Today’s daf (Ketubot 43a) touches on an important topic which talks to me very personally. Specifically, what will happen to my wife and daughters if I were to suddenly die?
This question emerges from the Gemara’s discussion whether a husband has the same financial concerns for his widow as he may have for his daughters. According to one view, he naturally favours his daughters over his widow in terms of how his estate is allocated, while another view suggests the opposite. The Gemara concludes this question by stating that ‘with regard to degradation, one’s widow is preferable to him’ (i.e. if either one’s widow or daughter must be forced to go around requesting handouts, a man would rather it be his daughter than his widow), whereas ‘with regard to [general financial] comfort, [then the comfort of] his daughter is more preferable to him [than that of his widow]’.
Admittedly, there may be those who agree with this assessment and who may consider such comments to reflect a deep understanding of human psychology. However, while these thoughts are often on my mind, I want to quote the words of my dear friend, Lenny Borger, who died 9 months ago. And why? Because I don’t think I know some one who was a better husband and father, and because in the conversations that we had once he was diagnosed, he never, for the briefest of moments, drew any distinction when considering the needs of his wife and daughters.
But why am I sharing this with you? Admittedly, one of the reasons is simply because I, like all those who were blessed to know him, miss Lenny. He was a true friend to many. He was the definition of dependability. And because whenever I mention him I am filled both with an ache that he is gone, as well as a reminder of someone so special whom I strive to emulate.
However, there is a second reason, which is that while the Gemara may be speaking about the choices that need to be made after the death of a spouse, the ideal is not to have to make such choices. Instead, it is to do whatever is within your power that your spouse and your child have what they need once you are gone – notwithstanding the fact that the phrase ‘what they need once you are gone’ is itself an oxymoron.