For the week ending 19 November 2011 / 21 Heshvan 5772

Bechorot 9 - 15

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • When a donkey gives birth to more than one firstborn
  • Receiving any benefit from firstborn of a donkey
  • Qualifications needed for food matter to be susceptible to tumah
  • When there is a doubt about the status of a firstborn
  • What must be used for redemption of firstborn donkey
  • If the firstborn donkey or the lamb designated for redemption dies
  • If the owner refuses to redeem firstborn donkey
  • Which firstborn of kosher animal is exempt from being given to the kohen
  • Financial transactions between Jew and non-Jew
  • Status of blemished animal designated as a sacrifice

Map of the Mesechta

Mesechta Bechorot is divided into nine perakim (chapters) which deal with four different subjects: The laws relating to redemption of the male firstborn of a donkey; laws relating to the male firstborn of a kosher animal; redemption of the male firstborn of a Jew; and the tithing of animals.

Although it would seem most proper to devote the first perek to the laws concerning the firstborn of kosher animals which have the sacred status of sacrificial eligibility, priority was given instead to the laws of redemption of firstborn donkeys.

One of the reasons given for this at the very outset of the second perek is that since the comparatively few laws relating to this subject are fully covered in only one perek, it was felt that it would be best to deal with them before devoting the mesechta to the bulk of laws which make up the rest of the perakim.

(The language of the gemara is that the entire remainder of the mesechta deals with the firstborn of kosher animals. In his commentary, Rabbi Shmuel Shtrashun (RaSHaSH) points out that only six of the remaining perakim deal with the firstborn of kosher animals while the last two are devoted to human firstborn and animal tithing.)

  • Bechorot 13a

What the Sages Say

"Although there is a mitzvah to behead an unredeemed firstborn male donkey, it is preferable to fulfill the mitzvah of redemption."

  • Mishnah - Bechorot 13a

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