Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bo, Shemos 13:15. Not a Kohen, Not a Yisrael

At the end of our sedra, in the parsha of Pidyon HaBen, the passuk says that first-born animals are to be brought as korbanos, and first-born children are to be redeemed.  When our children ask us why we are doing this, we are to tell them that Hashem saved our children in Mitzrayim, and
על כן אני זבח לה' כל פטר רחם הזכרים וכל בכור בני אפדה
To whom is this passuk saying "be makriv, and be podeh, and tell your children "I am doing these things because of the miracles in Mitzrayim""?  Who is the passuk talking to?  There is no individual to whom both dinim apply.  The Yisrael redeems his son, but the Kohen does not.  The Kohen brings the animal as a korban, but the Yisrael does not.  It's an elementary question:   אל מי הפסוק מדבר?  Obviously, a non-kohen can shecht a korban, so אני זבח might be talking to the Yisrael who gave the animal to the Kohen who may then shecht it on the Kohen's behalf, but that's a very, very poor explanation.  If someone chashuv says it, I apologize.

This is not my question.  This morning before Pesukei D'Zimra Harav Shimon Kalman G asked me.
When I originally posted it, I was sure that it was a well known question.  Apparently, it's not. So until we find that it was addressed in the past, here are some suggestions.

UPDATE:  Eli found that the Steipler asks the question in his Birkas Peretz.  I have a copy of his answer below after answer #3.

Reb Meir Simcha in 13:13 says that before the Chet Ha'Eigel, there was a law of Pidyon, but the rules were different.
1. Nobody was exempted (my assumption; he doesn't say it.)
2. Animals were to be brought as korbanos by the owner.
3. Children were redeemed, and the money became hekdesh and was used to buy a korban for the father.  
According to this, we can say the passuk is addressing everyone.  Everyone had to bring their  first-born animals as korbanos and also redeem their first-born children- the זובח and the פודה are the same person.  True, the parsha begins with כי יביאך, and the חטא העגל occurred long before that, but that doesn't matter.  When the parsha was taught, it had to make sense under the conditions of that moment.  At that time, it meant one thing, and subsequent to the חטא העגל, the words would have to be reinterpreted as addressing different individuals, similar to what Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky says by the parsha of Yibum.

אני זבח doesn't mean "I am bringing it as a Zevach."  It means I am designating it as a Zevach, or ensuring that it is brought as a Zevach.  We know that the Yisrael has a special mitzva to be mekadeish the Bechor even though it is born with Kedusha (Nazir 4b, מנין לנולד לו בכור בתוך עדרו שמצוה עליו להקדישו שנאמר הזכר תקדיש, also ibn Ezra here 13:1.)  So it could be that אני זבח means I am playing an active role in seeing to it that it is brought as a korban by being mekadesh it and giving it to the Kohen to bring as a korban.
This is not farfetched: remember the Tosfos Rid in Kiddushin by Bris Milah.

 Reb Chaim in the Rambam Hilchos Arachin shows from the Gemara in Temura 7b and 8b that the original owner is the one that can make it into a Temura.  He says that because the Torah uses the word Nesinah, כל זמן שלא נתנו לכהן לא יצא מרשות בעלים.  It belongs to the Yisrael.  This is true not only if you hold Tovas Hana'a is mamon, but even if you hold that Tovas Hana'a is not mamon.  Until he gives it to the Kohen, he is the Baalim and he is the miskaper.  Once the Yisrael gives it to the Kohen, then the Kohen is the Baalim and the Miskaper.  Everyone tells me that Reb Chaim holds that if the Yisrael doesn't give it to the Kohen at all, and brings it as a korban to the Beis Hamikdash, he will be obligated to pay for the Nesachim, because it is his Korban, but I didn't see that inside.

If so, the pshat in the passuk is simple.  The Bechor is the Korban of the Yisrael.  If he doesn't give it to the Kohen, and he brings it to the Beis Hamikdash, he is the baalim of the Korban and he gets the kapara of the korban.  He is, in fact, the Zovei'ach.  The passuk makes perfect sense.

The weakness of this pshat is that the passuk would be talking about an avaryan that was mevatel the asei of giving it to a Kohen.  On the other hand, it could be that the passuk used words that are shaveh le'chol nefesh under various circumstances. שבקיה לקרא דאיהו דחיק ומוקי אנפשיה.

