Torah Portion: Bo
Every firstling donkey must be redeemed with a sheep (Shemos 13:13).
It is a positive commandment to redeem the male young of a donkey that was the first to be born, as it is written, Every firstling donkey must be redeemed with a sheep (Shemos 13:13). The mitzvah is performed as follows: The Israelite to whom this firstling was born takes a single lamb and gives it to a kohen as a redemption for the donkey firstling, which originally belonged to Hashem (for the reason we have written above [regarding the mitzvah of sanctifying first-born]), and He gives it to the kohen. Therefore the Israelite must redeem it from him — for it was Hashem’s will that it be redeemed in exchange for a lamb. If someone has no lamb, he redeems it for the price of a lamb.
The time for its redemption is until thirty days. The lamb [used for the redemption] is not holy but rather the mundane property of the kohen. The donkey remains in the hands of the Israelite.
Among the roots of this mitzvah: It is so that the Jews will forever remember the miracle that God did for them when they departed from Egypt — that He killed all the firstborn [Egyptians], as is written.
This commandment applies in all places and at all times to Israelite men and women but not to Kohanim or Levites. One who transgresses this prohibition violates a positive commandment.
If it is not redeemed, you must decapitate it (Shemos 13:13).
It is a positive commandment to behead a firstling donkey if its owner did not want to redeem it, as it says: If it is not redeemed, you must decapitate it (Shemos13:13). The essence of this mitzvah is this: One kills the [firstborn] young of a donkey if he does not wish to redeem it. Hashem decreed that the owner may have no benefit from it, since he did not redeem it, and even benefit from the carcass is forbidden to him.
Among the roots of this mitzvah is what is written above with regard to the mitzvah of redeeming a firstling donkey. It applies to anyone who is subject to the mitzvah of redeeming a firstling donkey.