כ״ו בניסן ה׳תשע״ד (April 26, 2014)

Beitza 27a-b: Examining First Borns on Yom Tov

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, there is a disagreement between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon regarding the question of checking the status of a behor – a first-born animal – on Yom Tov. The Gemara on our daf, in an attempt to clarify which of the two positions is accepted as the halakha, relates a number of stories in which this issue is brought to the fore.

The Gemara relates that Ami of Vardina was the examiner of firstborns in the household of the Nasi. On Festivals he would not examine firstborn blemishes.

Ami of Vardina is mentioned a number of times in the Talmud. According to Rashi, he is one and the same as “Ami Shefir Na’eh” (Ami, the handsome one). The position that he held was well-respected, since the person who had that role needed to have a deep understanding of animal husbandry and physiology, as well as a broad knowledge of halakha.

They came and told Rabbi Ami about this. He said to them: He does well not to examine them. The Gemara raises an objection: Is that so? But didn’t Rabbi Ami himself examine firstborns for blemishes on a Festival? The Gemara answers: When Rabbi Ami would examine the blemishes of firstborns, it was on the day before the Festival that he would examine them, to see whether the blemishes were permanent or temporary. And on the Festival itself he would ask only how the incident occurred, meaning that he would investigate the cause of the blemish.

The “further examinations” Rabbi Ami performed involved questioning the person who asked for the animal to be checked – and perhaps even taking testimony from others. Current practice is that when a behor is born in a flock of animals owned by a Jewish person, the animal is tended by its owner for the first three months, at which time it is transferred to the kohen. Since today there is no possibility of bringing the behor as a sacrifice, such an animal only has value to the kohen once a mum has been found in it. This reality has led to a situation that kohanim are suspected of placing the animal in a situation where it will easily develop a mum, so the expert who examines the animal must also play the role of prosecutor in an attempt to establish whether the mum was an accidental one or was done purposely.

The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 498:9) accepts the conclusion suggested by these stories, and rules like Rabbi Shimon that a behor should not be inspected on Yom Tov to see whether it has developed mumim.

Previous
Next