Talmud Tips

For the week ending 10 June 2017 / 16 Sivan 5777

Bava Batra 137 - 143

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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A Daughter’s Special Blessing

Rav Chisda said, “If a daughter is born first, it is a good sign for the sons that are born afterwards.” (Bat techila siman yafeh l’banim.”)

The gemara on our daf cites this statement from Rav Chisda as one possible way to understand the mishna on the previous daf, which seems to indicate a preference for the birth of a daughter, based on the larger monetary amount promised to a daughter than to a son.

The gemara explains Rav Chisda’s words by offering two different reasons. The first reason is that if a daughter is born first, she will be a special blessing to the family by helping to raise her younger siblings. Presumably, if a son would be born first, he would not be as available, since he would have a mitzvah to be constantly immersed in Torah study, a mitzvah that is unique to males. (This does not mean that sons and husbands are exempt from helping to raise their siblings and children, or to help out at home!)

The second way to understand Rav Chisda’s statement that is offered in the gemara is, “So that the ‘evil eye’ will not rule over him.” This begs explanation of what this particular “evil eye” is in this case, and who is being “protected” from it when a daughter is the firstborn. Rabbeinu Gershom Me’or HaGolah explains this to mean that since the firstborn is a daughter, other people will not look at the father with an “evil eye” of envy, saying: “Look at this person who has so many sons!” The Maharsha offers a different viewpoint. If a son was the firstborn, he would receive a “double portion” of the inheritance, twice that of his brothers. This could be cause for resentment and jealously from his younger brothers toward him. When a daughter is born first, however, her brothers all share equally in the inheritance. This is what Rav Chisda meant when he taught, “If a daughter is born first, it is a good sign for the sons that are born afterwards.” It is a good sign for the brothers born after her, since there will not be an “evil eye” of contention and jealously amongst the brothers regarding inheritance, since all brothers share equally in the inheritance of their father’s estate.

A minor aside, to correct an apparent misconception, seems in order. Numerous times I have heard a person saying to a first-time father or mother, “Bat techila siman l’banim”, as if to say that having a daughter first is a good omen for a wealth of sons in the future, and that they should rejoice and not be disappointed in this child not being male. Although the well-wishers certainly intend well, they seem to be “misspeaking”, since this statement of “Bat techila…” does not seem to allude to this idea according to either explanation offered by our great Sages of the gemara here.

  • Bava Basra 141a

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