Halachot for Farmers

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There are numerous halachot that farmers must be aware of, such agricultural, many of which apply specifically in Israel, and some of which are related to raising cattle. For example, one mitzvah known as bechor obligates a farmer to give his firstborn kosher animals to a kohen.


  1. If a Jew owns a kosher female animal, its bechor (lit. firstborn, Heb. בכור) has sanctity and is meant to be a korban, sacrifice, and gift to the kohen. Nowadays that we don't have a Bet Hamikdash it is only a gift to the kohen. The kohen may only do shechita on it and eat it after it has a blemish that meets certain criteria. This mitzvah applies equally in Israel and outside Israel.[1]
  2. Even kohanim and leviim are obligated in bechor.[2]
  3. Two Jews who own animals in a partnership are obligated in bechor.[3]
  4. A Jew shouldn't give the firstborn to the kohen immediately. Instead he should raise it for a small animal at least 30 days, and for a large animal at least 50 days, and then give it to a kohen. If no kohen is available he should raise it until he can give it to a kohen.[4]
  5. There is a mitzvah to sanctify the animal even though it will atomically become sanctified when it is born.[5]

Restrictions of a Bechor

  1. A bechor may not be used for sheering or any work.[6]
  2. A bechor even with a blemish may not be sold in the regular marketplace and can't be weighed on a scale. It can be weighed against another piece of meat or utensil.[7]
  3. A kohen can sell a bechor even while it is alive and doesn't have a blemish.[8]


  1. A bechor should be kept until it acquires a blemish. Then after consulting with an expert can have shechita and then eaten by anyone including a non-Jew. [9]

If a bechor acquires a blemish it should be eaten within its first year, and if it acquires a blemish after it is one year old it should be eaten within 30 days of when it got a blemish. If the blemish wasn't permitted by an expert it isn't permitted and can be kept until then even if it takes years.[10] If it was delayed beyond a year it isn't made invalid.[11]

Partnership with a Non-Jew

  1. Nowadays since we don't have a bet hamidkash and it is impossible to bring the bechor as a korban and even giving it to a kohen involves many complex issues which both the giver and the kohen could end violating serious prohibitions, such as benefiting from a bechor, it is a mitzvah to absolve oneself of this mitzvah by entering into a partnership with a non-Jew in advance of the female animals giving birth to a firstborn.[12] To make a acquisition upon the fetus so that it is binding they need to specify that the non-Jew is acquiring a share of the mother with respect to acquiring a portion of its fetus.[13]
  2. The acquisition necessary for the non-Jew to acquire the bechor is to both pay for it with cash, at least a prutah, and also pull it so that it moves (meshicha).[14] If the non-Jew only paid for it and didn't move it, there is a discussion whether it is effective.[15]
  3. If a Jew and non-Jew have a partnership in the mother or the firstborn fetus, the firstborn does not acquire the holy status of a bechor and is therefore not given to a kohen.[16]
  4. If the non-Jew only owned a limb of the mother or fetus and if that limb were to be removed the animal would be blemished then it is considered exempt, otherwise it is still obligated.[17]
  5. Additionally, a heard which is subject to taxes such that a percent of animals born are taken for taxes is not obligated in bechor.[18] Some say that if the tax isn't imposed upon the heard to begin with but is only collectible after a certain number of animals are born they would be obligated in bechor.[19]
  6. If a Jew owns animals and has a non-Jew watch or take care of the animals the Jew is nonetheless obligated in bechor.[20]

Raising Cattle in Israel

See Living_in_Israel#Raising_Cattle_in_Israel


  1. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 306:1
  2. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:1
  3. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:2
  4. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:2
  5. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 306:1
  6. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:6
  7. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 306:6
  8. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 306:6
  9. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 306:5
  10. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:9
  11. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 306:12
  12. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:6
  13. Rama Y.D. 320:6
  14. Rama Y.D. 320:6
  15. Taz 320:8 quotes the Maharil 174 who says that it is an unresolved question whether using money or meshicha between a non-Jew and Jew is necessary. Howeve,r the Rama responsa 87 writes that ideally one should do both but after the fact the primary opinion is that coins are effective.
  16. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:3
  17. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:4
  18. Gemara Pesachim 6a, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 320:5. The Gemara presents two approaches as to whether a heard which is subjects to taxes such that a certain percentage of the flock is given to the king is obligated in the mitzvah of bechor. The first approach hold that if it is possible to pay the tax in case then the animals are considered the property of the Jew and consequently are obligated in bechor. The second approach, however, holds that even if it is possible to pay off the taxes since if it isn't paid off with cash the king can collect the actual animals it isn't considered the complete property of the Jew and is exempt from bechor. The Rif Pesachim 2b and Rosh Pesachim 1:5 conclude like the second approach. Rama Y.D. 320:5 rules like the Rosh and Rif. The Tosfot Pesachim 6a suggest an alternative text in the gemara in light of a Tosefta that is unanswered according to the second approach. Accordingly, even the second approach agrees that it is obligated in bechor if the Jew could pay off the tax in cash. Gra 320:8 is concerned for the opinion of Tosfot.
  19. Pitchei Teshuva 320:1 citing Maharam Ziskind
  20. Rama Y.D. 320:7