Here's the Steipler I mentioned above.  It's very close to the Reb Chaim answer, but not exactly Reb Chaim; it also has elements of the Brisker Rov answer.  You can click on it to make it easier to read.

Eli points out that there is a machlokes among the Rishonim and the Achronim as to the nature of the dinim of Bechor.  It might be that there are two very different dinim in bechor as far as where the Kohen's rights come from.  It could be that his rights are based on the animal being a Petter Rechem, but it could be that his rights are based on the Kedushas Korban Bechor.  These two dinim are independent.   But it is possible that the nature of the baalus of the Kohen, and the issurim to the Yisrael owner, would be different based on the two ways of understanding it.  Now, if  you will look in the Achronim, you will see that most of them talk about two dinim in the Kohen's rights to the Becehor, and whether the ownership stems from the Kedusha or the Kedusha stems from the ownership.  See Reb Dovid Povarsky's shiurim in Bava Kama on Takfo Kohen, where he brings the Mikdash David and Reb Shimon in Shaarei Yosher.  See also Reb Meir Simcha on the Rambam in 3 Temura 2.  But the Brisker Rov in the first piece in Bechoros in the Griz on the Rambam has another approach: his approach is that it's not either/or.  It is both.  There are two dinim in every bechor, and one is the baalus of the Kohen based on the actuality of Petter Rechem, and the other is the baalus of  the Kohen based on the Kedushas Korbon of the Bechor.  (When I say "baalus," I mean all the dinim of Kehuna on the animal, ownership and issur.)

With the Brisker Rov in mind, we can understand why the Torah seems to tell us contradictory dinim in Bechor.
First of all, we have our parsha, that says that the owner is makriv the korban, that it is his korban.
Then we have several pesukim in Devarim that say that the owner eats the Korban.
Devarim 12:6-7:
ו והבאתם שמה עלתיכם וזבחיכם ואת מעשרתיכם ואת תרומת ידכם ונדריכם, ונדבתיכם ובכרת בקרכם וצאנכם.  ז ואכלתם שם לפני ה' אלוקיכם ושמחתם בכל משלח ידכם אתם ובתיכם אשר ברכך ה' אלוקיך
Devarim 12:17-18:
לא תוכל לאכל בשעריך מעשר דגנך ותירשך ויצהרך ובכרת בקרך וצאנך וכל נדריך אשר תדר ונדבתיך ותרומת ידך.  יח כי אם לפני ה' אלוקיך תאכלנו במקום אשר יבחר ה' אלוקיך בו אתה ובנך ובתך ועבדך ואמתך והלוי אשר בשעריך
Devarim 14:22-23:
עשר תעשר את כל תבואת זרעך היצא השדה שנה שנה.  כג ואכלת לפני ה' אלוקיך במקום אשר יבחר לשכן שמו שם מעשר דגנך תירשך ויצהרך ובכרת בקרך וצאנך:  למען תלמד ליראה את ה' אלוקיך כל הימים
Devarim 15:19-22:
יט כל הבכור אשר יולד בבקרך ובצאנך הזכר תקדיש לה' אלוקיך  לא תעבד בבכר שורך ולא תגז בכור צאנך.  כ לפני ה' אלוקיך תאכלנו שנה בשנה  במקום אשר יבחר ה' אתה, וביתך.
But then we have Bamidbar 18:8-13, where it is absolutely clear that it is the Kohen and only the Kohen that can eat the Bechor:
ח וידבר ה' אל אהרן ואני הנה נתתי לך את משמרת תרומתי  לכל קדשי בני ישראל לך נתתים למשחה ולבניך לחק עולם.  ט זה יהיה לך מקדש הקדשים מן האש  כל קרבנם לכל מנחתם ולכל חטאתם ולכל אשמם אשר ישיבו לי קדש קדשים לך הוא ולבניך.  י בקדש הקדשים תאכלנו כל זכר יאכל אתו קדש יהיה לך.  יא וזה לך תרומת מתנם לכל תנופת בני ישראל לך נתתים ולבניך ולבנתיך אתך לחק עולם  כל טהור בביתך יאכל אתו.  יב כל חלב יצהר וכל חלב תירוש ודגן ראשיתם אשר יתנו לה' לך נתתים.  יג בכורי כל אשר בארצם אשר יביאו לה' לך יהיה  כל טהור בביתך יאכלנו. 
Not only does the Korban belong to the Kohen, but it is also assur for a non-kohen to eat it: The Rambam (10 Maaseh Korbanos 5) is mattir all members of the Kohen's household to eat it, , like Teruma and Chazeh v'Shok, and the Raavad (1 Nedarim 11) has a chiddushdikeh shitta that it is only muttar to male Kohanim.  See Kli Chemda כי תבא א׳ סק״ט)

