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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Bikkurim - Chapter 12

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Bikkurim - Chapter 12

1

It is a positive commandment1 for every Jewish man2 to redeem the first [male]3 issue of a donkey with a seh. If he does not desire to redeem it, it is a mitzvah for him to behead it,4 as [Exodus 13:13] states: "The first issue of a donkey you shall redeem with a seh.5 If you do not redeem it, you shall decapitate it."

These two mitzvot apply in all places and at all times.6 The mitzvah of redemption takes precedence over the mitzvah of beheading [the donkey].7

א

מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לִפְדּוֹת כָּל אדָם מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר בְּשֶׂה. וְאִם לֹא רָצָה לִפְדּוֹתוֹ מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לְעָרְפוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות לד כ) "וּפֶטֶר חֲמוֹר תִּפְדֶּה בְשֶׂה וְאִם לֹא תִפְדֶּה וַעֲרַפְתּוֹ". וּשְׁתֵּי מִצְוֹת אֵלּוּ נוֹהֲגוֹת בְּכָל מָקוֹם וּבְכָל זְמַן. וּמִצְוַת פְּדִיָּה קוֹדֶמֶת לְמִצְוַת עֲרִיפָה:

2

The seh with which it is redeemed is given to the priest, as [Numbers 18:15] states: "All first issues of the womb... and the firstborn of an impure animal you shall redeem."8

ב

הַשֶּׂה שֶׁפּוֹדִין בּוֹ נוֹתְנוֹ לַכֹּהֵן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יח טו) "כָּל פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם" וְגוֹ':

3

The "impure animal" mentioned in the verse refers only to donkeys.9

ג

(במדבר יח טו) "וְאֵת בְּכוֹר הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּמֵאָה תִּפְדֶּה" בְּהֵמָה טְמֵאָה הָאֲמוּרָה כָּאן הִיא הַחֲמוֹר בִּלְבַד:

4

It is forbidden to benefit from the first issue of a donkey until it is redeemed. If it is sold before it is redeemed, the money received for it is forbidden.10 If it died before it was redeemed or it was decapitated, it should be buried, because it is forbidden to benefit from it even after its decapitation, since it was not redeemed. Therefore if he did not redeem it, but instead gave the first issue of the donkey itself to the priest, it is forbidden for the priest to benefit from it until he redeems it with a seh and takes the seh for himself11 or he decapitates it and buries it.

The priests are suspect regarding this matter.12 Hence, it is forbidden for an Israelite to give the first issue of a donkey to a priest unless the priest redeems it in his presence.

ד

פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה עַד שֶׁיִּפָּדֶה. וְאִם מְכָרוֹ קֹדֶם פִּדְיוֹן דָּמָיו אֲסוּרִים. וְאִם מֵת קֹדֶם פִּדְיוֹן אוֹ שֶׁעֲרָפוֹ יִקָּבֵר. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא אָסוּר בַּהֲנָאָה אַף לְאַחַר עֲרִיפָה הוֹאִיל וְלֹא נִפְדָּה. לְפִיכָךְ אִם לֹא פָּדָהוּ וְנָתַן פֶּטֶר הַחֲמוֹר בְּעַצְמוֹ לַכֹּהֵן. אָסוּר לַכֹּהֵן לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בּוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּפְדֵּהוּ בְּשֶׂה. וְיִקַּח הַשֶּׂה לְעַצְמוֹ אוֹ יַעַרְפֶנּוּ וְיִקָּבֵר. וְהַכֹּהֲנִים חֲשׁוּדִים עַל דָּבָר זֶה לְפִיכָךְ אָסוּר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לִתֵּן פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר לַכֹּהֵן אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן פָּדָהוּ הַכֹּהֵן בְּפָנָיו:

5

When a person set aside [a seh] for the redemption of a donkey and it died before he gave it to the priest, he is not liable to replace it.13 Instead, he should give the corpse to the priest to benefit from.14 If the first issue of the donkey dies after it was redeemed, he should give the seh to the priest.15 It is permitted to benefit from [the donkey's corpse,] because it has been redeemed.

ה

הִפְרִישׁ פִּדְיוֹן פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר וּמֵת הַשֶּׂה קֹדֶם שֶׁיִּתְּנֶנּוּ לַכֹּהֵן אֵינוֹ חַיָּב בְּאַחֲרָיוּתוֹ. וְיִתֵּן הַנְּבֵלָה לַכֹּהֵן לֵהָנוֹת בָּהּ. מֵת פֶּטֶר הַחֲמוֹר אַחַר שֶׁפָּדָהוּ. יִתֵּן הַטָּלֶה לַכֹּהֵן וּמֻתָּר בְּהֲנָיָתוֹ שֶׁכְּבָר נִפְדָּה:

6

From when is he obligated to redeem [a firstling donkey]? From the time it was born16 until it reaches the age of 30 days.17 After 30 days, if he desires to decapitate it, he may [still do so]. If he desires to redeem it, he may. All that was involved was a delay in fulfilling the mitzvah.

