Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Nachalot - Chapter 7

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Nachalot - Chapter 7


Heirs are not given their inheritance until they bring clear proof that the person whose estate they are inheriting did in fact die. Even if they heard that he died, or gentiles mentioned that he died in the course of conversation, despite the fact that this is sufficient for license to be given for the person's wife to remarry and to receive the money due her by virtue of her ketubah, the heirs do not receive their inheritance on this basis.


אֵין הַיּוֹרְשִׁין נוֹחֲלִין עַד שֶׁיָּבִיאוּ רְאָיָה בְּרוּרָה שֶׁמֵּת מוֹרִישָׁן. אֲבָל אִם שָׁמְעוּ בּוֹ שֶׁמֵּת אוֹ שֶׁבָּאוּ עַכּוּ''ם מְשִׂיחִין לְפִי תֻּמָּן. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמַּשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ עַל פִּיהֶם וְנוֹטֵל כְּתֻבָּתָהּ אֵין הַיּוֹרְשִׁין נוֹחֲלִין עַל פִּיהֶם:


When a woman comes and states: "My husband died," although her testimony is accepted and she is given license to remarry and to receive the money due her by virtue of her ketubah, the heirs do not receive their inheritance on this basis.

If she testifies: "My husband died," and is married by his brother, the brother receives the deceased's estate on the basis of her testimony. This is derived from Deuteronomy 25:6: "He will assume the name of his deceased brother," and he has assumed his position.


הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁבָּאת וְאָמְרָה מֵת בַּעְלִי אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהִיא נֶאֱמֶנֶת וְתִנָּשֵׂא וְתִטּל כְּתֻבָּתָהּ אֵין הַיּוֹרְשִׁין נִכְנָסִין לַנַּחֲלָה עַל פִּיהָ. אָמְרָה מֵת בַּעְלִי וְנִתְיַבְּמָה הֲרֵי יְבָמָהּ נִכְנַס לַנַּחֲלָה עַל פִּיהָ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כה ו) "יָקוּם עַל שֵׁם אָחִיו הַמֵּת" וַהֲרֵי קָם:


When a person drowned in a body of water that has no end, and witnesses testify that he drowned in their presence and all traces of him were lost, his heirs may inherit his estate on the basis of their testimony, despite the fact that, at the outset, his wife is not permitted to remarry in this situation.

Similarly, if witnesses come and testify that they saw a person fall into a lions' or tigers' den, they saw him crucified with birds eating from his body, he was pierced in battle and died, or he was killed, but his face was not recognizable, but there were definitive signs on his body and they were identified - with regard to these and similar situations, if all traces of the person were lost afterwards, the heirs may assume possession of the inheritance because of such testimony, although the person's wife is not given license to marry.

I maintain that our Sages were stringent concerning these matters only because of the severity of the prohibition involving karet involved. With regard to financial matters, by contrast, if witnesses testify with regard to matters that we can presume will lead to death, saying that they saw these matters, all traces of the person are lost, and afterwards it is heard that he died, we allow the heirs to assume possession of the estate on this basis. This is the standard practice followed on an everyday basis in all courts of law. We have not heard about anyone who rules differently regarding this matter.


