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The Talmud (Bekhoroth 9b) cites the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda that it is forbidden to derive benefit from a firstborn donkey before it is redeemed. This view is codified by the Rambam (Firstborns 12:4) and the Shulchan Aruch (YD 321:8). This prohibition includes benefitting from the animal's work, shearings, or money from its sale.

Considering that donkey foals possess a fair amount of charm, would this prohibition preclude deriving any pleasure prior to the redemption by, e.g., entertaining children, patting it, and/or viewing it for reasons not essential to the performance of the mitzvah?

Redemption of Firstborn Donkey

  • If you couldn't see it why would everyone bring it to the ceremony? Or alternatively how could you know where to swing your ax to chop it's head off? – Double AA Apr 10 at 18:21
  • @DoubleAA מצוות לאו ליהנות ניתנו - I asking about nonessential viewing, e.g. as an attraction prior ro performing the mitzvah. I have edited accordingly. – Loewian Apr 10 at 18:23
  • מצוות לאו להנות ניתנו May be that is not an isur but a permission to use shofar asur behanaa – kouty Apr 10 at 18:37
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    I've never heard of a prohibition on staring at a cheeseburger. Indeed some Rishonim recommend staring at it and salivating and still deciding not to eat it. – Double AA Apr 10 at 23:02
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    Ugh. Petter in context implies someone who pets things, but changing it to Peter makes it look like the pet's name is Peter. I think the pun might be too confusing for people who haven't opened the post: they expect a question about petting a petter, and end up seeing a question about petting a פטר. – DonielF Apr 11 at 1:16
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I attended a pidyon petter chamor in Pittsburgh in 2017. It was organized by the Kollel and attended by many of the local Orthodox rabbis (and lots of other people). Unfortunately the web site they set up at the time is no longer there (and not in the Wayback Machine), but I have a video (linked on my blog post about the event).

In the (first, introductory) video, Rabbi Avrohom Weisswasser reported the research they did, but unfortunately didn't cite a source:

He has the halachos of a holy animal. We're not allowed to work him until after the redemption. We're not allowed to play with him, unless we're doing it for his good. And we were told -- there's a dispute about this, but we were told we can't even dress him up, besides a blanket. (0:21-0:50)

A little later (1:27) he says he consulted Rabbi Ariel Shoshan of Scottsdale, AZ, who had done this mitzvah previously. Whether R' Shoshan is the source of the information quoted above, I do not know.

In the video, during the introductory comments, you can see many children gathered around the donkey, but they're not petting him -- the handler is keeping him away from them. (After, the handler allowed plenty of petting.)

Before the event I had some questions about the logistics of the kinyan (they were selling shares of the donkey so that more people could participate), and they also mentioned consulting Rabbi Shlomo Miller of Toronto.

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    +1 interesting. in the photo i posted as well as a peter I attended, they definitely dolled the donkey up good. – Loewian Apr 11 at 4:13
  • @Loewian I've seen pictures where the donkey is more decorated, too. He did say there's a dispute. Ours had a decorated blanket. – Monica Cellio Apr 11 at 12:44

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