Avoiding A Catastrophe
‘A Ger And A Gentile Inherited…’
(Avoda Zara 64a)
Our daf discusses a ger and his non-Jewish brother inheriting their father’s estate.
The Gemara elsewhere (Kiddushin 17b) cites Rava who maintains that a non-Jew’s son inherits his father’s estate according to Torah law. The Meiri writes that other relatives can also inherit the property. The Rambam (Hilchos Nachalos 6:9) states that basic Torah law is that the son inherits, but other relatives may inherit too in accordance with local custom. The Makneh (on our sugya) and the Chasam Sofer (on Yoreh De’ah 2:127) maintain that the Meiri agrees with the Rambam. But the Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 400:2) interprets the Rambam to mean that only a non-Jew’s sons can inherit their father.
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, he should sell it back to the non-Jew and then rent or borrow it from him, thereby avoiding the need to immerse it (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 120:8).
An Arab-Owned Gemach
The manager of a large kitchenware free-loan society in Jerusalem followed this advice. He gave the society’s utensils to an elderly Arab acquaintance from the Old City, who then loaned them back to him so that he wouldn’t have to immerse all of them in a mikveh. Later, however, the manager lost contact with the Arab and feared that the Arab might have passed away. If so, he reasoned, the utensils would belong to him and he would need to immerse them in a mikveh.
Rabbi Pinchas Zelig (author of Atereth Paz), however, ruled (Choshen Mishpat 3:13) that immersing them would not be necessary even if the Arab had died since the Arab’s sons and daughters would have inherited them. And if he had no children, other relatives would have inherited them (in accordance with the view of most poskim).
It should be pointed out that the hetter to sell items to a non-Jew so as to avoid the obligation to immerse them is not a simple matter. The Taz (Yoreh De’ah 120:18) rules that one may only utilize this legal device as a temporary measure. 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 one ceases to own an article when one cannot use it. It is therefore questionable if these Arab children or relatives really owned the utensils considering that they had no access to them and may not have even known they existed.
Sell The Chametz, Not The Vessels
Since we must immerse a utensil purchased from a non-Jew in a mikveh, the son of the Noda BeYehudah notes (Shivas Tziyyon 11) that when we sell our chametz on erev Pesach, the generally accepted practice is to only sell the chametz, not the vessels and utensils. If we sold the latter, we would have to immerse them after Pesach when we bought them back.