Friday, November 30, 2007

Inheritors Reciting Shehechiyonu when they Pay their Father’s Debts

It is ruled in Shulchan Aruch (223:2) that one whose father dies should recite the blessing of dayan ha’emes, the truthful Judge. If there was an inheritance, he should also recite the blessing of shehechiyonu.

The question arises: What would be the halacha if there is an inheritance, but all of the money will be used to pay off the father’s debts? Will the children still recite a shehechiyonu or not?

Our Gemora (Kesuvos 90b) states: We also see that one kesuvah that has a value appropriate for a kesuvah (a dinar of the estate) can also allow for the validity of a second kesuvah (which does not have that value as there is not two dinar in the estate). How is this apparent from the Mishna? Being that the Mishna does not say that the second collection can only occur “if there is an extra dinar (corresponding to this kesuvah).”

Rashi explains: The Mishna taught us that if one set of inheritors is collecting the kesuvah of their mother because her husband died before their mother, this payment is regarded as an inheritance for all of the father’s inheritors, and will therefore be considered as the surplus for the validity of the kesuvah for the male children. Since all inheritors have a mitzvah to repay their father’s debts, they are inheriting it and then paying off the other inheritors. Rashi uses the following expression: There is no greater inheritance than the paying off of the father’s debts.

Reb Yitzchak Zilberstein states that accordingly, the children will recite the shehechiyonu blessing even though they are left with nothing because there is no greater inheritance than the paying off of the father’s debts.

However, he concludes that there actually is no proof from Rashi for this halachic ruling. Rashi is only explaining the reason why the Gemora considers it an inheritance, and that is because of the logic that there is no greater inheritance than the paying off of the father’s debts. However, in respect to the shehechiyonu blessing, that is a blessing that is only recited when one is rejoicing. Although, one whose father dies and leaves him with an inheritance is not rejoicing at all; he would much rather that his father would not have died altogether (as the Mishna Berura ibid explains), nevertheless, there is a positive result from the inheritance; that is a sufficient enough of a reason to recite the blessing (although it is mixed with pain and anguish). In this case, however, there is no positive advantage to the inheritors with this inheritance at all and therefore, they would not recite the shehechiyonu blessing.