An Equal Inheritance

Leaving a Child Out of the Will

Q: Our son acts impolitely towards us, does not respect us, and is almost completely not religious. We are considering dispossessing him from our inheritance that we will leave for the rest of children after we pass on. Is this the proper thing to do?

A: The Sages do not look approvingly upon someone who dispossesses his children, or even one of them, from his inheritance. Accordingly, the ‘Amora’ (ancient Jewish scholar) Shmuel told Rabbi Yehudah, to be careful not to sign a will of a father who dispossessed one of his children from his inheritance. And even if the father has two children – one good, and one evil – Rabbi Yehudah was warned not to sign as a witness on a will that transfers the inheritance of the evil child to the good one (Talmud Baba Batra 133b). This law was codified in the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] (Choshen Mishpat 282:1). The basis for this law is that even if one’s child is not good, nevertheless, his grandchild might end up being good. If his father deprives him of his inheritance, the child will be bitterly insulted and distance himself even further from the family, and consequently, the odds are even greater that he won’t educate his children properly. In difficult cases, it is best to consult with a ‘talmid chacham’.

Parents who show favoritism amongst their children arouse controversy and destroy their family. The disinherited child will accuse his siblings of flattering their parents in order to alienate him and take his share of the inheritance, and will bear a grudge for the rest of his life. His children will grow-up distanced from their relatives, and the family will be torn apart.

Additionally, chances are that in the long run, even the children who received a larger portion of the inheritance will feel estranged towards their parents. True, they will be happy about receiving a larger portion of the inheritance, but towards their parents they will feel a sense of alienation. The bond between children and their parents must be absolute and eternal, a connection independent of any specific factor. If the children see that the relationship with their parents is dependent on honoring or flattering them, they will not consider them as being good parents, but rather as people who cared more about their honor, to the point where even with their own children, they acted with pettiness and vindictively.

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between a person who occasionally sins, but in general is connected to Jewish tradition, and someone who completely left the faith. It is proper not to disinherit a child who remains connected to Jewish tradition, for the chances are that he or his children will one day return to traditional Judaism. However, someone who completely left traditional Judaism and is likely to assimilate amongst the non-Jews, the chances of his children returning to traditional Judaism are minimal, leaving room to consider disinheriting him from all or part of the inheritance (see Igrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 2:50; Dinei Maimonot by Rav Batzri, part 3, gate 5:3; Pitchei Hachoshen, part 9, 4:1).

Can Preference be given to Religious Children?

Q: One of our children is slightly religious, but in general, considers himself as being secular. Isn’t there any way I can strengthen the religiosity of my family by means of the inheritance?

A: One suggestion might be to dedicate a certain portion of the inheritance towards payment for Torah education of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In this manner all your children – without exception – will be encouraged to send their children to Torah institutions, and if one of them decides to send his children to a secular school, he loses his portion by himself. Nevertheless, it is advisable to divide a portion of the inheritance evenly amongst all the children, in order to convey the absolute connection between yourselves and your children.

Can Preference be given to a Child Who Teaches Torah?

Q: Is it permitted to give a larger portion of one’s inheritance to a son who teaches in yeshiva, has a relatively low salary, and has more children?

A: If the goal is to help maintain a ‘talmid chacham’ (Torah scholar), and his other siblings realize this and won’t become jealous – he can be given a larger portion of the inheritance. If, however, they will be jealous, it is forbidden to show favoritism. In a related fashion, we have learned in the Torah that our forefather Ya’acov favored Yosef more than his brothers, showing him slight preference. However, because his brothers did not appreciate his exceeding virtues, they became jealous of him, and a terrible rift was created in Ya’acov’s family. This is what the Sages have said (Talmud Shabbat 10b): “One should never show preference for one child above his other children, as for the sake of two selas’ weight of silk (the colorful coat), which Ya’acov bestowed on Yosef in preference to his other sons, the brothers became jealous of Yosef, and the development brought about our ancestors’ migration into Egypt.”

