Invalid Sale of Bechor Meat

Bechorot (5:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 22 days ago

Recall that a bechor, first born behema, must be given to a kohen and offered as a korban. If however it develops a mum (specific blemish) and is it is confirmed by a mumche (expert), then the bechor can be slaughtered outside the Beit HaMikdash, and its meat consumed. Even in the times when there is no Beit HaMikdash, a kohen must wait for a bechor to develop a mum, prior to slaughtering it.

The Mishnah (5:6) taught that if one slaughtered and sold a bechor and it was discovered that the animal was not shown to a mumche, then the money must be returned. This would be the case even if the meat was already consumed. If however some meat remained, it would need to be buried.

The Mishnah continues that the law is similar in a case where one sold meat, and it was later discovered that the meat was treif. Irrespective of whether the meat was consumed, the money would need to be returned. If however the meat was sold to a nochri or was used to feed dogs (who are allowed to eat treif meat) then the money returned is the difference between the money paid and the cost of treif meat.

The Tifferet Yisrael notes the difference between the two cases in the Mishnah. It is only in the second case, where treif meat was sold, that the Mishnah provides a ruling if the meat was either sold to a nochri or sold to dogs. Why? The question is further strengthened since we learnt (5:2) that if a bechor developed a mum, then a kohen can consume it along with a nochri.

The Tifferet Yisrael, provides two answers. The Tifferet Yisrael's second answer is that the difference between the two cases is practical in nature. The Tifferet Yisrael directs us to the Shulchan Aruch (YD 306:3) who rules that a kohen can sell the bechor that has a mum, even to an Yisrael, provided that the Yisrael treats it with the sanctity of a bechor that has a mum. The Shulchan Aruch however continues that the permit to sell it, is if the purchaser wants it for his own needs, i.e. to consume it. If however the purchaser wants it for business purposes, e.g. on-sell or trade the bechor, then the sale is forbidden. The Shulchan Aruch continues that if one initially purchased the bechor for their own needs, but then no longer had a need for it, they can sell the purchased bechor. The Tifferet Yisrael reasons that since one cannot orderinarly do business with the purchased bechor, the likelihood of on selling the meat is very slim. This then explains why that possibility is not mentioned in the Mishnah, in case of the meat of a bechor.

The Tifferet Yaakov however finds this answer of the Tifferet Yisrael difficult. He argues that the prohibition of doing commerce with a purchased bechor that has a mum is only while the bechor is alive, in our case however we are dealing with the meat of a bechor. The Tifferet Yaakov cites the Tifferet Yisrael's own comment in the Mishnah in Shviit (7:3) that teaches this law that one is not allowed to do business with bechorot. The Tifferet Yisrael comments that that only applies to a live bechor. One is however allowed to do business with the meat from a bechor, provided it is treated differently than regular meat and not sold in the marketplace, as we learn in the early Mishnah (5:1).1 Since there is no prohibition, it is quite possible that one was interested in purchasing the bechor meat for profit.2

The first answer of the Tifferet Yisrael however is that an object that was used for a mitzvah is dear to Yisrael. Bnei Yisrael would prefer to consume it themselves rather than sell it to a nochri or feed it to animals. The Tifferet Yisrael directs us to the Magen Avraham (167) that rules that even a slice of bread from hamotzi should not be given to a nochri or fed to a dog. The Tifferet Yisrael continues that if that should be our attitude regarding hamotzi, then it should certainly hold true for bechor, an animal that had kedusha. He continues, that considering that we are forbidden from treating objects that served something that has kedusha with disrespect, then one would certainly not treat a bechor that had kedusha, in a degrading manner.


1 The Beit Hillel, explains that the Beit Yosef cites this Mishnah as the source for the law cited above in the Shulchan Aruch. The Beit Hillel continues that the Rash also explains that there is now prohibition in doing business with the meat from a bechor that had a mum.

2 In defence of the Tifferet Yisrael, perhaps he means that since doing business with live bechorot is prohibited, the likelihood that one purchased the meat of a bechor for business is greatly reduced.

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