Sign up ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Assuming you follow the tradition that only first-born males are obligated to fast the day before Passover, do the males who have an older sister count as first-born or not?

Wikipedia doesn't seem to address that specific question, nor does Chabad as far as I can tell.

Please note that the question is about general rules, e.g. does not involve any edge cases that might obligate someone to fast even if they would not fast in general, e.g. father fasting on behalf of young child etc....

To clarify, the gist of the question is, does "Bechor" mean "a first child of parents, who also happens to be male", or "a first male child (even if there are older female children)". In other words, if a family has a girl who was born first (bekirah), does it make her younger brother NOT "bechor"?

share|improve this question
DVK welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for the question! You seem active already across SE so I'm glad you stopped by and hope you continue to stick around, participate and enjoy :) –  Double AA May 2 '13 at 2:33

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Vilna Gaon (OC 470, s.v. v'ein) explains the opinion that exempts women from fasting as due to the fact that women lack k'dushas b'choros (the sanctified status of firstborns). A male with an older sister also lacks k'dushas b'chor since he is not a firstborn, so the opinion that exempts the older sister would certainly exempt the brother.

In fact, a male with an older sister is neither a b'chor with respect to redeeming the firstborn (B'choros 48a) nor with respect to the privilege of receiving a double inheritance (see B'choros 47b; Shita M'kubetzes ad loc., Gloss 15 "תיבת זכר נמחק").

share|improve this answer
Can you throw in a source for your last line? (Shouldn't be too hard to find. Isn't there a whole series of Mishnayot about that in Bechorot?) –  Double AA May 2 '13 at 6:03
@DoubleAA Done. –  Fred May 2 '13 at 23:55
Here's a monkey wrench in the cog. According to Ovadia Yosef in Yechaveh Daas 3 #25 the minhag for first born girls not to fast (which most sefardi Rabbis also agree to as well as O.Y., see there) is based upon the medrashim which write the first born girls in mitzraim did not die, so there is no reason for them to fast. –  user6591 Jun 10 at 22:21
@user6591 It's true that R' Ovadia Yosef mentions this as an additional reason not to require women to observe this fast. He mentions there that while there are midrashim that say that firstborn females also died in the plague, there is also another midrash that is understood by the Rashash to mean that only the firstborn males died. Regardless, the younger brother would presumably still not fast, especially if you assume (within the Rashash's reading of the midrash) that the oldest younger brother of firstborn sisters did not die in the plague. –  Fred Jun 11 at 0:55
Correct. He's basing it on that understanding of the medrash. The point about the second child being a boy is left up in the air. My point was that he is obviously not working with the Gra's logic and there is still room to speculate according to his logic. –  user6591 Jun 11 at 0:58

The firstborn, if a son, fasts. If the firstborn is a girl, then the first son is not the first born for the sake of this fast.

share|improve this answer
Is this true for Ashkenazim or Sephardim or both or someone else? –  Double AA May 2 '13 at 1:49
the extant sephardic minhag of having a woman fast (as recorded at item 2) would not affect whether a younger sibling is considered a first born. –  Danno May 2 '13 at 1:57
@Dan "...would not affect whether a younger..." I think the icing on the cake would be if you could provide a source indicating that eldest sons with older sisters did not die in the plague of the firstborn, considering that that is the important criterion according to the opinion that obligates women to fast. (Granted that's not the case in the OP). –  Fred May 2 '13 at 5:26
@Fred true -- as it stands, all the claims are those of inference by exclusion "According to the Bayit Chadash, the Sefer Agudah, and arguably the Maharil, both men and women are obligated to fast. This is based upon the Midrash, which states that both men and women among the firstborn Egyptians perished in the plague (Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, 7; Exodus Rabbah, 18:3). Following a precedent common in Jewish commemorative rituals, the above authorities ruled that all those who were miraculously saved should participate in commemoration (see also Pesachim 108b)." [the wiki entry] –  Danno May 2 '13 at 10:50
@Fred continued -- since the first boy with an older sister would have had a family member who was saved in the role of 'first born', even if a girl, then there would be no reason to include him as "first born" anymore. –  Danno May 2 '13 at 10:51

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.