Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Transferring Inheritance Away From Yishmael

Shmuel said to Rav Yehudah (Kesuvos 53a): “Smart one! Do not be present when an inheritance is being transferred (away from the rightful heir) even when it is from a bad son to a good son, because one never knows what offspring will come forth from him (the bad son) and certainly when the transfer is from a son to a daughter (even though the transfer is valid, it should not be condoned).”

It is written in Parshas Chaye Sarah [24:10]: And the servant took ten camels of his master's camels, and he went, and all the best of his master was in his hand. Rashi comments that Avraham wrote a gift deed to Yitzchak for everything he owned, so that they would hasten to send him their daughter.

The Daas Zkeinim asks: The Gemora in Eruvin states that Avraham fulfilled the entire Torah including the Rabbinical obligations, such as eruv tavshilin. How could Avraham transgress this prohibition of transferring the inheritance away from the rightful heir; Yishmael and the sons of Keturah should have been the inheritors?

The Mizrachi answers: Avraham was permitted to do this because he was told by Hashem [Breishis, 21:12]: For in Yitzchak will be called your offspring.

The Maharal in Gur Aryeh answers: It was permitted because Sarah had told Avraham [ibid, v. 10]: For the son of this handmaid shall not inherit with my son, with Yitzchak. Sdei Chemed explains: Would Avraham heed Sarah’s words and violate a Rabbinical prohibition? Rather, the explanation is as follows: Since Hashem agreed with Sarah and He told Avraham [ibid, v. 12]: Whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice, Avraham was given permission to transfer all his possessions to Yitzchak.

The Yefeh Toar answers that there is no transgression whatsoever when a father gives his possessions away during his lifetime; the prohibition is only when he transfers his property immediately prior to his death.

Maharsha (Sanhedrin 91a) answers: Yishmael and the children of Keturah were not fit to inherit Avraham. This is because Yishmael was the son of a slavewoman and Keturah was a pilegesh, and not an ordinary wife.

Rav Elyashiv challenges this explanation: Yishmael is referred to in the Torah as Avraham’s son; how can the Maharsha say that he was not an actual son?

The Oholei Yitzchak answers the original question: Our Gemora explains the rationale for this prohibition. One should not transfer an inheritance away from the rightful heir even when it is from a bad son to a good son, because one never knows what offspring will come forth from him (the bad son). Avraham knew through ruach hakodesh that no good offspring will ever come out from Yishmael, and therefore, there is no prohibition to give all his possessions to Yitzchak.

Similarly, the Chasam Sofer explains the verse in this week’s parsha. It is written [ibid, 21:11]: But the matter greatly displeased Abraham, concerning his son. Rashi explains literally: Avraham was displeased because Sarah told him to send Yishmael away. The Chasam Sofer explains: Avraham didn’t want to send him away because he was concerned on the account of this prohibition. How could he chase Yishmael away and give all his possessions to Yitzchak if Yishmael is the rightful heir, and perhaps, Yishmael will have some good offspring. Sarah saw through ruach hakodesh that there will be no good offspring coming from Yishmael, and Hashem told Avraham to listen to the words of Sarah.


Anonymous said...

Ohr Hachaim on last week Parsha has a long piece on this.

Avromi said...

Thank you; can you enlighten us briefly on what he says? Thanks again.