Suppose a non-observant Jew dies while possessing items forbidden to own. I was taught recently in a class that inheritance, unlike other transfers of property, happens immediately and automatically; no kinyan is required. If he has Jewish heirs, therefore, they come to automatically own the forbidden items, whether they want them or not. What should an heir do to minimize further transgression? May he sell or give away the items to a non-Jew (to avoid waste in the case of food), or does he need to destroy them? Must he do so immediately, or do we say that once he's the owner of forbidden items anyway, there is no further damage if he still owns them tomorrow?

One example of forbidden ownership is chameitz during Pesach, but it appears we do not need to be concerned about this case because the original owner ceased to own it when Pesach started, per Pesachim 6b (h/t DoubleAA), so it probably can't be inherited. Other examples would be items used for idolatry and untithed fruit. Some comments suggest following the example of the mishnayot in Demai chapter 6, and I'd welcome an answer that explains how to do that (and supports it as an appropriate precedent). Another comment questions whether such items could be owned (and thus inherited) at all, since they have no value to a Jew, so perhaps there is an argument to be made along those lines.

This question was prompted by this question about a convert inheriting from a non-Jew, but it sounds like both the heir being a convert and the other being a gentile are relevant to that case. I'm asking about cases involving only Jews.


1 Answer 1


Mishnayot Demai, 6, 9 & 10:

A Chaver and an Am HaAretz [one who is lax in observing purity laws] who inherited from their Am HaAretz father: he [the Chaver] can say to him: "You take the wheat from such-and-such area and I the wheat from such-and-such area, you the wine from such-and-such area and I the wine from such-and-such area."

However, he may not say to him: "You take the wheat and I the barley, you take the fresh and I will take the dried."

A convert and a non-Jew who inherit from their non-Jewish father: he [the convert] can say to him: "You take the idol worship and I the money, you the wine and I the fruit."

But if they have come into the possession of the convert, this is forbidden.

I will try to translate the Bartenura.

טול אתה בלח. שהוכשר לקבל טומאה ואני ביבש שלא הוכשר לקבל טומאה לפי שאסור לחבר למכור לעם הארץ לח ויבש כדתנן לעיל בפרק שני:

The Chaver cannot say, take the fresh... because this exchange is as a sale.

טול אתה עבודת כוכבים ואני מעות. אע״ג דחלופי עבודת כוכבים ויין נסך אסורים בהנאה הכא שרי עד שלא באו לידו משום דירושת גר את אביו אינה מן התורה אלא מדברי סופרים. ולא דמי לחבר ועם הארץ שירשו את אביהם עם הארץ דאפילו קודם שבאו לידו אסור לומר לו טול אתה חטים ואני שעורים, דהתם הויא ירושה דאורייתא והוי כאילו בא לידו:‏

For a convert, the rule is lenient because he doesn't inherit from his gentile father by Tora law, by rabbinical law only, he needs kinyan to be really owner. But a toranic inheritance is effective immediately (dee BB 124a). The OP already noted the difference between the cases of mishna 9 and 10 explained by the Bartenura.

I am not sure that it is possible to inherit chametz in prohibited times. It has no value.

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