BECHOROS 51 (4 Sivan) - Dedicated in memory of the family members of Mr. David Kornfeld (Rabbi Kornfeld's father) who perished at the hands of the Nazi murderers in the Holocaust, Hashem Yikom Damam: His mother (Mirel bas Yakov Mordechai), his brothers (Shraga Feivel, Aryeh Leib and Yisachar Dov, sons of Mordechai), his grandfather (Reb Yakov Mordechai ben Reb David Shpira) and his aunt (Charne bas Yakov Mordechai Shpira, wife of Reb Moshe Aryeh Cohen z'l).
1) REDEEMING ONE'S FIRSTBORN SON MULTIPLE TIMES
OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that when a father designates money for Pidyon ha'Ben and the money is lost, the father is responsible for the money and must redeem his son with other money. This is derived from the verse, "Every firstborn... shall be yours; nevertheless, the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem (Padoh Tifdeh), and the firstborn of Tamei animals you shall redeem (Tifdeh)" (Bamidbar 18:15).
How does this verse imply that the money of Pidyon ha'Ben must be given to the Kohen in order for the Pidyon to take effect, and that merely designating the money for Pidyon does not suffice?
(a) RASHI (DH Yiheyeh) explains that the words "shall be yours," which are addressed to Aharon ha'Kohen, mean that only when the Kohen receives the Pidyon is the firstborn son redeemed, but if the money was set aside by the father and then lost, the son is not redeemed.
(b) The RA'AVAD in Eduyos (7:1) writes that the repetition of the words "Padoh Tifdeh" teaches that there are situations in which the Pidyon must be performed several times. Such a situation exists when the father designated money for Pidyon and then it was lost; the father must perform the Pidyon again with additional money. (This is similar to the Gemara in Bava Metzia (31a) which derives from the double wording in the verse, "Hashev Teshivem" (Devarim 22:1), that one must return a lost animal to its owner even a hundred times if it keeps escaping from its pen.)
The MESHECH CHOCHMAH (Parshas Korach) cites the Ra'avad and explains that while a human firstborn must be redeemed even a hundred times, the firstborn of a Tamei animal needs to be redeemed only once. This is derived from the fact that when the Torah gives the Mitzvah of redeeming the firstborn of Tamei animals, it does not use a double wording; it says merely, "Tifdeh." Accordingly, when one redeemed a firstborn donkey by exchanging it with a sheep, even if the sheep died before it reached the Kohen, the donkey is redeemed and one does not need to redeem it again with a second sheep. (This is the opinion of the Chachamim, whom the Halachah follows, in the Mishnah earlier (12b).)
(c) The Gemara later (51b) gives different sources for the father's responsibility to ensure that the money of Pidyon reaches the Kohen. Reish Lakish says that the law of the Mishnah is derived from a Gezeirah Shavah of "Erech, Erech." The Torah says, "And those who are to be redeemed, from a month old shall you redeem, according to your estimation (Erech)" (Bamidbar 18:16). In the same way that one who pledges to give his own value (Erech) or to give the value of someone else must bring the money to the Gizbar (the treasurer of the Beis ha'Mikdash), even if the money that he first set aside was lost, one must bring the five Sela'im of Pidyon ha'Ben.
(d) The Gemara there cites Rav Dimi in the name of Rebbi Yochanan, who says that the law of the Mishnah is derived from a different Gezeirah Shavah, "Reikam, Reikam." The Torah says, "You shall redeem all of the firstborn of your sons, and no one shall appear before Me empty-handed (Reikam)" (Shemos 34:20). Similarly, the verse that discusses the Korban that is brought to the Beis ha'Mikdash on Yom Tov says, "Do not appear before Me empty-handed (Reikam)" (Shemos 23:15). Just as the owner of the Korban brought on Yom Tov must replace the animal if it was lost, the father must replace the five Sela'im of Pidyon ha'Ben if they are lost.
Rav Papa rejects the sources of Reish Lakish and Rebbi Yochanan. He argues that the Mishnah itself cites a different verse as the source for this law. Rav Papa asserts that the Gezeirah Shavah of Reish Lakish teaches a different law -- the law expressed in the Mishnah earlier (49a) that when the firstborn son died more than thirty days after birth, if the father had not yet redeemed his son he remains obligated to redeem him. This is derived from the Gezeirah Shavah of "Erech, Erech" -- just as the heirs are obligated to give the Erech of their father who pledged to give his Erech and then died, the Bechor must be redeemed even if he died. Rav Papa says that Rebbi Yochanan derived this law from the Gezeirah Shavah of "Reikam, Reikam" -- just as the heirs must bring the festival Korban of their father who died after designating the animal as a Korban, a father must redeem his deceased Bechor.