ו

מֵאֵימָתַי חַיָּב לִפְדּוֹתוֹ מִשֶּׁיִּוָּלֵד וְעַד שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם. וּמֵאַחַר שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם אִם רָצָה לְעָרְפוֹ עוֹרְפוֹ. אִם רָצָה לִפְדּוֹתוֹ פּוֹדֶה וְאֵין כָּאן אֶלָּא מִצְוַת עִכּוּב בִּלְבַד:

7

If he does not desire to redeem [the firstling donkey], he should decapitate it with a butcher's hatchet18 from behind,19 as [Exodus 13:13] states: "If you do not redeem it, you should decapitate it." One may not kill it with a staff, a reed, an axe, or a saw, only with a hatchet. One may not place it in a room and lock the door until it dies, for [the verse] states: "And you shall decapitate it."

ז

לֹא רָצָה לִפְדּוֹתוֹ עוֹרְפוֹ בְּקוֹפִיץ מֵאֲחוֹרָיו שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יג יג) (שמות לד כ) "וְאִם לֹא תִפְדֶּה וַעֲרַפְתּוֹ". וְאֵין מְמִיתִין אוֹתוֹ לֹא בְּמַקֵּל וְלֹא בְּקָנֶה וְלֹא בְּקֹרְדוֹם וְלֹא בִּמְגֵרָה אֶלָּא בְּקוֹפִיץ. וְלֹא יַכְנִיסֶנּוּ לְחֶדֶר וְיִנְעל הַדֶּלֶת בְּפָנָיו עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַעֲרַפְתּוֹ:

8

We may not redeem [a firstling donkey] with a calf,20 a wild beast, a slaughtered seh, nor an animal that is deathly ill, nor with a hybrid, nor with a ko'i,21 as [ibid.] states: "Redeem it with a seh." [The term] seh refers to a sheep or a goat that is alive.

ח

אֵין פּוֹדִין לֹא בְּעֵגֶל וְלֹא בְּחַיָּה וְלֹא בְּשֶׂה שָׁחוּט וְלֹא בִּטְרֵפָה וְלֹא בְּכִלְאַיִם וְלֹא בִּכְוִי. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יג יג) (שמות לד כ) "תִּפְדֶּה בְּשֶׂה" וְאֵין קָרוּי שֶׂה אֶלָּא כְּבָשִׂים וְעִזִּים חַיִּים בִּלְבַד:

9

One should not redeem [a firstling donkey] with a seh that resembles another species. If one redeems it in that manner, the redemption is effective.22 One may use a ben pekua23 for the redemption, but not a consecrated animal that was disqualified [and redeemed], for [Deuteronomy 15:22] equates such animals with "the deer and the hart." Just as a deer and a hart may not be used for this redemption,24 so too, a consecrated animal that was disqualified may not be used.

ט

אֵין פּוֹדִין בְּשֶׂה הַדּוֹמֶה [לְמִין] לְאַחֵר. וְאִם פָּדָה פָּדוּי. וּפוֹדִין בְּבֶן פְּקוּעָה. אֲבָל לֹא בִּפְסוּלֵי הַמֻּקְדָּשִׁין שֶׁהֲרֵי נֶאֱמַר בָּהֶן (דברים יב טו) (דברים טו כב) "כַּצְּבִי וְכָאַיָּל". מָה צְבִי וְאַיָּל אֵין פּוֹדִין בּוֹ אַף פְּסוּלֵי הַמֻּקְדָּשִׁין אֵין פּוֹדִין בָּהֶם:

10

One may redeem [a firstling donkey] with a seh, whether a male or female, whether blemished or unblemished, whether small or large.

י

פּוֹדִין בְּשֶׂה בֵּין זְכָרִים בֵּין נְקֵבוֹת בֵּין תְּמִימִים בֵּין בַּעֲלֵי מוּמִים בֵּין קְטַנִּים בֵּין גְּדוֹלִים:

11

When a seh was purchased with money that came from the sale of produce of the Sabbatical year,25 it should not be used to redeem a donkey that is definitely a firstling.26 It may, however, be used to redeem a donkey whose firstling status is questionable.27

If [the owner of a firstling donkey] does not own a seh to redeem it, he may redeem it for its value,28 paying its worth to a priest.29 The Torah did not mention a seh to be stringent with him,30 but rather to be lenient with him, i.e., if he possessed a firstling donkey worth ten selaim, he could redeem it with a seh that is worth a dinar.31 [The rationale is that the redemption of the firstling donkey] should not be considered more stringent than [the redemption of] consecrated property which may be redeemed with its monetary value.

