Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Inheritance, terumah, and the transgendered in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How a Cucumber Decides Whether a Son Inherits Over a Donkey. With surprising analogous thinking, ancient Talmudic sages tackled very modern questions—by accident or foresight, depending on how liberal your views—of transgender rights, the rights of unborn fetuses, women’s rights, and wealth distribution.
This week, in chapter nine of Tractate Bava Batra, we saw an example of how the laws of teruma ["heave offering"] can serve the rabbis to elucidate a very different area of halachah. Chapter Nine continues the discussion of the laws of inheritance, addressing the status of bequests promised to a child born posthumously. The Mishna in Bava Batra 140b imagines a situation in which a dying man who is an expectant father bequeaths money to his unborn child, saying, “If my wife gives birth to a male, the offspring shall receive a gift of 100 dinars,” or “If my wife gives birth to a female the offspring shall receive 200 dinars.” The law is that these are binding bequests, and once the children are born they receive the designated amount from the estate.

This is clear enough, but the rabbis identify two possible ambiguities. What if the wife gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl? In this case, both children are given the promised sum, 100 dinars for the boy and 200 for the girl. And what if the child is born neither male nor female? What if it is a tumtum, the legal term for a person whose sex organs are concealed and is thus of indeterminate gender?
He does come back to the terumah part and it does involve cucumbers.

There's more on the tumtum here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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