For the week ending 10 December 2011 / 13 Kislev 5772

Bechorot 30 - 36

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Is one who is suspect of violating the laws in one area also suspect in regard to other areas
  • What is a chaveir and how does one achieve this status
  • Slaughter and sale of consecrated animals disqualified for sacrifice
  • The special status of a bechor and a tithed animal
  • Who may consume the flesh of a bechor with a disqualifying flaw
  • The bechor who required bloodletting in order to survive
  • The penalty for inflicting a flaw on a bechor
  • The flaw in a bechor inflicted by a non-Jew or children
  • The flaw inflicted in self-defense
  • Which shepherds have credibility as to how a flaw developed
  • The credibility of a kohen in regard to flaws

The Double Deceiver

A bechor (firstborn animal) must be given to a kohen who then offers it as a sacrifice. After the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash the only way in which the kohen would be entitled to consume the bechor would be if it had a physical flaw which would have disqualified it as a sacrifice. It was strictly forbidden, however, for a kohen or anyone else to inflict such a flaw on a consecrated animal such as a bechor.

If a kohen declared that an Israelite gave him a flawed bechor he was believed, because one is not suspected of lying in a case where he is likely to be exposed.

This ruling was challenged on the basis of a story concerning the Sage Rafram of Pumpedita. He gave a kohen a bechor that had no flaw. This kohen then inflicted a flaw on the bechor. Aware that Rafram was suffering from an illness that affected his eyesight, he brought the bechor before him, claiming that he had received it from an Israelite in flawed condition. Rafram made a strenuous effort to open his eyes and realized that this was the very bechor that he had given to this kohen in perfect condition!

Why did Rafram not decree that henceforth no kohen could be believed that he received a flawed bechor?

The answer was that this particular kohen was a double deceiver. Not only did he transgress by inflicting the flaw, but he also had the chutzpah to seek the approval of the very person who gave him the bechor.

"If he is so arrogant", concluded the gemara, "why should we suspect anyone else of such arrogance?"

  • Bechorot 36b

What the Sages Say

"The lips move in the grave of a Torah scholar whose Torah revelation is quoted in this world."

  • Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai - Bechorot 31b

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