יא

שֶׂה שֶׁלְּקָחוֹ מִדְּמֵי שְׁבִיעִית אֵין פּוֹדִין בּוֹ אֶת הַוַּדַּאי. אֲבָל פּוֹדִין בּוֹ אֶת הַסָּפֵק. אִם אֵין לוֹ שֶׂה לִפְדּוֹתוֹ פּוֹדֵהוּ בְּשָׁוְיוֹ וְנוֹתֵן דָּמָיו לַכֹּהֵן. לֹא אָמְרָה תּוֹרָה שֶׂה לְהַחְמִיר עָלָיו אֶלָּא לְהָקֵל עָלָיו. שֶׁאִם הָיָה לוֹ פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר שֶׁשָּׁוֶה עֶשֶׂר סְלָעִים יֵשׁ לוֹ לִפְדּוֹתוֹ בְּשֶׂה שְׁוֵה דִּינָר. וְלֹא יִהְיֶה זֶה חָמוּר מִן הַהֶקְדֵּשׁ שֶׁנִּפְדֶּה בְּכֶסֶף בְּשָׁוְיוֹ:

12

When does the above32 apply? When the value of the firstling donkey was three zuzim33 or more. If, however, its worth was less than three zuzim, it may be redeemed only with a seh or with three zuzim.34A generous person should not give less than a sela, a parsimonious person should give half a sela and an average person, three zuzim.

יב

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים כְּשֶׁהָיוּ דְּמֵי פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה זוּזִים וּלְמַעְלָה. אֲבָל אִם הָיוּ דָּמָיו פָּחוֹת מִשְׁלֹשָׁה זוּזִים אֵין פּוֹדִין אוֹתוֹ אֶלָּא בְּשֶׂה אוֹ בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה זוּזִים. וְעַיִן יָפָה לֹא יִפְחֹת מִסֶּלַע. וְעַיִן רָעָה בַּחֲצִי סֶלַע. וּבֵינוֹנִית בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה זוּזִים:

13

When a person redeems a firstling donkey belonging to a colleague, the redemption is effective,35 but the donkey belongs to its owner.

יג

והַפּוֹדֶה פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר שֶׁל חֲבֵרוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה פָּדוּי. וְהַחֲמוֹר לִבְעָלָיו:

14

Priests and Levites36 are exempt from the redemption of a firstling donkey, as [Numbers 18:15] states: "The firstborn of man and the firstborn of an impure animal you shall redeem."37 All of those who are obligated to redeem a firstborn human are obligated to redeem the firstborn of an impure animal. Those who are exempt from redeeming a firstborn human38 are exempt from redeeming the firstborn of an impure animal.

יד

כֹּהֲנִים וּלְוִיִּם פְּטוּרִין מִפֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יח טו) "בְּכוֹר הָאָדָם וְאֵת בְּכוֹר הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּמֵאָה תִּפְדֶּה". כָּל שֶׁיֶּשְׁנוֹ בִּבְכוֹר אָדָם יֶשְׁנוֹ בִּבְכוֹר בְּהֵמָה טְמֵאָה. וְהַפָּטוּר מִבְּכוֹר אָדָם פָּטוּר מִבְּכוֹר בְּהֵמָה טְמֵאָה:

15

When a person purchases the fetus of a donkey belonging to a gentile or sells the fetus of his donkey to a gentile - although he is not allowed to do so39 - he is exempt from [redeeming] the firstborn. We do not penalize him for such an act.

If the gentile was a partner40 in the mother or the firstborn - even if he only owned a thousandth share - the animal is exempt.41 Should [the gentile own] only one limb or organ of the fetus or the mother42 - e.g., its forefoot or its hindfoot, even its ear, any limb or organ that if cut off would cause the animal to be disqualified as blemished - it is exempt from [the obligations of] a firstborn. If, however, the portion belonging to the gentile would be cut off, the animal would not be considered as blemished for the altar,43 he is obligated.44

Similarly, one who receives a donkey from a gentile to care for on the condition that they divide the offspring45 or a gentile received [a donkey] from a Jew on that condition, they are exempt from [the obligations of] the firstborn, as [indicated by Exodus 13:2]: "The first issue of the womb within the children of Israel, in humans and in animals." [Implied is that] it must entirely belong to an Israelite.

