For the week ending 24 December 2011 / 27 Kislev 5772

Bechorot 44 - 50

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Facial flaws that disqualify an animal for sacrifice
  • Other flaws in various parts of the body
  • Left-footedness and lanky tallness
  • Flaws which apply to animals but not to humans
  • The status of bechor for inheriting a double portion and for requiring redemption
  • How much of the child must leave the womb for it to constitute birth
  • The status of children of a convert who were born before his conversion
  • What sort of miscarriage affects the status of the firstborn that follows
  • Redemption of firstborn twins
  • When two wives give birth to firstborns
  • When either the bechor or the father die within 30 days from birth
  • What currency is involved in redemption of bechor and payment of certain penalties
  • Whose mitzvah of pidyon takes precedence – father or son

The Unexpected Flaws

"Starting off on the left foot" is an expression in many cultures of getting off to a bad start.

This apparently refers to one who is naturally right-footed but leads with the wrong foot. But what about someone who is naturally left-footed?

If it is a kohen who is left-footed he is disqualified from performing the service in the Beit Hamikdash since left-footedness is considered a physical flaw just as is left-handedness.

In his commentary Rashi explains that since the Torah refers to the kohen's role in the sacrificial service as "to stand and serve" this indicates that he must be capable of using his right foot for the main support in his standing like the majority of kohanim.

Another interesting example of a physical flaw which disqualifies a kohen is height! A kohen who is unusually tall and very thin is disqualified because his height is so disproportionate to his weight that he presents a most unattractive figure.

  • Bechorot 45b

What the Sages Say

"A convert has not fulfilled the command to have children with those born before his conversion because a convert is considered as a newborn child."

  • Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish (The halacha, however, is like Rabbi Yochanan that he has indeed fulfilled the commandment.) - Bechorot47a

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