However, while still alive, parents are permitted to provide additional assistance to a son who learns Torah, and can even make an agreement with him, similar to that of Yissachar and Zevulon, [where the former would learn Torah full-time, and the latter would finance his brother’s studies, and in return, receive part of the reward]. Such an agreement the other siblings could probably understand, seeing that it is not an absolute declaration that the parents prefer this son over the others. But in the inheritance itself, which reflects the ultimate and final attitude toward the children, it is forbidden to discriminate without the matter being willfully agreed upon by all.

Mitzvah to Serve in the I.D.F., and If Necessary, To Refuse Orders

Q: In a situation where the General Staff of the I.D.F. makes a decision forcing soldiers to transgress halacha, is there a mitzvah to serve in the army? Is it proper to sign the petition not to enlist in the army until the issue is straightened out?

A: It is a great mitzvah to serve in the army for the purpose of defending the nation and the Land, a mitzvah which is equal to all the other mitzvoth combined, for two reasons. First, anyone who saves a life is regarded as having saved an entire world (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5), all the more so when dealing with saving the lives of the entire Jewish nation from their enemies. Second, the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, of which serving in the army is an important component, is equal to all the other mitzvoth (Sifrei, Re’i, parsha 53).

Therefore, it is a mitzvah to enlist in the army, and when a soldier receives an order which contradicts halacha, he should refuse to obey. (Rambam, Laws of Kings 3:9). Nevertheless, in extreme cases, there is room to consider a temporary postponement of enlisting, with the intention of rectifying the situation, as the Sages said in regards to Moshe Rabbeinu breaking the tablets – “Sometimes the cancellation of the Torah, is its’ foundation” (Talmud Menachot 99b).

In practice, a large number of men from the Haredi sector and ‘ba’alei teshuva’ (newly religious) do not enlist, figuring that it is impossible to fulfill the mitzvoth properly in the army, and a decision similar to that of the General Staff, will likely strengthen this trend significantly. Consequently, on rare occasions there is room to consider postponing enlistment, so as to ultimately bolster recruitment. Has the time come for such a protest? I’m not sure. In every protest, there is room to weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

In any case, the high road is to enlist into the I.D.F. in order to defend the nation and the Land, and yet, to refuse orders that contradict halacha.

One thing is clear: It is incumbent upon the public leaders to do their utmost to publicly cancel the shameful decision of the General Staff, which was passed without any noticeable protest from the I.D.F. Rabbinate. Our great fear is that the public leaders will not act properly, and even obscure the public outcry, thus thwarting its impact, and in the end, the stain of this disgraceful decision forcing soldiers to transgress halacha will stick to the I.D.F., and the numbers of those abstaining from enlisting will increase.

Should We Oppose the Lenient?

Q: Should we oppose those who follow the lenient opinion of hearing a woman sing in a dignified performance?

A: There are a number of ‘poskim’ who hold that in the opinion of some ‘Rishonim’, the prohibition is only reciting words of holiness [i.e. She’ma Yisrael, etc.] while hearing a woman sing, but at other times, it is permitted to hear the voice of a woman singing (this is the opinion of a few of the ‘Rishonim’ according to the interpretation of some ‘Achronim’ – ‘Be’er Sheva’ and ‘S’redei Aish’). Therefore, one should not oppose those who are lenient in this matter because they have authoritative opinions to rely on. However, the halacha goes according to the vast majority of ‘poskim’ who instructed that, in practice, it is forbidden to hear women sing.

Yet, when a person or soldier is forced to act in contrast of the commonly accepted halacha, even those who are lenient must do their utmost to assist individuals wishing to act in accordance with the commonly accepted halacha. As our teacher, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook ztz”l, wrote (Igeret 237) to an officer of Baron Rothschild who wanted to force the settlers to act leniently and work the Land during a ‘Shmita’ (Sabbatical) year, according to the ‘heter ha’mechira’ (a halachic means of allowing agriculture to continue during the ‘Shmita’ year): “When there is a compelling and coercive force, whether it be from a Jew or a non-Jew, there is absolutely no difference between ‘kulot’ (Rabbinical decrees) and ‘chumrot’ (Torah decrees), and all of the mitzvoth collectively, in this regards, have the law of ‘chumrot’. Our history is replete with evidence, that when somebody wanted to force Jews to transgress even a seemingly insignificant detail of Judaism, they stood against the imposing power with all their might, and even sacrificed their lives…”

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