טו

הַלּוֹקֵחַ עֻבַּר חֲמוֹרוֹ שֶׁל עַכּוּ''ם אוֹ הַמּוֹכֵר עֻבַּר חֲמוֹרוֹ לְעַכּוּ''ם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר מִן הַבְּכוֹרָה. וְאֵין קוֹנְסִין אוֹתוֹ עַל דָּבָר זֶה. הָיָה הָעַכּוּ''ם שֻׁתָּף בָּאֵם אוֹ בַּבְּכוֹר אֲפִלּוּ לֹא הָיָה לוֹ אֶלָּא אֶחָד מֵאֶלֶף בּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר. הָיָה לוֹ בּוֹ אוֹ בְּאִמּוֹ אֵיבָר אֶחָד כְּגוֹן יָדוֹ אוֹ רַגְלוֹ אֲפִלּוּ אָזְנוֹ כָּל שֶׁאִלּוּ יֵחָתֵךְ יִהְיֶה בַּעַל מוּם הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר מִן הַבְּכוֹרָה. וְאִם כְּשֶׁיֵּחָתֵךְ חֵלֶק הָעַכּוּ''ם לֹא יִהְיֶה בַּעַל מוּם לַמִּזְבֵּחַ הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב. וְכֵן הַמְקַבֵּל חֲמוֹר מִן הָעַכּוּ''ם לִהְיוֹת מְטַפֵּל בָּהּ וְהַוָּלָד בֵּינֵיהֶם אוֹ עַכּוּ''ם שֶׁקִּבֵּל מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל הַכּל פָּטוּר מִן הַבְּכוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יג ב) "פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּאָדָם וּבַבְּהֵמָה" עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַכּל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל:

16

When a convert converts and it is not known whether his donkey gave birth before he converted46 or afterwards,47 he is obligated to decapitate it48 or redeem it.49 If he redeems it with a seh, the seh belongs to the convert, [because we follow the principle]: When a person desires to expropriate property from a colleague, the burden of proof is upon him.50

טז

גֵּר שֶׁנִּתְגַּיֵּר וְאֵין יָדוּעַ אִם עַד שֶׁלֹּא נִתְגַּיֵּר יָלְדָה חֲמוֹרוֹ אוֹ אַחַר שֶׁנִּתְגַּיֵּר הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב לַעֲרֹף אוֹ לִפְדּוֹת. וְאִם פָּדָה בְּשֶׂה הַשֶּׂה שֶׁל גֵּר שֶׁהַמּוֹצִיא מֵחֲבֵרוֹ עָלָיו הָרְאָיָה:

17

When a gentile separates a firstling donkey, he should be informed that he is not obligated [to redeem it].51 It is permitted for him to use its shearings and to work with it.52

יז

עַכּוּ''ם שֶׁהִפְרִישׁ פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר מוֹדִיעִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ חַיָּב וַהֲרֵי הוּא מֻתָּר בְּגִזָּה וַעֲבוֹדָה:

18

When a cow gives birth to an offspring resembling a donkey or a donkey gives birth to an offspring resembling a horse, it is exempt. [This is derived as follows. Twice53 the Torah states:] "The first issue of a donkey you shall redeem with a seh and the first issue of a donkey...." By mentioning "the first issue of a donkey" twice, [the Torah] indicates that both the mother and the offspring must [resemble] donkeys. If such an offspring has some of the identifying marks of a donkey, there is an obligation to redeem it.54

יח

פָּרָה שֶׁיָּלְדָה כְּמִין חֲמוֹר אוֹ חֲמוֹר שֶׁיָּלְדָה כְּמִין סוּס פָּטוּר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות לד כ) "וּפֶטֶר חֲמוֹר תִּפְדֶּה בְשֶׂה" וּפֶטֶר חֲמוֹר שְׁתֵּי פְּעָמִים עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַיּוֹלֵד חֲמוֹר וְהַנּוֹלָד חֲמוֹר. וְאִם יֵשׁ בּוֹ מִקְצָת סִימָנֵי חֲמוֹר חַיָּב בִּבְכוֹרָה:

19

When a donkey had not given birth before and it gives birth to two males, [the owner] should give a lamb to a priest.55 If it gives birth to a male and a female [and it is not known which was born first], a lamb should be set aside to remove its holiness so that it will be permitted to benefit from it, for perhaps the male was born first.

