Bechoros 3


The Gemara cites a dispute between the Chachamim and Rabbi Yehudah regarding one who owns a firstborn animal in a partnership with a gentile. Rabbi Yehudah maintains that although the firstborn does not retain sanctity to be brought on the mizbeiach, we nonetheless penalize the Jew for allowing the gentile a portion in the animal and the Jew is required to give the Kohen money. The Chachamim, however, maintain that as long as the gentile has a share in the animal, the Jew is exempt from the obligation of bechor. The Gemara states that the dispute revolves around the verse that is said regarding bechor, and the verse uses the word כל, meaning “all.” The Chachamim maintain that the word בכור implies even a partial ownership, and the word כל then teaches us that the Jew must have complete ownership. Rabbi Yehudah, however, posits that the word בכור implies complete ownership, and the word כל teaches us that even partial ownership suffices for the Jew to be obligated to give money to the Kohen.

We can suggest that this debate is reflected in the words that Yaakov told Esav, when Esav initially refused to accept Yaakov’s gifts. Yaakov, however, responded (Bereishis 33:11)קח נא את ברכתי אשר הבאת לך כי חנני אלקים וכי יש לי כל ויפצר בו ויקח, “Please accept my gift which was brought to you, inasmuch as G-d has been gracious to me and inasmuch as I have everything.” He urged him, and he accepted. Rashi writes that Yaakov’s response was in contrast to Esav who declared that “I have plenty.” Yaakov was demonstrating to Esav that he had everything that he required. More than semantics, Yaakov was informing Esav that while he may not have a lot, he is satisfied with what he has, and for him that is everything. The Mishnah (Avos 4:1) states, who is the wealthy man? One who is happy with his lot. Our mission in life is to recognize everything that HaShem bestows upon us and declare that we have everything that we need.

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