I was wondering if the inheritance Torah laws were still applicable in Western countries like US or France.

First question

For example, in France, by law a parent can not disinherit one of his children. In this case, there is no possibility for a daughter to get nothing at the death of her parents. Yet according to the law of the Torah, she shouldn't receive any inheritance from her parents.

Does the law of the land override halachic inheritance laws?

This question may already has an answer here

Is there a difference in Israel and other countries?

Second (and most important) question

This rule is surprising today, when women do not occupy the same place as when these rules were enacted. Perhaps, the inheritance laws were related to the part of the land of Israel that should always remain in the same tribe? Today, it seems terribly unfair to deprive girls of their parents' inheritance. Jewish women, especially in the religious world, have enormous responsibilities; which was not the case at the time when these rules were established.

Can we consider that inheritance laws no longer apply today, given that the situation has evolved enormously?

My question has no provocative purpose, nor does it question the eternity of the laws of the Torah.

  • 3
    You seem to be asking two questions here: 1) does the law of the land override halachic inheritance laws? 2) do halachic inheritance laws only apply in that kind of society, not today's, irrelevant of what the law of the land states? Am I understanding your question correctly? If so, you might want to edit your question and ask the two of them separately, as they're very different questions; answering one will not necessarily answer the other.
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 21:53
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/92237/…
    – Mordechai
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 18:36
  • What usually happens is is a "halachic will" that gifts the estate to the people named, "effective five minutes before my death." At which point when the person dies, there's nothing to distribute according to halacha. For over a hundred years now the default halachic will has been an even split among all children -- irrespective of gender. Will try to find sources G-d willing.
    – Shalom
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 10:27
  • @Shalom so in practice, nowadays and for over a hundred years, even in the most religious family heritage is split among all children with this trick allowing the respect of the halacha ? Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 10:50

2 Answers 2


Indeed the laws of Torah inheritance are still valid and, at the same time, many parents wish for their daughters and sons to inherit equally. Even in countries where the law of the land would make it illegal to follow Torah law, many still want to respect the letter of Torah law and structure a will that complies with both.

Therefore, over the years, different mechanisms have evolved to allow for this while still respecting halacha. I have looked at this for our own will and found 3 mechanisms, often combined

  1. Setting aside a portion of one's estate to be transmitted to one's children according to Torah law, in order not to completely circumvent halacha. This might be a smaller amount (e.g., equivalent of 1000$ or 10,000$ depending on one's wealth) which gets transmitted to one's sons with the older one getting a double portion (see footnote 9 here for relevant sources and how to set the amount)

  2. Gifting the rest of one's wealth to one's children a few minutes/hours before death, in any way one decides (often equally amongst children). This results in limiting the actual assets to be split according to Torah law to the amount in the previous point

  3. Since this most poskim require a kinyan (formal act of acquisition), mechanism 2 can only apply to possessions up to the time of writing the will (since a kinyan cannot acquire not-yet-existing assets). To circumvent this the father creates a large debt towards the daughter(s) which gets canceled if the son(s) agree to voluntarily follow the mechanism 2 above for all assets acquired after the will was signed

All this is obviously best done under the advice of a competence adviser in Jewish law familiar with the laws of inheritance and the laws of the land. Some religious lawyers specialize in this area.

Source: my own research before preparing our halachic will, but you can read excellent summaries (with a focus on US law, although it applies very well in Israel as well) here and here

  • As usual, interesting answer. I notice that you don’t discuss at all the difference between land (more specifically the land of Israel) and other types of possessions. Oral law recognizes the concept of Dina d’Malchuta Dina, which applies to the other types of property (and are the primary concern of the OP) and their inheritance, as contrasted to inheritance of the land of Israel whose inheritance follows the paternal inheritance limitations related to tribal affiliation. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 10:56
  • Thanks. But I am not aware that dina d'malchuta dina applies to inheritances. Actually R Willig explicitly writes it does not (first of the two links at the very end): "The principle of dina d’malchusa dina does not apply when two Jews are involved, for if it would, then – as the Ramo says – all the monetary laws of the Torah would be null and void."
    – mbloch
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 11:04
  • No one, including the Ramo, does not recognize the distinction between karcha (meaning the land of Israel) and other property (which includes Jewish land acquisition outside of Israel in other countries). The laws of inheritance are among the last subjects covered by Rambam and for a reason. Comprehending them correctly is very difficult (even for Rabbi Wllig) & contingent upon understanding them in the context of the principles which precede them in the Mishneh Torah. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 12:23
  • Indeed I was referring to your comment that oral law recognizes dina d’malchusa dina - not related to the distinction with land of Israel. I can just say that, when we did our halachic will a few weeks ago, this didn't come in the discussion with 2 specialized rabanim we consulted, and we own our house in Israel
    – mbloch
    Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 12:26
  • Mazal tov on your house. יהי רצון שיהיה בנין עדי עד If you are trying to get a feel for the concept of inheritance of things other than the land of Israel, try reviewing the behavior of the Avot and the Imahot. It may sound strange but this relates to the wives maintaining separate estates and on a more fundamental level the principle of “Binah yiterah”. This same concept is common among the true Bnai Yishmael and their original practice of “Binah marriage” as contrasted with “Digah marriage”. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 13:28

The laws of inheritance are specifically called by the Torah חוקת משפט, a statute of a law. The Gemara learns from this that the laws of inheritance are unchangeable, and even if a person expresses his desire for his daughter to inherit him, it has no effect unless a loophole is used (giving a gift to take effect before his death). Changing circumstances cannot change this either, and for the daughter to insist on her secular legal inheritance would constitute stealing from her brother.

Of coarse it probably is appropriate to make a halachicly acceptable will in most cases, so that the daughters will be able to inherit. Also, by the way, bank accounts and institutional investments are more complicated because of the contracts involved.

  • 2
    "for the daughter to insist on her secular legal inheritance would constitute stealing from her brother" You have brought no support for this claim and I don't understand how it could be true. Whether the secular state confiscated the brother's property with his permission or not is between him and the state. I'd assume a secular government can confiscate any property with a facially plausible justification. (It might violate Arkaot? But I don't understand how it is stealing.)
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 22:17
  • My thinking is that the daughter bringing in the court to take property that does not belong to her in Halacha is considered stealing, even if by the secular law she has a right to that property. But it is a good question, so I'm asking it here
    – Mordechai
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 19:25
  • @Mordechai, thank you for your answer! But that does not answer to my astonishment that inheritance rules seem terribly unfair to girls. And to my knowledge, the religious around me do not give an inheritance to their sons only. Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 9:52
  • @FloraGrappelli They are not unfair. Every married couple inherits from exactly one ancestor. For every girl from a rich family who marries a boy from a poor family, there's a girl from a poor family who marries a boy from a rich family. Entirely fair to everyone even if it's not what you expected (except to girls who never get married, but they have a claim to continue to be supported by the estate of the father until they do.)
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 12:37
  • 1
    To add more flavor to your answer, I always thought that חוקת משפט means that in some societies it's obvious and is a mishpat, in some societies it's difficult to understand and is a chok, and in all societies it's retzon haB and we follow it.
    – Heshy
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 14:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .