Wednesday, December 30, 2009

“His Plot”

Rav Pappa asked Abaye: How can it be proven from there that a husband inherits his wife? Is it not possible to maintain that a husband, in fact, does not inherit his wife, and as to those Scriptural verses (the first three), they may speak of a transfer through the son (when a daughter inherited property, married a man from a different tribe; when she dies, her son will be her heir, and her inheritance will have transferred from one tribe to another)? And the verses discussing Yair and Pinchas might not be referring to an inheritance at all, for perhaps Yair bought those cities, and Pinchas bought that hill (and the purpose of the verses is merely to demonstrate their wealth)!?

Abaye responded: It cannot be said that Pinchas had bought the land, for, if so, it would follow that the field must be returned by Yovel, and it would emerge that the righteous man (Elozar ben Aharon) would be buried in a grave which was not his own.

The Nimukei Yosef writes that our Gemora teaches us that it is a lack of dignity for the deceased to be buried in a grave site owned by another.

The Chasam Sofer (Responsa Yoreh Deah 330) citing our Gemora as its source says that the prevalent custom is that everyone pays for his own grave. Even a poor person, who lacks the means to pay full price, nevertheless should pay something, even at a considerably reduced price - for his own burial plot.

He writes that there was an incident where the Chevra Kadisha was charging an enormous amount of money for a burial plot, so much so, that it made the price which Avraham paid Ephron Hachiti seem miniscule. He proves from there and from our Gemora that it is of extreme importance that the burial plots should belong to the deceased in order that it satisfies being “his plot.”

“Al haDaf” quotes the Dover Meisharim (Responsa, Vol. 1:4) who asks that even if we say that Pinchas inherited the property from his wife, how would we refer to this as “his plot” in reference to Elozar?

He answers that Pinchas had an available solution, for he could have given land as a present to his father (he cites Responsa Rashba that there is a possibility of acquisition for a dead person) and this is according to Rabbi Meir (Bechoros 52b) who rules that a gift does not return by Yovel.

He also offers another novel interpretation that “his plot” really means the son’s plot - a plot that the son bought or inherited, and there is actually no need to gift it to the father who has died.

They add that the example that the Chasam Sofer cites, regarding Sarah, would prove either hypothesis. Either Avraham gifted the plot to Sarah after her death, or the requirement of “his plot” here would refer to Avraham, and since he was her husband that would suffice.