The Meshech Chochmah points out that the Sifri cites Rebbi Tarfon who derives the law that the firstborn son must be redeemed even after his death from the double wording of "Padoh Tifdeh," which teaches that there are two types of Pidyon: one when the Bechor is alive, and one when the Bechor died after thirty days. Since no double wording is used with regard to the Pidyon of a Peter Chamor, if the sheep died before it was given to a Kohen, the owner does not need to redeem the donkey again with a second sheep. However, the Mishnah here cannot agree with Rebbi Tarfon's Derashah, because it uses the double wording to teach that the Bechor must be redeemed again when the money was set aside but was lost. The Mishnah derives the law that the Bechor must be redeemed even after he dies from the Gezeirah Shavah (of Reish Lakish or Rebbi Yochanan).
The Meshech Chochmah adds that, conceptually, the two laws are similar. The fact that one does not need to redeem the Peter Chamor again if the sheep died before it reached the Kohen shows that giving the firstborn animal to the Kohen is not a monetary obligation upon the owner, but rather it is merely a Mitzvah to redeem the donkey with a sheep. Accordingly, if the sheep died, there is no obligation requiring the owner to redeem the donkey again because it has already been redeemed, and there is no monetary obligation to ensure that the Kohen receives a sheep. In contrast, Pidyon ha'Ben is a monetary obligation; the father must ensure that the five Sela'im reach the Kohen. Consequently, this monetary obligation remains in effect when the money was set aside and was lost, and when the Bechor died after thirty days. (D. BLOOM)
2) HALACHAH: GIVING THE FIVE "SELA'IM" TO MORE THAN ONE KOHEN
QUESTIONS: The Gemara quotes a Beraisa that states that giving five Sela'im to ten Kohanim is a valid act of Pidyon ha'Ben. Similarly, giving five Sela'im in installments also constitutes a valid Pidyon.
(a) Does this mean that one may give five Sela'im in installments, bit by bit, to ten different Kohanim?
(b) Does one fulfill the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben in this manner (by giving five Sela'im to a number of Kohanim, or by paying in installments) l'Chatchilah, or only b'Di'eved?
(a) The Rishonim apparently disagree about whether one may pay the five Sela'im in installments to more than one Kohen.
1. RASHI (DH b'Zeh) explains that a Pidyon paid in installments is valid only when the father gave the money bit by bit to one Kohen. The BEIS YOSEF (YD 305) points out that Rashi's words imply that if the money was given in installments to ten Kohanim, then the Pidyon would not be valid.
2. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Bikurim 11:7) rules that when a father gives the money to ten Kohanim, the Pidyon is valid whether he gives all of the money at once or whether he gives it in installments.
(b) Does one fulfill the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben l'Chatchilah or b'Di'eved when he pays more than one Kohen, or when he pays in installments?
1. The CHASAM SOFER (quoted by the PISCHEI TESHUVAH YD 305) rules that l'Chatchilah the entire Pidyon must be given to one Kohen.
2. The MAHARIT ALGAZI notes that the RAMBAM (Hilchos Shekalim 9) rules that the Machatzis ha'Shekel must be given in one payment. Since there is no logical reason to differentiate between Pidyon ha'Ben and the Machatzis ha'Shekel, the Maharit Algazi infers that both Machatzis ha'Shekel and Pidyon ha'Ben should be paid all at once. A Pidyon that is given bit by bit is valid only b'Di'eved.
The REISHIS BIKURIM argues that since the Torah stipulates with regard to the Machatzis ha'Shekel that "a rich person may not give more and a poor person may not give less than half a Shekel" (Shemos 30:15), all contributions of the Machatzis ha'Shekel must be equal and cannot be in installments. There is no such verse with regard to Pidyon ha'Ben, and thus perhaps Pidyon ha'Ben may be paid in installments even l'Chatchilah.
3) HALACHAH: MAY THE KOHEN RETURN THE MONEY OF PIDYON HA'BEN?