The point is that it could be that the Din of Bechor has a din of Petter Rechem, in which it is like Teruma or Bikkurim.  On that basis, it is the property of the Kohen and it's his Korban and assur to the Yisrael.  But there is also the din of Korban Bechor.  The din of Korban Bechor is like Chazeh Ve'Shok, a din of Mishulchan Gavo'ah, and it depends on Hakrava, but it is essentially the Korban of the Yisrael.  It could be that Shemos and Devarim are talking about the Kedushas Korban Bechor, which is more like Maasar B'heima.  Bamidbar is telling us that there is another din, the din of Kedushas Petter Rechem, which is one of the Matnos Kehuna, which renders it like Teruma.  

I am writing over the (relevant parts of the) Brisker Rov just so that nobody should say that I don't understand or am misrepresenting what he says.  I want to make it clear- what we are saying here is not from the Rov, it is based on the Rov.  We are saying that the two dinim in the Kohen's rights have different dinim.  One is the din Petter Rechem which is absolute mamon kohen and issur to the Yisrael.  The other is Kedushas Korban Bechor that is the Yisrael's mamon but the Kohen has rights to the korban from Mishulchan Gavo'ah, like his rights to Chazeh Ve'Shok.

Among the 24 מתנות כהונה, ten are given anywhere in Eretz Yisrael and can be consumed anywhere (example- Teruma) ; four are given have to be kept in Yerushalayim (example- Bikurim); and ten are given in the Beis HaMikdash (example- Chazeh Ve'Shok, Kodshei Kodoshim.) (BK 110b)

What is the basis of the Kohen's right to the Bechor?  Is it based on its actuality of being a פטר רחם, like Reishis HaGez, or is it based on the Kedushas Korban of the Bechor, like Chazeh V'Shok?

The Brisker Rov brings the Gemara (Zevachim 9b) about Mosar ha’Pesach. This is a left over Korban Pesach.  A Mosar ha’Pesach is shechted with the intention that it should be a Shlamim, and this makes it a Shlamim.

The Gemara asks, what if one shechted the Mosar ha’Pesach as a Bechor?  What would the practical relevance of this status be?  למאי הילכתא דלא ליבעי נסכים אי נמי דליתביה לכהנים- that unlike a Shlamim, it would not need Nesachim; or, that you would have to give it to a Kohen.  (The Gemara brings a Drasha that eliminates this option.)

But you do see that had you been able to designate this non-bechor as a bechor, you would have to give it to a Kohen.  Evidently, the right of the Kohen is based on the animals Kedushas Korban Bechor.
In other words:
Petter Rechem, therefore Kedushas Bechor, therefore property of the Kohen.  If you were able to skip step one and give it kedushas Bechor, it would also belong to the Kohen.

There is another example of a quasi-bechor, and that is the Temura of a Bechor.  The Temura of a Bechor has kedusha, but cannot be brought as a Korban, because of a Gzeiras Hakasuv.  There is a machlokes between the Rambam (3 Temurah 2) and Tosfos (Zevachim 75b) concerning a temuras bechor.   The Rambam holds that the temurah of a bechor is given to Kohanim.  Tosfos holds that the owner does not have to give it to a Kohen because it is not actually a bechor.

The Rov asks on Tosfos, but from the din of mosar ha'pesach we saw that it is the Kedushas Korban of Bechor that generates the Kohen's rights, not the actuality of being a Petter Rechem!

He answers that there are two dinim, two causes, either of which creates create the Kohen's right to this animal.
 ·         Either the actuality of being a Petter Rechem, even if it does not have the Kedusha of a Korban, like Reishis HaGez.
·         Kedushas Korban Bechor even if it is not actually a Petter Rechem, like Chazeh Ve'Shok.

Everyone will agree that a Bechor has to be given even if it is only a Korban Bechor and not a Petter Rechem, as we see by the Mosar ha'Pesach. BUT Tosfos holds that this is only where there is the real possibility that the animal will actually be brought as a Korban to the Beis HaMikdash. A Temuras Bechor cannot be brought, and so its Kedushas Korban will not generate any rights to the Kohen.  The Rambam holds that Kedushas Korban, even without the real possibility of Hakrava, is enough to create the Kohen's rights to the animal.  (This machlokes is based on how to read the Gemara in Bava Kama 12b-13a, regarding Bechor Bizman Hazeh.)

All I am adding is that now that we see there are two dinim in the Bechor, it could be that the Torah here is addressing only the Kedushas Korban aspect of Bechor.  It is possible that Kedushas Bechor, viewed in isolation, has entirely different dinim.  True, when you're makriv it it becomes the property of the Kohen, like Chazeh Ve'Shok.   But that is a din of Mishulchan Gavo'ah in the Korban.  Until the Shechita it is the owner's, and it could be that even afterwards, he could be invited by the Kohen to eat it.  On the other hand, the Kohen's ownership of Bechor that is an actual Petter Rechem creates a different set of rules- it is the property of the Kohen from day one, and it is assur for the Yisrael to eat it if it is brought as a Korban.

Our parsha, and the pesukim in Devarim, can be talking about the aspect of Kedushas Korban Bechor, and not the Kedushas Petter Rechem.  True, the latter usually is dominant and renders the former irrelevant.  But there are times when the exist independently, and they Torah is teaching us that their dinim differ.

NOTE:  Some people might have a hard time believing that the issur has anything to do with the Baalus of the Kohen- The Rov and many achronim said said that the baalus of the Kohen (based on Petter Rechem) creates an issur for the Yisrael to eat it if it is brought as a korban.  Why should that be?  Because whenever you have issurim for a zar and hetter for a Yisrael, it could be that the issur is because it is meyuchad for the Kohen, not because the Yisrael is not r'aui to eat it.  In order to protect the rights of the Kohen, it is assur for the Yisrael.  It is the yichud for the Kohen that creates the issur.

NOTE:  I think that Eli's pshat (Brisker Rov) and my first pshat (Reb Meir Simcha), although each could work independently, are not mutually exclusive.  Each each works better when combined with the other.  I think that my pshat would help us to understand how the evolution of the overlay, and why the Torah would use words that imply a halacha different than halacha l'maaseh. Before the Chet Ha'Eigel the Ba'alim actually brought it as a korban based exclusively on Kedushas Korban Bechor.  After the Chet Ha’Eigel new dinim were chal for the Kohen based on Petter Rechem.  But the first halacha still exists.


  1. The pasuk in Bo can be interpreted as only saying the owner is Ba'al Hakorban. This is not so radical as Tosfos Zevachim 75b (and many Achronim) learn this way from Temura 8b (כהן אינו מימר). However, in four places the Torah tells us that Bechor, like Maaser Sheini, is brought and *eaten* by the owner: see, Devarim 12:6-7, and then again 12:17-18, 14:23, 15:19-22. On the other hand, Bamidbar 18 tells us the Kohen gets it, which is of course the Halacha.

    So the obvious question is why are all Parshiot Bechor in Devarim written in such a confusing way. The usual mahalch (or at least the one I know of) is that there are two aspects of Bechor. One is just like Maaser Behema, and Maaser Sheini etc. They are all reasons to cause one to come to Yerushalayim למען תלמד ליראה את ה"א. Indeedת in Devarim it is never mentioned that Bechor has any relation to Yetziat Mitzrayim. On the other hand, Bechor is also one of Matnos Kehuna. So the owner brings it as Baal Hakorban, as if he's going to eat it לפני השם (as implied in devarim), but than gives it to the Kohen (as the Torah tells us in Korach).

  2. You're right. If the Torah seems to say that the Yisrael eats it, why am I wondering why it says that he brings it for a korban. Whatever explanation we find for the former will probably help for the latter.

    I'm not sure what you mean by the Tosfos. Do you mean that Parshas Bo is talking about Temuras Bechor, which belongs to the owner according to Tosfos, and tizbach means that you wait till it gets a mum and you eat it like chulin?