מִי שֶׁטָּבַע בְּמַיִם שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם סוֹף וּבָאוּ עֵדִים שֶׁטָּבַע בִּפְנֵיהֶם וְאָבַד זִכְרוֹ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין מַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ לְכַתְּחִלָּה הֲרֵי הַיּוֹרְשִׁין נוֹחֲלִין עַל פִּיהֶם. וְכֵן אִם בָּאוּ עֵדִים שֶׁרָאוּהוּ שֶׁנָּפַל לְגוֹב אֲרָיוֹת וּנְמֵרִים אוֹ שֶׁרָאוּהוּ צָלוּב וְהָעוֹף אוֹכֵל בּוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁנִּדְקַר בַּמִּלְחָמָה וּמֵת אוֹ שֶׁנֶּהֱרַג וְלֹא הִכִּירוּ פָּנָיו אֲבָל הָיוּ לוֹ סִימָנִים מֻבְהָקִין בְּגוּפוֹ וְהִכִּירוּ אוֹתָם. בְּכָל אֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אִם אָבַד זִכְרוֹ אַחַר כָּךְ יוֹרְדִין לַנַּחֲלָה בְּעֵדוּת זוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין מַשִּׂיאִין אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ. שֶׁאֲנִי אוֹמֵר שֶׁלֹּא הֶחְמִירוּ בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי אִסּוּר כָּרֵת. אֲבָל לְעִנְיַן מָמוֹן אִם הֵעִידוּ הָעֵדִים בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁחֶזְקָתָן לְמִיתָה וְהֵעִידוּ שֶׁרָאוּ אוֹתָן הַדְּבָרִים וְאָבַד זִכְרוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ נִשְׁמַע שֶׁמֵּת הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ נוֹחֲלִין עַל פִּיהֶן. וְכָזֶה מַעֲשִׂים בְּכָל יוֹם בְּכָל בָּתֵּי דִּינִין וְלֹא שָׁמַעְנוּ מִי שֶׁחָלַק בְּדָבָר זֶה:


When a report was heard that a person who had been captive died, and the heirs assumed possession of his estate and divided it among themselves, we do not expropriate it from their possession. A similar law applies when a report is heard about the death of a person who fled because of danger to his life.

If, however, a report was heard that a person who voluntarily left his city died, and the heirs assumed possession of his estate and divided it among themselves, we do expropriate it from their possession unless they bring proof that this person died.


שָׁבוּי שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּה וְשָׁמְעוּ שֶׁמֵּת וְיָרְדוּ יוֹרְשָׁיו לַנַּחֲלָה וְחָלְקוּ אוֹתָהּ בֵּינֵיהֶם אֵין מוֹצִיאִין אוֹתָהּ מִיָּדָן. וְכֵן הַבּוֹרֵחַ מֵחֲמַת סַכָּנָה. אֲבָל הַיּוֹצֵא לְדַעַת שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ בּוֹ שֶׁמֵּת וְיָרְדוּ יוֹרְשָׁיו לִנְכָסָיו וְחִלְּקוּם מוֹצִיאִין מִיָּדָן עַד שֶׁיָּבִיאוּ רְאָיָה שֶׁמֵּת מוֹרִישָׁן:


The court is obligated to take responsibility for the property belonging to a person who was taken captive or one who fled because of mortal danger.

What do they do? They entrust all the movable property to a person deemed trustworthy by the court for safekeeping. They give possession of the landed property to relatives who are fit to inherit it, so that they would work the land and care for the property until they know whether the person died or he comes.

When the person who was taken captive or who fled comes, we evaluate the increase in value brought about by the relatives who were granted trusteeship and the benefit they received according to the norms applying to sharecroppers in that region.

Why does the court not appoint a guardian at all times, both for movable property and for landed property, until the owners come or until it is definitely known that they died? Because the court is not obligated to appoint guardians for adults who are intellectually mature.