The lamb that is set aside belongs to the owner and not to the priest. [We follow the principle]: When a person desires to expropriate property from a colleague, the burden of proof is upon him.56

יט

חֲמוֹרוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִּכְּרָה וְיָלְדָה שְׁנֵי זְכָרִים נוֹתֵן טָלֶה לַכֹּהֵן. יָלְדָה זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה מַפְרִישׁ טָלֶה אֶחָד כְּדֵי לְהַפְקִיעַ קְדֻשָּׁה מִמֶּנּוּ עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה מֻתָּר בַּהֲנָיָה. שֶׁמָּא הַזָּכָר נוֹלָד תְּחִלָּה. וְטָלֶה זֶה שֶׁהִפְרִישׁ לַבְּעָלִים וְאֵינוֹ לַכֹּהֵן שֶׁהַמּוֹצִיא מֵחֲבֵרוֹ עָלָיו הָרְאָיָה:

20

When two donkeys that have not given birth yet give birth to two males, [the owner] should give two lambs to a priest. [If they give birth to] a male and a female or two males and a female, he should give one lamb to the priest.57

כ

שְׁתֵּי חֲמוֹרָיו שֶׁלֹּא בִּכְּרוּ וְיָלְדוּ שְׁנֵי זְכָרִים נוֹתֵן שְׁנֵי טְלָאִים לַכֹּהֵן. זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה אוֹ שְׁנֵי זְכָרִים וּנְקֵבָה נוֹתֵן טָלֶה אֶחָד לַכֹּהֵן:

21

[If these donkeys] gave birth to two females and a male or [even] two males and two females, the priest does not receive anything.58 Moreover, [the owner] need not [even] set aside a lamb that he can keep for himself. [The rationale is that] there are many doubts involved: Maybe one gave birth to a male and the other gave birth to two females. Or perhaps one gave birth to a female and the other to a male and then a female or a female and afterwards a male. Similarly, there are many doubts when two males and two females were born.59

If there were two donkeys - one had given birth previously and one had not - and they gave birth to two males and they became intermingled, [the owner] should give one lamb to the priest.60 If they gave birth to a male and a female, he should separate a lamb for himself and he need not give it to the priest, because its status is doubtful.61 [Hence, we follow the principle]: When a person desires to expropriate property from a colleague, the burden of proof is upon him.

כא

יָלְדוּ שְׁתֵּי נְקֵבוֹת וְזָכָר אוֹ שְׁנֵי זְכָרִים וּשְׁתֵּי נְקֵבוֹת אֵין כָּאן לַכֹּהֵן כְּלוּם. וְאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לְהַפְרִישׁ טָלֶה לְעַצְמוֹ לְפִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ כָּאן סְפֵקוֹת הַרְבֵּה שֶׁמָּא הָאַחַת יָלְדָה זָכָר וְהַשְּׁנִיָּה יָלְדָה שְׁתֵּי נְקֵבוֹת. אוֹ שֶׁמָּא זוֹ יָלְדָה נְקֵבָה וְהָאַחֶרֶת זָכָר וְאַחֲרָיו נְקֵבָה אוֹ נְקֵבָה וְאַחֲרֶיהָ זָכָר. וְכֵן סְפֵקוֹת הַרְבֵּה יֵשׁ בִּשְׁנֵי זְכָרִים וּשְׁתֵּי נְקֵבוֹת. אַחַת בִּכְּרָה וְאַחַת שֶׁלֹּא בִּכְּרָה וְיָלְדוּ שְׁנֵי זְכָרִים וְנִתְעָרְבוּ נוֹתֵן טָלֶה אֶחָד לַכֹּהֵן. זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה מַפְרִישׁ טָלֶה אֶחָד לְעַצְמוֹ וְאֵינוֹ נוֹתְנוֹ לַכֹּהֵן מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא סָפֵק וְהַמּוֹצִיא מֵחֲבֵרוֹ עָלָיו הָרְאָיָה:

22

Similarly, when a person purchases a donkey from a gentile and it gives birth to a male, but it is not known whether it gave birth previously or not, he should redeem it with a seh - which he may keep - because its status is doubtful.

כב

וְכֵן הַלּוֹקֵחַ חֲמוֹר מִן הָעַכּוּ''ם וְאֵין יָדוּעַ אִם בִּכְּרָה אוֹ לֹא בִּכְּרָה וְיָלְדָה זָכָר פּוֹדֶה אוֹתוֹ בְּשֶׂה וְהוּא לַבְּעָלִים. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא סָפֵק:

23

When a person possesses ten lambs - each of them having been separated because of a first issue of a donkey of a doubtful status - they are considered as ordinary property in every context.62 They should be tithed like other animals.63 One of them should be separated as the tithes and the others remain his property, as they were previously.

