Bechorot for Kedushat Damim

Bechorot (2:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

In our study of Mishnayot we made the transition from learning about peter chamor to bechor beheima (first born animal). The Mishnah (2:2-3) discussed the exemption from bechor for animals that have been sanctified and subsequently redeemed having developed a mum (blemish) that prevented it from being offered as a korban

The Mishnah differentiated between whether the animal developed the mum before or after the animal was sanctified. The difference being, that if the animal developed a mum prior to being sanctified, it never achieved the sanctity of a korban, rather its monetary value was sanctified – kedushat damim. If the animal developed a mum after being sanctified, the animal has kedushat haguf. Even after the animal is redeemed, it is still retains a special status; the first born of such an animal would be exempt from bechor

When the Torah teaches that one may eat a korban that developed a mum and was then redeemed it compares it to “the deer and the hart” (Devarim 12:15). The Gemara understands that the comparison to these animals specifically is significant since they are animals that are exempt from bechor. The same is therefore true for kodshim that developed a mum and were then redeemed. If however the mum was pre-existing – the animal has kedushat damim. Once the animal is redeemed it is treated like a regular animal and its first-born would be obligated in bechor. The Mishnah lists other laws for which the difference is significant, however we shall focus on the main topic of the masechet.

The Gemara (14a) notes that the exemption of bechor for an animal that has kedushat damim is only after the animal has been redeemed. Prior to that, the animal would be exempt. The Gemara explains that “kedushat damim pushes off bechor…”. We shall try to understand why.

Rashi explains that kedushat damim are exempt similar to those that are kedushat haguf as learnt from the pasuk above. Tosfot however finds this difficult. The pasuk above was used to teach that those animals that had kedushat haguf are exempt from bechor even after they were redeemed. If the exemption for kedushat damim was also learnt from the above pasuk they should be exempt even after redemption – which we know from the Mishnah is not the case. The Griz (stencil) explains the question of the Tosfot as follows. The fact that we find that the exemption applies to korbanot that have kedushat haguf even after they are redeemed implies that the exemption has nothing to do with kedusha per se and nothing can be inferred for kedushat ha’damim. Alternatively, the question is that since the exemption as learnt from that pasuk applies even after redemption it means that the exemption is not due to the ownership of hekdesh. Consequently nothing can be derived for kedushat damim, since its only “sanctity” is the ownership of hekdesh.  

The Tosfot however learns the exemption from a different pasuk (Bamidbar 3:13): “I have sanctified all the first-borns in Israel”. The implication is that only animals that belong to an Yisrael are obligated in bechor. An animal that has kedushat damim and not redeemed, is exempt. The Griz (stensil) explains that it is the issue of ownership at play and not sanctity itself. He uses this to explain the Tosefta that list hekdesh in the middle of cases of hefker (ownerless property) that are exempt from bechor. The implication is that ownership critical.

The Sefat Emet however finds the Tosfot difficult. First the Gemara’s language that “kedushat damim pushes off bechor…” does not fit with their explanation which is based on whether it is owned by an Yisrael.  Secondly, some kodshim (kodshei kalim) are defined as mamon ba’alim – the property of the owner. Consequently, if one sanctified the animal with a mum for a shelamim then it should be obligated even before it is redeemed. 

The Sefat Emet therefore cites a different Rashi as the source. The pasuk teaches “All first-borns… you shall sanctify” (Devarim 15:19). Rashi (Chulin 130a) explains that “you shall sanctify” excludes those that are already sanctified. The Sefat Emet understands this includes kedushat damim prior to redemption.


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