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It’s In The Will
‘A Non-Jew Receives His Father’s Estate’
(Kiddushin 17b)

 

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Our daf discusses non-Jews inheriting their fathers’ estates. Whether they do so or not has halachic ramifications regarding such questions as 1) What happens when a non-Jew to whom one sold one’s chametz on Pesach dies? and 2) May one continue using vessels owned by a non-Jew without tevilah after he dies?

 

Who Inherits A Non-Jew’s Estate?

According to Rava, a non-Jew inherits his father’s estate. The Meiri notes that other relatives can also inherit a non-Jew’s possessions. The Rambam (Hilchos Nachalos 6:9) states that basic Torah law is that the son inherits, but other relatives may inherit too as per the prevalent local custom. The Makneh (on our sugya) and the Chasam Sofer (on Yoreh De’ah 2:127) maintain that the Meiri is in agreement with the Rambam. The Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvah 400:2), however, interprets the Rambam to mean that only a non-Jew’s sons can receive the inheritance.

 
Too Large To Immerse

Vessels of metal or glass purchased from a non-Jew require tevilah. The Shulchan Gavoha (Orach Chayim 451) states that if a Jew buys a massive barrel from a non-Jew that cannot be immersed in a mikveh because of its size, the outsized vessel should be sold back to the non-Jew and then rented or borrowed from him, thereby avoiding the need to immerse it (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 120:8).

 
Many Years Passed

A number of years ago, the manager of a large kitchenware gemach owned by an elderly Arab in Jerusalem was in a quandary when the owner suddenly disappeared and was thought to have perhaps died. If he had, indeed, passed away, the utensils would be the Jewish manager’s and would require tevilah. Rabbi Pinchas Zelig (author of Atereth Paz) argues (op. cit., Choshen Mishpat 3:13) that tevilah is not necessary because the owner’s non-Jewish heirs inherited the utensils; they belong to them.

 

A Way Around Tevilah

It should be pointed out that the heter to allow a non-Jew to be gifted a utensil to avoid having to immerse it is not a simple matter. The Taz (Yoreh De’ah 120:18) rules that the heter is only a temporarily one. In addition, several later halachic authorities (Nachalas David on Bava Metzia 22b; Or Same’ach on Rambam’s Hilchos Gezelah VaAvedah ch. 11) explain that ownership of an article ceases when the owner lacks the ability to use it. It therefore is doubtful whether the Arab heirs of the gemach’s utensils could inherit them when they had no access to them and didn’t even know they existed.

 
Sell The Chametz But Not The Vessels

Since we must immerse a utensil purchased from a non-Jew in a mikveh, the son of the Noda BiYehuda (Shivas Tziyyon 11) notes that when we sell our chametz on erev Pesach, the generally accepted practice is to only sell the chametz and not the utensils. By doing so, we avoid having to immerse them after Pesach when we repurchase them from the non-Jew.

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.