Why Is the Firstborn Donkey Holy?

Why Is the Firstborn Donkey Holy?

On the mitzvah of peter chamor, “redeeming the firstborn donkey”

By Yehuda Shurpin



Redeeming the firstborn donkey, joyously carried out in Moshav Ahi'ezer near Lod on June 26, 2018. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90


Many are familiar with the mitzvah of pidyon haben, redeeming the firstborn son on the thirtieth day of his life.1 Additionally, there is the related mitzvah that the firstborn male offspring of any kosher domesticated mammal (cows, sheep, goats, etc.) is sacred, and is to be given to a kohen, who eats it as a sacrifice in Jerusalem.2


Nowadays, since there is no Holy Temple in which to bring sacrifices, the kohen waits until the animal develops a blemish that disqualifies it for a sacrifice, and then it may be consumed like any other kosher animal.