Bechorot 23 - 29
- When two elements with conflicting status are mixed together
- If a nursing animal is assumed to have already given birth
- Will an animal nurse the offspring of another
- Caution required in slaughtering a firstborn animal
- The ban on shearing the hair or wool of a firstborn
- How long the owner of a firstborn today must care for it before giving it to the kohen
- The problem of a kohen helping in the granary or slaughter house
- When does the first year of the firstborn end
- Bringing the firstborn for inspection after slaughtering it
- Responsibility of a judge who errs in his ruling
- Rabbi Tarfon on the womb-less cow
- Accepting payment for rabbinical ruling
- Refraining from buying from someone suspected of ignoring the law
Who Fed the Dogs?
"The cow is treif."
This was the ruling given by Rabbi Tarfon to a Jew who brought him a cow whose womb had been removed. The reason for the ruling was that an animal missing one of its vital organs is treif and is rendered unfit for consumption.
The mishna relates that as a result of his ruling Rabbi Tarfon fed the cow to the dogs. But when this case came before the Sages in Yavneh (the seat of the Sanhedrin high court), they ruled that the cow was kosher. They did so based on the information they had from a physician named Todos who reported that a cow can survive without a womb. The proof was that the cattlemen in Alexandria, Egypt would not export one of their cows before removing its womb so that the purchasers would not be able to breed such superior animals to compete with them.
Although it appears from the language of the mishna that Rabbi Tarfon himself fed the cow to the dogs, it becomes clear in the gemara that it was the cow's owner who did so. This emerges from Rabbi Akiva's comforting of Rabbi Tarfon that he was free from compensating the owner for the loss of the cow. Since Rabbi Tarfon had erred in his judgment his ruling was reversible and the owner was negligent in feeding the animal to the dogs before bringing the case to review before the Sanhedrin.
- Bechorot 28b
What the Sages Say
"The stupid Babylonians who live in a dark land make statements which are unclear."
- Rabbi Yirmiyahu (an Eretz Yisrael Sage) - Bechorot 25b