Hullin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two



This mishnah begins by explaining what the phrase “and only when there are many,” found at the end of yesterday’s mishnah. It then continues with other various aspects of this mitzvah.


Mishnah Two

1)      How much is “many”?

a)      Bet Shammai say: [at least] two sheep, as it is said, “A man shall rear a young cow and two sheep (tzon)” (Isaiah 7:21).

b)      Bet Hillel say: five, as it is said, “Five dressed sheep (tzon)” (I Samuel 28:18).  

2)      Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas says: five sheep, which each produce [a fleece which weighs] a maneh and a half, are subject to the law of the first of the fleece.

a)      But the sages say: five sheep, whatever their fleeces weigh.

3)      And how much should one give him?  The weight of five selas in Judah, which is equal to ten selas in Galilee. Bleached wool and not dirty wool, sufficient to make from it a small garment, for it is written, “Give him,” when there is enough to be considered a gift.

4)      If the owner did not manage to give [the fleece to the priest] until he dyed it, he is exempt.

a)      If he bleached it but did not dye it, he is still liable.  

5)      If a man bought the fleeces of a flock belonging to a non-Jew, he is exempt from the law of the first of the fleece.

6)      If a man bought the fleeces of a flock belonging to his neighbor:

a)      If the seller kept some back, the seller is liable,

b)      But if he did not withhold anything, the buyer is liable.

7)      If he had two kinds of wool, grey and white, and he sold the grey but not the white, or [if he sold the wool] of the males but not of the females, each must give [the first of the fleece] for himself.



Section one: Deuteronomy 18:4 uses the word “tzon” which means flock. The question is: how many sheep are needed for there to be a flock? Clearly, one sheep is not enough. Bet Shammai use the verse from Isaiah to prove that even two sheep can be called “tzon.” Bet Hillel hold that the amount must be larger, and they use the verse from I Samuel to prove it.

Section two: Later sages rule like Bet Hillel, but still debate whether the five sheep rule always applies. Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas says that there must be a minimum measure of wool that each sheep produces.  This amount is a maneh and a half, which is equivalent to about 600 grams of wool. The other rabbis disagree and hold that even if the first shearing produces only a minimal amount, he is still liable to give it to the priest.

Section three: If there are several priests and he wishes to divide the wool up among them he must give each not less than the weight of five Judean selas which is equivalent to ten Galilean selas.

When he gives the priest the wool, it must already be bleached. He is not allowed to give the unbleached, dirty wool.

The mishnah derives from the word “give” that whenever he gives the wool to the priest, there must be enough wool to make a gift, defined minimally as a small garment. The Talmud explains that a small garment is a sash.

Section four: If he dyed it before he had a chance to give it to the priest, he need not give the priest the wool. This is because by dyeing it, he has changed it and acquired it for himself. However, he has failed to perform the mitzvah of giving the priest the first of the fleece. But if all he did to the wool was bleach it, then he is still liable, because bleaching is not enough of a change for the owner to acquire it for himself.

Section five: Only sheep owned by Israelites are liable for the first of the fleece. So if one buys wool from a non-Jew, he need not give any of it to the priest.

Section six: If he buys from a Jew, then it depends on whether the Jew kept any of the wool for himself. If he did, then the seller must give the first of the fleece from that which he held back. However, if he did not hold any back, then the purchaser must give the first of the fleece, because the seller did not reckon the price of the first of the fleece into the amount that he collected for the wool.

Section seven: If the seller had two kinds of wool, either of two different colors or from males and females, and he kept all of one kind to himself, then each person must give the first of the fleece from his own kind. This is because when there are two different kinds, we don’t consider it as if the seller held back some for himself. Rather he sold all of the wool of a certain kind, and therefore, the buyer must give to the priest from the kind that he bought.