שָׁבוּי שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּה וּבָרַח מֵחֲמַת סַכָּנַת נְפָשׁוֹת חַיָּבִין בֵּית דִּין לְהִתְעַסֵּק בְּנִכְסֵיהֶן. כֵּיצַד עוֹשִׂין. כָּל הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין יִהְיוּ מֻפְקָדִין בְּיַד נֶאֱמָן עַל פִּי בֵּית דִּין וּמוֹרִידִין לְתוֹךְ הַקַּרְקָעוֹת קְרוֹבִין הָרְאוּיִין לִירֻשָּׁה כְּדֵי לַעֲבֹד אֶת הַקַּרְקָעוֹת וּלְהִתְעַסֵּק בָּהֶן עַד שֶׁיִּוָּדַע שֶׁמֵּתוּ אוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ. וְלִכְשֶׁיָּבוֹא הַשָּׁבוּי וְהַבּוֹרֵחַ שָׁמִין אֵלּוּ הַקְּרוֹבִים שֶׁהוּרְדוּ מַה שֶּׁעָשׂוּ וּמַה שֶּׁאָכְלוּ כְּמִנְהַג כָּל הָאֲרִיסִין שֶׁל אוֹתָהּ הַמְּדִינָה. וְלָמָּה לֹא יַעֲמִידוּ בֵּית דִּין אַפּוֹטְרוֹפּוֹס לְעוֹלָם בֵּין בְּמִטַּלְטְלִים בֵּין בְּקַרְקָעוֹת עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ הַבְּעָלִים אוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּוָּדַע בְּוַדַּאי שֶׁמֵּתוּ. לְפִי שֶׁאֵין בֵּית דִּין חַיָּבִין לְהַעֲמִיד אַפּוֹטְרוֹפּוֹס לִגְדוֹלִים שֶׁהֵן בְּנֵי דַּעַת:


When a person was taken captive or fled because of danger and left standing grain to reap, or grapes, dates or olives to harvest, the court takes possession of their property and appoints a guardian who will reap or harvest this produce and sell it. The money is then entrusted to the court for safekeeping together with the remainder of the movable property. Afterwards, the relative is given possession of the property as stated in the previous halachah. This procedure is followed because if the relative were given the land at the outset, he might harvest this produce - for it is already as if it had been reaped - and consume it.

This concept also applies with regard to courtyards, inns and stores that are fit to be rented out, do not need work, for here is no difficulty in tending to them, and they are usually not given out in a sharecropping agreement. We do not place them in the possession of an heir, for he would collect the rent and consume it.

What is done instead? The court appoints a collector and has the rent placed in the court until the heir brings proof that the owner died or until the owner comes and takes his property.


נִשְׁבָּה הַשָּׁבוּי וּבָרַח הַמְסֻכָּן וְהִנִּיחַ קָמָה לִקְצֹר וַעֲנָבִים לִבְצֹר תְּמָרִים לִגְדֹּר וְזֵיתִים לִמְסֹק. בֵּית דִּין יוֹרְדִים לִנְכָסָיו וּמַעֲמִידִין לָהֶן אַפּוֹטְרוֹפּוֹס וְקוֹצֵר וּבוֹצֵר וְגוֹדֵר וּמוֹסֵק וּמוֹכֵר הַפֵּרוֹת. וּמַנִּיחִין דְּמֵיהֶן עִם שְׁאָר הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין בְּבֵית דִּין וְאַחַר כָּךְ מוֹרִידִין הַקָּרוֹב לִנְכָסָיו. שֶׁאִם יֵרֵד תְּחִלָּה שֶׁמָּא יִתְלֹשׁ אֵלּוּ הַפֵּרוֹת שֶׁהֵן כִּתְלוּשִׁין וְיֹאכַל אוֹתָן. וְהוּא הַדִּין בַּחֲצֵרוֹת וּפֻנְדָּקִיּוֹת וַחֲנֻיּוֹת הָעֲשׂוּיוֹת לְשָׂכָר וְאֵינָן צְרִיכִין עֲבוֹדָה וְלֹא טוֹרֵחַ וְאֵין אָדָם נוֹתֵן אוֹתָן בַּאֲרִיסוּת. אֵין מוֹרִידִין לָהֶם יוֹרֵשׁ שֶׁהֲרֵי גּוֹבֶה הַשָּׂכָר וְאוֹכֵל. אֶלָּא כֵּיצַד עוֹשִׂין. בֵּית דִּין מַעֲמִידִין לָהֶן גַּבַּאי וְיִהְיֶה הַשָּׂכָר מֻנָּח בְּבֵית דִּין עַד שֶׁיָּבִיא רְאָיָה שֶׁמֵּת אוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא וְיִטּל שֶׁלּוֹ:


A relative is never given possession of property other than fields, gardens, vineyards and the like. In these properties, he is considered as a sharecropper. This measure is instituted so that the properties will not be ruined and be left fallow and desolate.


