Throughout today’s daf (Yevamot 67a), reference is made to the laws of inheritance, and specifically, to the laws of inheritance for daughters.
Interestingly, elsewhere in the Gemara we find that an association is made between the laws of yibum and the laws of inherence for daughters. Specifically, we are taught in Bava Batra 119b that when the daughters of Tzelofchad approached Moshe about them inheriting their father, Moshe was studying and teaching of the laws of yibum. As Rav Pinchas of Koretz observes (in his Imrei Pinchas on Bemidbar 27:1), and as is further explained in the Pardes Yosef (on Devarim 25:5), both the laws of yibum, and the laws of inheritance as presented by the daughters of Tzelofchad, include the word שם, ‘name’, since each seek to achieve an outcome of maintaining the name of someone who has died.
In the case of the daughters of Tzelofchad, they said to Moshe: לָמָּה יִגָּרַע שֵׁם אָבִינוּ מִתּוֹךְ מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ כִּי אֵין לוֹ בֵּן תְּנָה לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי – ‘Why should our father’s NAME be disadvantaged in his family merely because he did not have a son? Give us a portion of land along with our father’s brothers’ (Bemidbar 27:4), while the law of yibum states with reference to the child born of a yibum relationship that, וְהָיָה הַבְּכוֹר אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵד יָקוּם עַל שֵׁם אָחִיו הַמֵּת וְלֹא יִמָּחֶה שְׁמוֹ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל – ‘The first-born son whom she bears will then perpetuate the NAME of the dead brother, so that his name will not be obliterated from Israel’ (Devarim 25:6).
Yet notwithstanding all this, it is important to note that the laws of inheritance and yibum differ. This is because while the former is about those already alive carrying on the name of their parent whom they – in most cases – knew, the laws of yibum are essentially about having a child in memory of someone who is not their biological parent, whom they will never meet, but who – in some way – is their spiritual parent.
Given all this we are taught in Bava Batra 119b that when the daughters of Tzelofchad approached Moshe while he was studying and teaching of the laws of yibum, they said to him: ‘If we are each considered like a son, then give us each an inheritance like a son; and if not, our mother should fulfil yibum and thereby enter into a levirate marriage’. This tells us that they presented Moshe with two choices, inheritance or yibum, and they were asking him – which was subsequently the question that he then presented to God – which of inheritance or yibum was the better solution?
As we know, the answer Moshe received was inheritance. But why? Surely, by their mother fulfilling the mitzvah of yibum, this too would have enabled the name of their father to continue!
I think that the answer to this question is as I have explained above, namely that while inheritance is about those already alive carrying on the name of their parent whom they knew, the laws of yibum are about having a child in memory of someone who is not their biological parent whom they will never meet, but who – in some way – is a spiritual parent to them. True, yibum provides some aspect of ‘name continuity’, but inheritance can provide better ‘name continuity’, and this is because those who inherit generally knew the person whose name they will continue.
As we know, nowadays the laws of yibum are rarely fulfilled. And so, when people pass on, their name and their legacy is passed on to their children – just as it was with the daughters of Tzelofchad.