The Torah records that after seeing that the daughters of Tzelofechad received the inheritance of their father, Moshe took the opportunity to ask Hashem that his children succeed him as leaders of the Jewish people. The Tanchuma explains that the reason why Hashem chose instead Yehoshua, is because Yehoshua was the one that was always by Moshe’s side, as opposed to the children of Moshe. It would seem that had Moshe’s children been deemed fit, they would have succeeded Moshe as the leaders of the Jewish people.

This brings us to an interesting discussion. Can a young orphaned prince who is not yet mature enough to act as a king, inherit his fathers throne? Likewise, we can ask if a Rav is succeeded by his children? and if so, does a son have precedence over a son-in-law?

The Rambam[1] states that any one appointed a position of authority amongst the Jewish people, is considered as an appointment for him and all his descendants.

This would seem to imply that when we choose a leader we are choosing his family for all eternity. However, the Ritva and other Rishonim explain that if someone was chosen for a certain period of time, you can remove this person from his position at the culmination of his term.

The Rashba goes further and says that even if the term limit was not set at the time of the appointment, rather it is the custom of the place to appoint public leaders for a period of time and then they are replaced with others, the custom is considered the halacha and the previous leader must step down.

The Rema and Chasam Sofer take this one further step that in a place where the custom is to appoint a Rav for a set time, this would not be contrary to halacha and would therefore be permissible.


The Gemara[2] states that “Malchus yerusha hee” that kingship is received through inheritance. Therefore, the Rambam states that he who will come first in a standard inheritance will come first to inherit the kingship. This means to say that the oldest son will have precedence over his younger brothers. The Chinuch goes on to say that this halacha does not only apply for matters of kingship, it applies to all appointments of authority amongst the Jewish people and all appointments are transmitted from father to son forever.

The Kohen Gadol

We see this concept is already found in Parshas Tzav where the Torah says “ והכהן המשיח תחתיו מבניו”. The Midrash explains that a son has precedence to anyone else, meaning the son is the successor to his father. However, if he does not succeed his father then we bring in someone else to take over the position. The Rambam explains that if he can only succeed his father in matters of yirah but he has no wisdom, we still give him the position and we teach him the rules of the road.

We see from the Rambam the answer to our original question, that if a king leaves an orphaned prince we hold the seat for the prince until he is able to take reign just like we see that Yehoyada saved the throne for Yoash. The poskim use this as a basis for any leadership appointment that is not predetermined by term limits or otherwise, that if the leader passes away and leaves behind young children that we hold onto the seat of authority for the children when they are able to take over the position.

Regarding, our second question, if a Rav is succeeded by his children. There is a major dispute amongst the Poskim, the Rivash, Mabit, Maharshach, Rema and others say that if someone was appointed Rav of a city and he died, his son has precedence over the position. The Rema says that the prerequisite is that he be a Talmid Chacham, even if he is not of the same stature as his father. The Chikrei Lev says that the son has to be a Talmid Chacham who is able to pasken shailos.

The Mahari Aripol records a story that took place in Tzfat. The Rav of Tzfat was niftar young. The community unanimously elected the the Alshich as the succeeding Rav of Tzfat. However Rav Shlomo Alkabetz prevented the appointment until the son of the former Rav grew up. Upon the Bar Mitzvah of this child, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz appointed him Rav of the city, even though he was no match to the caliber of the esteemed Alshich, who was in his sixties at the time.

This halacha would apply to a community Darshan, the son has precedence over the position, furthermore, even while the father is alive, if he needs help he can appoint his son to speak in his stead on occasion.

However, the Maharashdam and the Asara Mamoros pasken that, that which we say that the position is transmitted to the son is only in public office i.e. kingship, Kehuna or likewise. However appointments of Torah like the Nasi or Av Beis din do not have the same rules regarding inheritance. We see this clearly in the Torah that Aharon got Keser Kehuna and Dovid got Keser Melucha. However, Keser Torah was given to all of Klal Yisrael, whoever wants to take it can come and take it. We see this regarding the appointees to the Sanhedrin that when a member of the Sanhedrin passed away, his seat was succeeded by the next greatest member, and was not succeeded by his son. We also see that from Shimon Hatzaddik until Hillel Hazakein the children were never appointed to their fathers place. However, this would only apply if there is someone greater than the son, but if the other person is of the same stature as the son, the son has the precedence.

If a Rav died without a son, the Poskim say that since the daughter is next in line for a standard yerusha, and her husband is considered like her, the son-in-law inherits the position.

However, if he left a son and a son-in-law, if the son can take over, he has precedence. However, if he cannot fill the position or he does not want to – the position goes to the son-in-law.

Disclaimer: This article is meant to provoke discussion, it should not be used to deduce practical halacha, For practical Halacha please refer to your Rav

Prepared with Encyclopedia Talmudis – HaParsha B’ Halacha



[1] Melachim 1;7
[2] Horayos 11b