The Rabbinic Way to a Halakhic Will
Miriam Gedwiser / June 25, 2014
The narrative portions of the Bible overflow with stories of younger children displacing firstborn sons, but biblical and later rabbinic law explicitly decry, and indeed prohibit, changing the fixed order of inheritance whereby firstborn sons receive double, and daughters and wives generally receive nothing. This course will review various legal mechanisms developed by the rabbis, from the Talmud to today, to allow the distribution of assets and estates to include those formally excluded under Jewish inheritance law. The course will also discuss practical ramifications, for the observant Jewish testator, of failing to bring his or her civil will in line with Jewish law, as well as forms and clauses that can solve or prevent those problems. This topic also offers fertile grounds for reflection on the interplay between law and values, and on meaning of formal legal devices that undermine the law's own aims.
Miriam Gedwiser is a faculty member at Drisha and teaches Talmud and Tanakh at the Ramaz Upper School. She has a B.A. in the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine from the University of Chicago and a J.D. from N.Y.U. School of Law. Miriam studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum and in the Drisha Scholar’s circle. She previously practiced commercial litigation at a large law firm and clerked for the Hon. Debra Freeman, U.S.M.J., in Manhattan. Miriam serves as a guest lecturer at synagogues and programs around the Northeast, and has written on topics of Jewish and Torah interest for The Lehrhaus, The Forward, the Center for Modern Torah Leadership blog, and Project 929. Miriam lives Teaneck, New Jersey with her family.