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Bava Batra 112a-b

December 11, 2009

Going back to the times of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs, Jewish tradition has seen great importance in burying the dead in a permanent grave, ideally in a family plot.


This tradition is used by the Gemara on today's daf (=page) as a source for learning that a husband will inherit his wife if she passes away before he does. 


According to the Mishnah (108a), among the categories of people who inherit we find that a man will receive his wife's estate upon her death, although she will not receive his estate should he die first. Today's daf opens in the midst of a search for the source for the law that gives the husband the right to inherit, something that is out-of-the-ordinary in a list of blood relatives who inherit one another. The Gemara points to a passage in Sefer Yehoshua (24:33) where we learn that Aharon's son, Elazar ha-Kohen, was buried in the land of his son, Pinhas. How might Pinhas come to have land that did not belong to his father? The Gemara concludes that Pinhas must have married someone from a different tribe, and he received the land as an inheritance from her. 


Abayye objects to this proof, arguing that Pinhas may simply have purchased the land on which his father was buried. To this suggestion the Gemara responds that Elazar ha-Kohen could not possibly have been buried in land that was purchased, since such land would be returned to its owner at the yovel - the Jubilee year - and this righteous man would turn out to be buried in land that did not belong to him and his family. 


In a responsum, the Hatam Sofer learns from this Gemara that it is incumbent on every Jewish person to purchase a burial plot, so that he will not be buried in land that does not belong to him.


This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the TalmudTo learn more about the Steinsaltz Daf Yomi initiative, click here. 


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