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"?

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    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
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 2:33

2 Answers 2


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").

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    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
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 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
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 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
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 0:58
  • @user6591 He mentions the Gra's reasoning, too. Although he mentions multiple explanations, I don't see that he favors any particular line of reasoning; he's just marshaling reasons and sources in defense of the prevalent custom not to require women to fast. Anyway, I don't see room to consider that eldest non-b'chor younger brothers could be required to fast using any line of reasoning, unless you assume that they died in the plague. But I don't think that assumption makes sense - they didn't have b'chor status in any sense, so far as I know (do you know of a source to the contrary?).
    – Fred
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 1:18
  • @Fred if גדול הבית means what it does in hilchos aveilus, than I will point to the first pshat in Rashi in parshas Bo 12 30 ד.ה. כי אין בית אשר אין שם מת. יש שם בכור, מת. אין שם בכור, גדול שבבית קרוי בכור
    – user6591
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 1:25

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.


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    Is this true for Ashkenazim or Sephardim or both or someone else?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 1:49
  • the extant sephardic minhag of having a woman fast (as recorded at halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Tanit_Bechorot item 2) would not affect whether a younger sibling is considered a first born.
    – rosends
    Commented May 2, 2013 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
    Commented May 2, 2013 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]
    – rosends
    Commented May 2, 2013 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.
    – rosends
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 10:51

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