כג

מִי שֶׁהָיוּ לוֹ עֲשָׂרָה טְלָאִים כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן הִפְרִישׁוֹ עַל סְפֵק פֶּטֶר חֲמוֹר הֲרֵי הֵן כְּחֻלִּין לְכָל דָּבָר וּמִתְעַשְּׂרִין כִּשְׁאָר הַבְּהֵמָה. וּמַפְרֵשׁ אֶחָד מֵהֶן מַעֲשֵׂר וְהַשְּׁאָר שֶׁלּוֹ כְּשֶׁהָיוּ:

24

When an Israelite possesses at home ten donkeys whose status as firstlings is definite which he inherited from his maternal grandfather who was a priest who in turn inherited them from his maternal grandfather who was an Israelite, he should separate ten se'in for them.64 They, however, [may be kept] as his own65 and, hence, he is obligated to tithe them.66

כד

יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהָיוּ לוֹ עֲשָׂרָה פִּטְרֵי חֲמוֹרִים וַדָּאִין בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ שֶׁנָּפְלוּ לוֹ מִבֵּית אֲבִי אִמּוֹ כֹּהֵן וְאוֹתוֹ אֲבִי אִמּוֹ הַכֹּהֵן נָפְלוֹ לוֹ מִבֵּית אֲבִי אִמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל הֲרֵי זֶה מַפְרִישׁ עֲלֵיהֶן עֲשָׂרָה שֵׂיִין וְהֵן שֶׁלּוֹ וְחַיָּבִין בְּמַעֲשֵׂר: סְלִיקוּ לְהוּ הִלְכוֹת בִּכּוּרִים בְּסִיַעְתָּא דִּשְׁמַיָּא

Blessed be God who grants assistance.

סליקו להו הלכות בכורים:

Test Yourself on This Chapter

Footnotes
1.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 81) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 22) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

2.

In contrast to the mitzvah of redeeming one's firstborn son, this obligation is incumbent on both males and females.

3.

If, however, the first issue of the donkey is female, it need not be redeemed.

4.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 82) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 23) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. The Ra'avad objects to this being considered as a separate mitzvah. In Sefer HaMitzvot, loc. cit., the Rambam explains that he considers the two as separate mitzvot, because Bechorot 13a refers to them as such and draws a parallel between these mitzvot and the mitzvot of yibbum and chalitzah which are accepted as separate mitzvot.

Bechorot 10b explains the rationale for this mitzvah, since the owner caused a priest a loss (by not redeeming the firstling donkey), the Torah decreed that he suffer financial loss. In his Moreh Nevuchim, loc. cit., the Rambam explains that this mitzvah is a safeguard to insure that the mitzvah to redeem the firstling donkeys is observed.

5.

The Hebrew term seh can refer either to a sheep or a goat, as stated in Halachah 8.

6.

I.e., its observance is not limited to Eretz Yisrael, nor to the time when the Temple is standing.

7.

I.e., the initial preference is to redeem the animal rather than behead it.

8.

The verse establishes an association between the redemption of a firstborn son and the redemption of a firstling donkey. Just as the money for the firstborn is given the priest, so to, the seh for the firstling donkey is given him (Radbaz). Nevertheless, as evident from Halachot 5-6, the association is not complete in all of its particulars.

9.

The Rambam clarifies this because from a simple reading of the verse, one might infer that all the firstborn of impure animals must be redeemed. Although all firstborn humans must be redeemed and all firstborn kosher animals must be sacrificed and/or given to a priest, among non-kosher animals, it is only among donkeys that the firstborn is designated as unique and requiring redemption. In his Moreh Nevuchim, Vol. III, ch. 39, the Rambam explains that this mitzvah is also connected with the commemoration of the exodus when God slew the Egyptian firstborn. It is associated with donkeys and not other beasts, because donkeys are a necessity in an agricultural society. Rashi (Exodus 13:13) focused on different dimensions of this concept, stating that donkeys are used as an analogy for the Egyptians, and b) the donkeys assisted the Jews in their redemption, for they carried the wealth of Egypt upon them.

10.

The Ra'avad questions the Rambam's ruling, asking: "Why can he not give the money he received for the donkey to the priest? Why is it forbidden?" After all, it is permitted to redeem the donkey for its value (Halachah 11).

The Radbaz explains that if the person would desire to pay the donkey's worth to the priest he could. Here, however, he sold the donkey and once, it was sold the money he received is forbidden. Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:8) quotes the Rambam's ruling. The Rama states that if the seller notifies the buyer that it is the first issue of a donkey, stipulates that the buyer will redeem it with a seh, and states that he is selling him the difference between the value of the seh and the value of the donkey, the sale is permitted

11.