OPINIONS: The Beraisa states that if the father gives the money for Pidyon ha'Ben to the Kohen, and the Kohen returns it to him, the Mitzvah has been fulfilled. The Beraisa relates that this was the practice of Rebbi Tarfon (a Kohen), who would return the money to the father. The Gemara adds that Rebbi Chanina also occasionally gave the money back to the father. The Gemara relates that on one occasion, a father who had given money to Rebbi Chanina for Pidyon ha'Ben expected him to give the money back. Rebbi Chanina rebuked him, telling him that since he did not give the money wholeheartedly, he did not fulfill the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben.
What is the Halachah in practice? May the Kohen return the money of Pidyon ha'Ben to the father?
ANSWER: Based on the Gemara here, the SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 305:5; see also SHACH 305:8) rules that if the father of the Bechor gives the money to the Kohen on condition that the Kohen return it to him, or if he merely says to the Kohen, "Take them and give them back to me," the Pidyon is not valid, because the father does not have intention for the Kohen to acquire the coins.
However, if the father explicitly stipulates that he is giving the money as a "Matanah Al Menas l'Hachzir" -- a gift given on condition that it be returned, the Pidyon is valid and the Kohen is obligated to return the money. This is because the Halachah is that a gift given on condition that it be returned is considered a full-fledged gift (see Bava Basra 137b). Nevertheless, the Kohen himself is not permitted to agree to participate in such a Pidyon because he thereby causes a loss to the other Kohanim; other fathers will want to use only him since he returns the money (TOSFOS here, DH Hilchach; Kidushin 6b). Similarly, even when no condition is stipulated, a Kohen may not return the money to fathers who use him for their sons' Pidyon, because he causes a loss to the other Kohanim. Rather, he should occasionally keep the money for himself, and that way fathers will not choose to give their money of Pidyon specifically to him (Tosfos ibid., Shulchan Aruch ibid.).
(c) However, some Poskim (see SHE'EILAS YA'AVETZ 1:155) rule that nowadays, when there are no Kohanim Muchzakim (Kohanim whose lineage is certain beyond any doubt), it is a Mitzvah for the Kohen to return the Pidyon money every time that he participates in a Pidyon. Since he may not be an actual Kohen, out of doubt he should return the money in order to avoid any question of thievery.
4) INHERITING A DOUBLE PORTION FROM THE MOTHER
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that a firstborn does not inherit a double portion of his mother's property. RASHI (DH b'Nichsei) explains that this means that he does not inherit a double portion of his mother's Nichsei Milug (a woman's property that was not assessed in the Kesuvah, of which the husband reaps the fruits, and which is returned to the woman "as is" upon divorce or the husband's death, regardless of its appreciation or depreciation (or deterioration) over the years).
Rashi's limitation of the teaching of the Mishnah to this type of property is difficult to understand.
1. If the Bechor's mother is married, then it is the husband who inherits her property upon her death, and not her son. Rashi should explain that the Mishnah is referring to any property inherited from an unmarried mother! (RASHASH)
2. Why is a verse needed to teach that a Bechor is not entitled to a double portion of his mother's estate? The Torah uses the word "Ish" when it discusses the double inheritance of a firstborn, from which it can be inferred that a Bechor receives a double portion only from "a man" (the father) and not from a woman (the mother)! (MAHARIT ALGAZI, end of 8:82)
3. Why would one have thought to derive from the verse that a man's firstborn child should receive a double portion from his mother? There seems to be no logical basis for this assumption. Moreover, if there is some reason to assume that a man's firstborn child should receive a double portion of his mother's estate, then what will be the law in a case in which two sons, both the firstborn sons of two different men, have the same mother?
ANSWER: Perhaps one question answers the others. It indeed is not necessary for the verse to teach that a Bechor does not inherit a double portion from his widowed or divorced mother (as pointed out in the second and third questions). Rashi explains, therefore, that the Bechor does not receive a double portion in his mother's property even when it comes to him through his father.
According to Rashi, the Mishnah is discussing a situation in which the mother died before the father, and the father inherited all of her property (Nichsei Milug; we are assuming that the Gemara here maintains that the husband's right to inherit the wife is mid'Oraisa). Rashi explains that when the father later dies, leaving his estate to his children, the Bechor does not collect a double portion from the property that his father inherited from his mother. Rather, all of the brothers divide that property equally. This is what the Gemara derives from the verse, "v'Lo Mishpat ha'Bechorah" (Devarim 21:17).