  3. Do you mean Reb Meir Simcha here
    that brings the machlokes between your Tosfos and the Rambam?
    and Reb Dovid Povarsky here
    that the basis of the machlokes is whether the zechus of the kohen stems from the first-born status, or from this type of kedusha, and you're saying that according to the Tosfos the Torah here means that the animal inherently belongs to the owner, but part of the kedushas korbon requires that he give it away?

  4. yes, exactly, but I think this is not the full solution - as we see in Dvarim it goes even further. One aspect of the Bechor is just like Maaser Behema. On top on that rides another obligation to give it to the Kohen.

    This might be the explanation to the strange issue of Hekdesh Bechor - there is a mitzva to be makdish, but it's Kadosh anyway. So I say "Takdish" in Dvarim stems from the regular Shlamim aspect of it, and it is a Hekdesh for Korban stam, not Bechor. The Kedusha to Kohen is there regardless.This explains why Bechor is davar Hanadur.

  5. is such a twofold character of the Bechor, as both Priestly & as Maasar B'heima, born of the following?
    in plague 5, the bechoros of Israel were spared along with all other Israelite animals
    (9:6), while (those same) bechoros were spared again in plague 10, but that time AS
    firstborns--- as just one animal among many, u'mimiknei bnei Yisrael lo-meis echad
    (9:6), a firstborn but comprised a part of general, overall property subject to tithing
    (at the time, Bereishis 28:22(?)); when distinctively spared in the final plague, a firstborn
    acquired its distinctive status, to be treated as priestly
    (this would be consistent with pidyon haben, which has nothing(?) of maasar about it--
    if such could somehow be the case --the firstborn sons of Israel had never been
    mere members of the masses, strictly spared their lives along with all other Hebrews in some plague prior to 10; "strictly" speaking, since Egyptians did not necessarily die of the hail in plague 7)

    1. Associating Maasar Bheima with Egypt is novel, and associating the protection from the mortal danger posed by previous plagues with the specific protection from plague 10 builds on that. Although most agree with your assumption that the first born's status was begun after Egypt, the Rambam says it predated that.

    2. the status of four-legged bechor could (most likely would) here predate
      the final plague-- the bechoros were expressly distinguished as such in
      plague 10, while they were spared WITH all animals in plague 5
      EVEN THOUGH firstborn: thus the inchoate formulation (behind the
      scenes, in Hidden Chambers, in best laid plans) of a maasar classification of firstborn animals during the Egyptian exile (or sooner,
      perhaps as far back as tohu v'bohu, when everything was up for grabs
      & the kitchen sink in play)


    Maybe "Ani" is being translated too narrowly and is only meant as a restatement of pasuk 12.

    Maybe we can also throw in the Malbum's chilluk between "ani" and "anochi" as support. (ani - emphasis is on the action, in this case, zoveiach lashem, "anochi" - emphasis is on the individual.)

    1. געזונט און שטארק זאלט איר זיין

      I agree with the caps. It could takkeh be that's what the Ribono shel Olam meant in the passuk. But we're way past that.

  7. [the following brief expansion is no more than an oblique prequel,
    if that, to your now complicated technical argument, but since it
    lies low here in the bowels of the comment section, maybe that doesn't much matter]

    using your understanding on Jan 1 at 3:16pm, of late-onset firstborn
    status (we're not sons of Hevel, after all) -- in plague 10, the firstborn
    animals are spared, & so soon acquire "bechor" status/sanctity;
    but firstborns had once before been spared, during plague 5, when
    they were still eligible for maasar (initiated at Bereishis 28:22) alongside all the other animals; the bechor can't be altogether
    defined apart from that earlier context

    another slant: the firstborns had a limited status at plague 5,
    one that exempted them from maasar (again assuming that practice
    already underway); protection during that plague gave them a new lease on life, they were reborn as it were AT THE SAME TIME as the other animals, subjecting them, for a while at least, to tithing;
    that episode became a part of the complex history/future of the firstborn

    but even without using here the maasar idea, the firstborns had once,
    at plague 5, been spared alongside all the other Israelite animals (animals that would at a later period be subject to maasar), such that their protection at plague 10, which seems to've generated the
    new status of "bechor", was not without precedent*; that new status was somehow colored by, it somehow carried, the context of the antecedent protection
    *what of the Noachide catastrophe, when animals not specifiedly
    "firstborn" ambled into the ark-- were ANY of them firstborn?

    lila tov to readers, non-readers, & newborns everywhere