Rav Moshe Heinemann Performs Mechirah of Sheep


rav-moshe-heinemann-smallThe recent request that Rav Moshe Heinemann received from Tsippora Ani of Blackberry Fields Farm is amongst the most intriguing he has received in his 30 years as rov of Agudath Israel of Baltimore.

As a frum shepherdess, Tsippora was faced with a challenging situation. A female sheep in her flock, which boasts between 10 and 20 registered or Pedigree sheep breeds at any given time, was due to give birth soon to its first offspring. What if it were to give birth to a male? If we were living in a time when the Bais Hamikdosh stood, she would give this firstborn male to a kohein of her choice, who would offer it as a korban and eat its meat. Today, without a Bais Hamikdosh, this animal would still have kedushas bechor, even though it cannot be offered as a korban.

This presented a potential serious problem, since using it in any way is prohibited min haTorah (Shemos 13:2, 13:12) and is a serious offence. Only after this firstborn would become so severely damaged that it will never be serviceable as a korban may the animal be slaughtered and eaten. In addition, Tsippora would not have been able to shear it or sell it. Attempting to damage or causing the animal to become blemished is not allowed. What if it never got a mum (blemish) on its own?

“One way to avoid the problems of having a bechor born is to make a partnership with a non-Jew regarding the mother sheep, prior to its giving birth,” says Star-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, who has witnessed the mechirah ceremony twice. “Since it is partially owned by a non-Jew, the firstborn will not have the status of a bechor.”

rav-moshe-heinemannRav Heinemann acted as the agent to sell this mother-in-waiting to a non-Jewish buyer. The rov wanted the buyer to have a significant portion of the sheep, and showing her its back leg, the buyer and seller agreed to assume that it is 20% of the animal. Although the sale is similar to mechiras chometz, it was different in that the animal was present during the sale. The rov performed three transactions to ensure the validity of the sale. These included:

1) Kinyan meshichah, a pulling kinyan, whereby a little piece of property was rented for the non-Jew so that the animal could be pulled into his/her reshus (property);     

2) Making a kinyan with kesef, the monetary sale to the non-Jew; and

3) A shtar (document) to sell the portion of the animal to the non-Jew. Rav Mordechai Frankel, assistant rabbi of the Agudath Israel of Baltimore, signed the shtar as one of the witnesses.

{Margie Pensak-Matzav.com Newscenter-Baltimore}


  1. Since I’m young & stupid, I wasn’t aware that this is also done in chutz la’Aretz. There are many mitzvos that do not apply outside of Eretz Yisrael. Perhaps he did this as a chumra, or to be m’kaayem the mitzva although it is not actually obligatory in chutz la’Aretz! But like I said I’m young & stupid & what do I know.

  2. Perplexed, We do make several different kinds of kinyanim for Mechiras Chometz. See Sefer Mechiras Chometz k’Hilchasa.

    Young, it’s a halacha for Chutz La’aretz too. See beg of YD Shin vav (306).

    PS You’re not stupid for asking good questions; it’s only stupid not to ask and learn!

    Happy Purim Koton!

  3. Dear “young & stupid”:

    If you would have opened a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch to Siman 177 you would have learned that this Mitzva applies – even today – even outside of Eretz Yisroel.

    You would also have learned that it’s an obligation nowadays to do this sale, as a Bechor has lots of halachot that are not fun.

    Dear “preplexed”:
    If you would have opened a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch to Siman 114 you would have learned that selling Chometz is even more “stringent” and every known valid Kinyan is done at the time.

  4. 4 rambam perek alef of hilchos bechoros
    ? [?] ???? ???? ???? ????? ????? ????, ?????? ????. ???? ?????? ?????? ????? ???? ????, ????? “????? ???? ?’ ?????? . . . ???? ???? ?????? ??????, ??????? ???? ?????” (????? ??,??): ????? ???? ???? ???? ???, ??? ???? ???? ??? ????; ?????? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???–?? ??? ???? ???? ??? ????, ??? ????? ?????. ??? ????–??? ?????? ????, ??? ????; ??? ????? ?????.

    ? ???? ?? ????? ??? ???? ????, ??? ??? ???? ????, ??? ???? ???; ????? ????? ????????, ???? ??????? ???? ??????, ??? ????? ????, ??? ????? ??? ????.
    5) the minhag i that the rav who sell the chametz does (at least) a shtar, a kinyan kesef, chalifin, a kinyan agav sechirus and tekiyas kaf.

  5. #5 Many rabonim do, in fact when ive watched them sell chometz at MTJ they used 5 kinyanim (kesef, chalipin, agav karka, shtar, & handshake)

  6. To answer Gadol hador’s comment: While ultrasounds can be performed on sheep, most sheep producers avoid them due to expense. However we have had a couple ultrasounds done on sheep due to medical conditions. But unlike human ultrasounds, sheep ultrasounds are not accurate for determining due dates, or for determining the gender of the fetus. If done too early they can even give false results and show that a sheep is not pregnant when she really is.

  7. For young and stupid’s comment: This mitzvah does apply outside of the land of Israel. There are other mitzvahs that do not apply outside of the land of Israel like giving the first fleece from the sheep to the holy temple if you have over a certain amount of fleeces and sheep. But this one does apply.

  8. we had a similar shayla up in Bakersfield Ca a few weeks ago. a frum lady owns goats (hopes to have cholov yisrael goat’s milk) . same procadures were followed