For the week ending 7 January 2012 / 11 Tevet 5772

Bechorot 57 - 61

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Which animals do not have to be tithed
  • The season for tithing
  • Why tithing cannot be done on Yom Tov
  • The preferred method for successful tithing
  • If one of the tithed gets mixed with the untithed
  • If tithing was done while animals were stationary
  • When a mistake is made in the counting
  • If it is an agent who makes the mistake
  • An agent's mistake in tithing grain

A Mistake that Counts

If someone is tithing his animals and mistakenly calls the ninth one passing through the gate "Number Ten", that animal is not qualified to be sacrificed as maisser behaima but is considered a sanctified animal which can only be consumed if it develops a physical flaw.

What happens if the owner of the animals appoints an agent to do the tithing and the agent makes this above-mentioned mistake?

One opinion in our gemara is that in this case the effect on the animal will be the same as in the case of the owner himself making the mistake. The reason for this is that the agent has not caused any real loss for the owner since he still can consume that animal once it develops a flaw.

Rabbi Papa, however, contends that the designation made by the agent has no effect at all since the owner can claim that he appointed him to do something positive for him and not to cause him a loss. Rashi explains that the loss suffered is that he is not able to consume that animal until a flaw develops and is also restrained from using it for work or for its wool because of its sacred status.

This idea that the action of an agent is ineffective if it is counterproductive is challenged on the basis of a mishna which deals with an agent appointed to tithe grain but is unaware how much terumah the owner wishes to give to the kohen. If he tithes a fortieth of the crop, his tithing is effective even though the owner only wished to give a fiftieth and we do not render his action ineffective because it was detrimental to the owner.

The difference between the two cases is that in the latter one the agent can rightfully claim that since there are people who generously give the kohen a fortieth of their crop, he assumed that the owner who appointed him without specific instructions belonged to that category.

  • Bechorot 51a

What the Sages Say

"A Jew is pleased to have his resources utilized for fulfillment of a mitzvah."

  • Rabbi Tanchum son of Rabbi Chiya - Bechorot 58a

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