I.e., the priest sets aside a seh and redeems the donkey with it. He then takes the seh as his own.

12.

For they say: "Why should I redeem it when I am entitled to keep the seh with which I redeem it?" (Sifei Cohen 321:6).

13.

As soon as the seh was set aside, the holiness of the donkey is transferred to it. Hence, when the seh dies, it is considered that the priest's property died and the owner is not under any further obligation (Rashi, Bechorot 9a).

14.

For the seh already became the priest's property [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Bechorot 1:4)].

15.

Again since the redemption is already a fait accompli, the priest deserves the seh regardless of what happens to the donkey.

16.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:1) states that the mitzvah is "to redeem it immediately, so as not to postpone the observance of the mitzvah."

17.

In this, we see a difference between the redemption of a firstling donkey and that of a firstborn son. For the son must be redeemed after 30 days, not before (Chapter 11, Halachah 17).

18.

Our translation is taken from the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Bechorot 1:7).

19.

This is implied by the Hebrew term erafto that is connected to the Hebrew oref, meaning "neck." One must decapitate the animal, severing its neck (ibid.).

20.

The (Turei Zahav 321:3 notes that, as stated in Halachah 11, one may redeem the firstling donkey for its value. Hence, if one tells a priest that by giving him a calf or the like, he is redeeming the donkey for its value, the redemption is effective.

21.

See Chapter 9, Halachah 5, and notes, with regard to the definition of this term.

22.

For even if it does not appear to be a seh, it is of that species. Bechorot 12a raises this question and does not resolve it. Hence, as an initial preference, one should not use such an animal, but after the fact, it is acceptable (Radbaz, Kessef Mishneh).

The Rambam's opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:3), but the Tur and the Rama differ and maintain that the status of such a redemption is questionable.

23.

This term refers to an animal that was being carried as a fetus when its mother was slaughtered and remained alive despite that slaughter (see Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 5:14). The Rambam's opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:4), but the Tur and the Rama differ and maintain that the redemption is invalid.

24.

As stated in the previous halachah.

25.

See Hilchot Shemitah VeYoval, ch. 6, which explains the laws governing the use of money received for the sale of the produce of the Sabbatical year in detail.

26.

The sheep purchased with money from the sale of produce of the Sabbatical year is considered as the produce of the Sabbatical year itself. And the produce of the Sabbatical year should not be used for the purchase of a non-kosher animal (ibid. 6:10).

27.

As stated in Halachah 21, when redeeming a donkey whose firstling status is questionable, it is necessary to separate a sheep, but one does not have to give it to the priest. Hence, using a sheep for this process is not considered analogous to the purchase of a non-kosher animal with the produce of the Sabbatical year.

28.

See the Minchat Chinuch (mitzvah 22) who concludes that when the owner does possess a seh, he must redeem the donkey with the seh rather than pay its value.

29.

See the Or Sameach and the Minchat Chinuch (loc. cit.) who question whether, after the fact, the redemption of a firstling donkey is effective if one gave less than its worth. One might argue that the priest receiving the article could say: "For me, this is worth the value of the donkey." Indeed, Hilchot Arachin 7:8 states that when one redeems consecrated property for less than its value, the redemption is valid. This position, however, is not accepted by all authorities. Compare to Chapter 11, Halachah 7.

30.

And require that a sheep be given, regardless of the difficulty involved.

31.

A dinar is equivalent to one fourth of a sela.

32.

That a firstling donkey should be redeemed for its value or for a seh.

33.

A zuz is equivalent to a dinar.

34.

The Rambam's ruling is based on his interpretation of Bechorot 11a. Rashi and the Ra'avad offer a different interpretation of that passage. In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Caro questions the Rambam's ruling, stating that the Ra'avad's interpretation appears closer to the version of the Talmud we possess. Nevertheless, in his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:5), Rav Yosef Caro quotes the Rambam's view.

35.

Note the Minchat Chinuch (loc. cit.) who questions whether the mitzvah is incumbent on the owner of the donkey and the person is thus acting as the owner's agent or whether the mitzvah to redeem it is incumbent on the Jewish people as a whole and any person has the right to observe. There would be a practical difference between these two views if the owner protested against the other person redeeming his firstling donkey.

36.

The Rama (Yoreh De'ah 321:19) states that this also applies to women of the priestly and Levitical families. Nevertheless, this applies only to the donkeys that they personally own. Those owned by their husbands are liable.

37.

I.e., the initial preference is to redeem the animal rather than behead it.

38.

And the priests and Levites are exempt from the redemption of their firstborn, as stated in Chapter 11, Halachah 9.

39.