וְאֵין מוֹרִידִין הַקָּרוֹב לְעוֹלָם אֶלָּא לְשָׂדוֹת וּלְגַנּוֹת וּכְרָמִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בָּהֶן כְּאָרִיס כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֻפְסְדוּ וְנִמְצְאוּ בּוּרִים וּנְשַׁמִּים:


The following laws apply when a person left his dwelling place voluntarily, abandoning his property, and we do not know where he went or what happened to him. We do not give his property to a relative. If, however, a relative takes possession of it, we do not remove him from it. The court does not have the responsibility to tend to such a person's property and appoint a guardian, neither for the landed property nor for the movable property. The rationale is that he voluntarily departed and abandoned his property.

What are the laws governing this person's property? The movable property should remain in the possession of the person in whose domain it is found until this person comes and claims it or until he dies and it is claimed by heirs.


מִי שֶׁיָּצָא לְדַעַת וְהִנִּיחַ נְכָסָיו וְאֵין יָדוּעַ לְהֵיכָן הָלַךְ וְלֹא מָה אֵרַע לוֹ. אֵין מוֹרִידִין קָרוֹב לִנְכָסָיו. וְאִם יָרַד אֵין מְסַלְּקִין אוֹתוֹ. וְאֵין בֵּית דִּין צְרִיכִין לְהִטַּפֵּל בּוֹ וּלְהַעֲמִיד לוֹ אַפּוֹטְרוֹפּוֹס לֹא לַקַּרְקַע וְלֹא לַמִּטַּלְטְלִין שֶׁהֲרֵי לְדַעְתּוֹ יָצָא וְהִנִּיחַ נְכָסָיו. וְכֵיצַד יִהְיֶה דִּין נִכְסֵי זֶה. מִטַּלְטְלִין יַעַמְדוּ בְּיַד זֶה שֶׁהֵן תַּחַת יָדוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא זֶה וְיִתְבַּע אוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת וְיִתְבְּעוּ הַיּוֹרְשִׁין:


With regard to landed property in which he left someone dwelling, we do not collect rent from him. If there is a field or a vineyard left to a sharecropper, it should remain as he left it until he comes. If he left a field or a vineyard fallow, it should be left fallow. The rationale is that he willingly caused the loss of his property, and when a person willingly forfeits his property, we are not required to return it.


וְהַקַּרְקָעוֹת מִי שֶׁהִנִּיחוּ שָׁכֵן אֵין לוֹקְחִין מִמֶּנּוּ שָׂכָר. וְשָׂדֶה אוֹ כֶּרֶם שֶׁהָיָה בָּהֶן אָרִיס יִשָּׁאֲרוּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהִנִּיחוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא. וְשָׂדֶה אוֹ כֶּרֶם שֶׁהִנִּיחָם בּוּרִים יִשָּׁאֲרוּ בּוּרִים שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא בִּרְצוֹנוֹ אִבֵּד מָמוֹנוֹ וַאֲבֵדָה לְדַעַת אֵין אָנוּ מְצֻוִּין לְהַחְזִירָהּ:


If we hear a report that the person who had left voluntarily died, the court collects all the movable property belonging to him and entrusts it to a person whom they consider faithful. They give the fields and vineyards to a relative to care for as a sharecropper, until the heirs bring clear proof that the owner died or until the owner comes.


שָׁמְעוּ בּוֹ שֶׁמֵּת הֲרֵי בֵּית דִּין מוֹצִיאִין כָּל הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין וּמַנִּיחִין אוֹתָן אֵצֶל נֶאֱמָן עַל פִּיהֶן וּמוֹרִידִין הַקָּרוֹב לַשָּׂדוֹת וְלַכְּרָמִים בָּהֶן כְּאָרִיס עַד שֶׁיָּבִיא רְאָיָה בְּרוּרָה שֶׁמֵּת אוֹ עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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