After dealing with the laws of ritual slaughter and related rules and regulations whose focus were the main concerns of sheḥita, the fifth perek of Massekhet Ḥullin turns its attention to other laws related to ritual slaughter that stand as separate commandments. This chapter deals with the laws of oto ve’et beno – the rule that forbids the slaughter of a parent and its offspring on the same day (see Vayikra 22:28).
The language of the prohibition in the Torah makes it clear that it refers only to kosher, domesticated animals – not to birds or wild animals. All agree that the prohibition stands whether it is the parent or the offspring that is slaughtered first; similarly, all agree that it makes no difference whether the offspring is male or female. There is a difference of opinion, however, as to whether the parent mentioned refers only to the mother, or if slaughtering the father is included in this prohibition.
According to the Mishna, the prohibition of oto ve’et beno applies not only to ordinary animals, but to sanctified animals brought as sacrifices in the Temple, as well. Tosafot ask why this needs to be taught. Surely the context of the prohibition, which appears in the midst of a collection of laws about the sacrificial service, is a clear indication that this rule would apply in cases of sanctified animals! Tosafot offer two possible explanations:
- The Mishna is teaching about a specific case, where a person is obligated to offer the Passover sacrifice and the only animal that is available to him is one whose mother had already been slaughtered that day. Rather than saying that the prohibition would be set aside in the face of the positive commandment to bring the korban Pesaḥ – the Mishna teaches that the prohibition remains in place.
- Tosafot is reluctant to limit the Mishna’s teaching to one, limited situation, so they offer another approach, as well. The passage that teaches this law opens with the introductory words, “…and whether it be a bull or a sheep” which effectively separates this verse from the one before it. I therefore may have thought that this was done in order to show that it is not to be included in the list of rules for sanctified animals, so the Mishna must teach otherwise.