This refers to the second clause. He is forbidden to sell his firstling donkey as a fetus to a gentile, for by doing so, he exempts himself from the mitzvah of redeeming it and thus causes the priesthood a loss. There is, however, no prohibition against purchasing a firstling fetus owned by a gentile (Radbaz).

40.

In general, it is forbidden to enter into a partnership with a gentile (Hilchot Shiluchim VeShutafim 10:5). In particular, this applies in the present instance, for he is depriving the priesthood of the presents due them. Nevertheless, he is not penalized for doing so.

41.

For, as the Rambam concludes, the firstling donkey must belong entirely to a Jew.

42.

The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:20) state that, in this regard, the laws that apply to a firstling donkey are the same as those applying to the firstborn of a kosher animal and they are discussed in sec. 320 which deals with that subject.

There the Tur asks why is it necessary for the Rambam to speak of the limbs of an animal when he already mentioned that any small percentage of a partnership in the animal disqualifies it. The Kessef Mishneh explains that in this clause, the Rambam is speaking about an instance where the gentile is not a partner in the entire animal. He owns only a portion of the particular limb or organ in question. Hence, it is necessary to clarify that even in such an instance, he is exempt.

43.

I.e., if such a blemish were to exist in a kosher animal. These blemishes are mentioned in Hilchot Issurei Mizbeach, ch. 2.

44.

For the portion owned by the gentile is not significant.

45.

This was a common practice in the Talmudic era. A person would give a colleague a donkey (or other animal) to raise. As payment for raising it, he is given a half share in the donkey's offspring. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Bechorot 1:1).

46.

In which case he would be exempt from redeeming its firstborn.

47.

In which case he would be obligated.

48.

When quoting this law, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:18) does not mention the option of decapitation, implying that even in this instance, redemption is the preferable option.

49.

This instance is different from that involving the presents of meat given to the priests (Chapter 9, Halachah 13). The rationale is that in this instance, the owner is forbidden to benefit from the firstling donkey unless he redeems it. Hence, he must redeem it rather than risk that transgression. Moreover, as the Rambam proceeds to explain, he does not suffer any loss through this redemption.

50.

A priest who is claiming that he is entitled to the seh for the redemption would have to prove that the conversion took place before the donkey was born. The owner is allowed to keep the seh, for there is no holiness associated with it. The question is only one of monetary law and is governed by the principle stated by the Rambam.

51.

We inform him, lest he think that the Jews are lax in the observance of sanctified aticles (Sifei Cohen 321:13).

52.

For the mitzvah only applies to the Jewish people.

53.

Exodus 13:13, 34:20.

54.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 315:6) is more lenient, stating that there is a doubt whether it must be redeemed.

55.

Even though he does not know which one is the firstborn, one of them obviously is. Hence, an obligation exists.

56.

A priest who is claiming that he is entitled to the seh for the redemption would have to prove that the male donkey was born first.

57.

For it is only certain that one of the males was the firstborn. The female could have been born before the second one. See Chapter 11, Halachah 22. Although there is a possibility that the second donkey gave birth to a male first, there is no probability that it did so. Hence the Rambam does not require that a lamb be separated for it. The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:14) maintain that since there is a possibility that the second male is also a firstborn, the owner should separate a lamb to remove the possibility of any holiness being attached to the donkey, but he may keep the lamb as his own.

58.

Because there is no probability that the donkeys gave birth to a male first. In each instance, it is possible that the donkey gave birth to a female before the male.

59.

The Ra'avad and other commentaries question the Rambam's logic and ruling, because this is not the usual instance of a sefek-sefeka. When the situation is analyzed, the only real question is: Was the male born after a female or not? Hence since there is a doubt it would seem appropriate for a lamb to be separated (and kept by the owner) to remove the possibility of the donkey being holy. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 321:14) follows the Rambam's view, while the Tur and the Rama require that a lamb be set aside. As Sifei Cohen 321:11 writes, since the owner will not suffer a loss by separating a lamb, why shouldn't he?

60.

For one of the males is definitely a firstborn.

61.

For perhaps the donkey that gave birth previously gave birth to the male.

62.

The fact that originally, there was a claim against them is not significant. Since the owner is allowed to maintain possession, as stated in the above halachot, there is no difference between these lambs and the remainder of his property.

63.

See Hilchot Bechorot, ch. 6, which describes this mitzvah. Since these lambs are ordinary property and are not consecrated, they must be tithed.

64.

For since, they originally belonged to an Israelite, there is an obligation to redeem them.

65.

His grandfather, the priest would not have to give the lambs he set aside to redeem them to another priest, because he himself is entitled to them. He bequeaths that right to his grandson, the Israelite. Hence he may keep them as his own.

66.

For they are not consecrated.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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