Not Necessarily Good For The Goose, Gander Or Any Fowl
‘On The Festival, Plucking The Wool Is Permitted Because…’
The Torah states that “lo sagoz bechor tzonecha – you may not shear [the wool] of your first born sheep” (Devarim 15:19). R. Yosi b. HaMeshullam in the mishnah (24b) to our sugya offers a leniency to this rule. Prior to slaughtering a bechor, he says, one may make a clear space on both sides of the place of the shechitah and pluck the hairs on either side. Rashi explains that this is done to prevent chaladah – passing the knife under cover.
The gemara on our daf concludes that R. Yosi b. HaMeshullam’s reason to permit plucking hairs is because the scriptural term “sagoz,” shearing, applies only when one uses scissors, not when one plucks by hand, which is properly called “tolesh,” tearing. Thus, if one follows R. Yosi b. HaMeshullam’s procedure, one avoids the Torah’s prohibition (and helps facilitate proper shechitah).
Uprooting From Its Place Of Growth
The gemara, tangentially, questions whether it is permitted to pluck the neck hairs of an ordinary animal on yom tov to facilitate shechitah. The gemara argues that it should be prohibited because the prohibition of cutting hair on yom tov is rooted, not in shearing, but rather in the general prohibition of uprooting something from its place of growth.
The gemara, however, concludes that plucking hairs by hand is classified as giza k’le’achar yad – plucking hair in an unusual manner, and is therefore permitted because the Torah did not forbid a melachah done in an unusual manner. The Sages, it is true, normally do prohibit conducting melachah even in an unusual manner, but since the person is plucking for the sake of simchas yom tov, the Sages allow him to do so.
What About A Bird?
A baraisa on our daf states that if one plucks a large feather from a bird’s wing, he must bring a karban chattas. This baraisa seems to imply that plucking by hand is a biblical prohibition, which contradicts what our gemara just concluded. The gemara, however, states that there is no contradiction. Although plucking hairs is usually considered unusual, and hence permitted, plucking feathers from a bird’s wing is considered routine, and hence prohibited.
Tosafos (sv “d’hava lei”) rule, based on our gemara, that plucking a bird’s feather on yom tov is forbidden – even if one needs the bird for one’s yom tov meal. The Rambam (Pirush HaMishnayos to 24b) rules accordingly: Plucking the wool of an animal for the purpose of shechitah is permitted on yom tov; plucking a bird’s feathers is forbidden.
The Ramban (novella to our daf) disagrees and permits plucking a bird’s feathers on yom tov to facilitate shechitah. He argues that since one is permitted to pluck a bird’s feathers on yom tov to enable eating it, one is also permitted to do so prior to shechitah since they will be plucked afterward in any event.
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