Pidyan Haben

The rishonim and achronim (from the sforno and gra, to rishonim at the start of kiddushin) have a general machloket about the nature of pidyon haben; what exactly is this transaction taking place? Some hold that Pidyon Haben is simply one of the presents due to the kohannim. just like Terumah must be given to the Kohen when one has produce, as does a firstborn donkey/its replacement sheep, so too when one has a firstborn baby boy, when all conditions are met, one must give a certain amount of money to the kohen. thus, like all other mattanot keuhunah, pidyon haben ensures that we recognise the work of the Kohannim and support them for their working in the Mikdash and teaching Torah to the people, thus also maintaining our all-important social structure.

Other Rabbanim, however, hold that Piydon Haben is a form of real transaction whereby the child is bought back from the Kohen. Before the Pidyon Haben, the baby has a certain connection to the Kehunah - one which might even result in various restrictions on the baby doing certain things (if the pidyon does not take place) - but the Pidyon Haben sees him bought back to his parents to become a normal non-kohen israelite.

interestingly, the Torah reminds us in Parshat Korach, that 'pidyon haben is accomplished through the transfer of five shekalim to the kohein' (18:16). This somewhat rare mitzvah is always a delight to behold. interestingly there is a machloket rishonim whether or not one can fulfill the mitzvah of pidyon haben with a shaliach. l’chora it is not a mitzvat haguf. so why, then, are there rishonim who exclude using an agent for mitzvat pidyon haben. After-all one can even marry using a shaliach. why is using an agent not a possible option for pidyon haben?

The medrash Hagadol states that one of the reasons for the mitzvah of Pidyan Haben is that it is to provide a tikkun and a kapparah to klal yisrael for mechirat Yosef by his brothers. as such the answer to our quandary is simple. since forgiveness and atonement are involved, one’s personal engagement is necessary. Kaporrah cannot be accomplished by someone else. when one hurts another it is he who has to say he is sorry, a messenger is not enough. moreover, the responsibility for that tikkun is personal. This vital message is sometime lost in the day to day troubles of life. We tend to treat people as objects. we can even forget that others have feelings too! This aspect of Pidyon Haben reminds us to stop and take our actions, responsibilities and other people seriously. It admonishes us to watch what we say and do and be concerned with its long-term impact.

Lag b'omer has just gone past which is in the Jewish calander seen as a great day, however six years ago, my best friend from university, Ben Bernstein, died in a car accident on Lag B'omer, he was a great guy, who always cared for everyone else's feeling, treated every person with much respect, loved life, with a huge amount of energy each day and he very much symbolized a peron that had an excellent bein adam lachavairo.

When it comes to our bein adam lachaveiro we must be responsible, sensitive and caring. that responsibility cannot be given out to a representative it must be personal.

i want to give Moshe a bracha, that in life he will always treat everyone with respect, within the Torah guidelines and live life with happiness, much goodness, enriched in Torah and Mitzvot. and may he beezrat hashem succeed in all his ways of life.