it must be returned is a full-fledged gift. To fulfill the mitzvah of etrog, I need to own it when I wave it. The Torah said, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day.” Our Sages have derived from the phrase “for yourselves” that it must belong to the taker to fulfill the mitzvah obligation. Our Gemara teaches that if Reuven had a beautiful etrog and he gave it to Shimon on condition that Shimon return it to him, if Shimon used it and returned it to him, Shimon would fulfill his mitzvah. Since Shimon fulfilled the condition, it was his while he had waved it. However, if Shimon would wave the etrog and then not return it during the holiday, Shimon would not have fulfilled his mitzvah. Since he never returned the fruit, he never fulfilled the stipulation, retroactively it was never his, and a person cannot fulfill the mitzvah with four species that he does not own. Our Gemara also teaches that if a person said, “This ox is given to you on condition that you return it to me,” he intended that it be returned in a usable state. If the recipient would attempt to consecrate the ox and then give it back to the giver, the return of a holy ox would not have fulfilled the condition. By saying “return it to me,” he meant “give it back to me in a usable state.” He has no ability to gain anything from a sacred ox.
Reuven had a beautiful etrog. Many people wanted to use it. He said, “Shimon, the etrog is yours on condition that after you use it, it goes to Levi, and after Levi to Yehuda, and then back to me.” Shimon used the etrog and then gave it to Levi. Levi used it and gave it to Yehuda. Yehuda used it. Yehuda waved the fruits vigorously. During the waving, the pitom of the etrog broke off. The etrog became pasul. Yehuda now gave the unusable fruit back to Reuven. Would everyone have now not fulfilled their obligation? Since the giver did not ultimately get back a usable etrog, did that mean that retroactively no one had fulfilled their obligations? Kaf Hachaim (Siman 658:50) argues that, in this case, no one fulfilled their obligations.
Such an event happened and the question was brought to the Chazon Ish. Chazon Ish said that ideally Shimon, Levi and Yehuda should shake again a different lulav and etrog. However, ultimately, he argued that Shimon and Levi had fulfilled their obligations. Reuven had said to Shimon, “Use it and then give it to Levi.” Since when Shimon gave it to Levi he was fulfilling the instructions of Reuven, it was as if he gave it to Reuven. Reuven’s condition to Shimon was fulfilled. Shimon therefore owned the fruits fully and fulfilled his obligations. However, Yehuda had not fulfilled his obligation. He was supposed to use the etrog and return a usable etrog to Reuven. Since he returned a blemished fruit to Reuven, he would need to do the act of the mitzvah again (Mesivta).
Bava Batra 139: What comes first, being buried in the Holy Land or supporting orphan daughters?
Shu”t Maharshach (Chelek Gimel Siman 96) deals with the following case: Reuven and his wife died in a plague. They left over two orphaned daughters. The leaders of the community where Reuven and his wife had lived sent the orphans to another city where the uncles of the girls lived. The uncles graciously welcomed their unfortunate relatives. The uncles sent a message to the leaders of the community asking for the assets of Reuven and his wife. They planned to try to invest the funds and earn profits with which to support the girls. They pointed out that the girls were in need and no one else stood ready to help them. The community leaders responded that they did not agree to send the assets over to the uncles. Reuven had asked that he be buried in the Holy Land. It would cost money to transport his remains to Eretz Yisrael. They planned to use the assets to pay for the costs of bringing the remains to the Holy Land. The uncles argued based on our Gemara. Our Gemara teaches that if a man dies and leaves over many assets, then the daughters should be supported from the estate until they marry or until they reach the age of 12, and the boys shall inherit. However, if a man died and left minimal assets, then the daughters should be supported from the estate and the sons should go and beg for their livelihood. Here, the father and mother had died and left minimal assets. Those assets should therefore now be obligated to provide support for the daughters. No one had the right to take the assets and use them for another purpose. The dispute was brought to the Maharshach.
Maharshach ruled that since there were only minimal assets left over, those possessions go to the daughters for their support. He pointed out that if the father were to explicitly instruct, “I do not want my assets to be used to support my daughters after I die,” we would not listen to his instructions.
The Sages have legislated that a person’s assets become obligated to provide for his daughters after his death. Even though he wants to fulfill a mitzvah with those assets, he is not stronger than the legislation of the Sages. The Maharshach therefore ruled that the assets should be sent to the uncles. Supporting daughters takes precedence before getting buried in the Land of Israel (Mesivta).
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.