This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.
In this week’s parshah the Torah tells us that the bechorim were replaced by the levi’im to serve in the Mikdash. The Torah says that there were 273 more bechorim than levi’im. Those bechorim could not simply be replaced, and had to be redeemed. Hashem told Moshe that each bechor should give five shekalim to Moshe, who, in turn, should give them to Aharon and his sons. With that, they would be redeemed.
The sefer, Yehuda Ya’aleh, comments on this episode. The Rivash and the Rema, in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 305:10, rule that a father cannot appoint a shaliach to perform pidyon ha’ben. The Yehuda Ya’aleh says that it seems that there is an open parshah in the Torah – the parshah of pidyon bechorim – that says that one may appoint a shaliach to perform pidyon. In this parshah Moshe Rabbeinu served as a shaliach for the bechorim, having delivered the money to Aharon and his sons.
Although this parshah is discussing pidyon bechorim and not pidyon ha’ben, the two are comparable. In fact we learn several halachos from this parshah: from the pidyon of the bechorim to the halachos of pidyon ha’ben. For example, the Rambam says that we derive that the money of pidyon ha’ben can only be given to male kohanim – not to females. This results from a pasuk in this week’s parshah that is discussing the pidyon bechorim.
Another example of a halacha derived from the pidyon bechorim that is applied to pidyon ha’ben is that a baby can have a pidyon ha’ben before his bris (if his bris was pushed off until after he is 30 days old). We draw this from the fact that the bechorim in the midbar performed pidyon even though none had a bris milah.
Another point that the Yehuda Ya’aleh makes is on the Chasam Sofer. The Chasam Sofer quotes a Ran in Pesachim that explicitly says that one can appoint a shaliach to perform pidyon ha’ben. The Chasam Sofer says that this shaliach can only be a kohen or a yisrael. A levi cannot be a shaliach for pidyon ha’ben because in order for one to be a shaliach, he must be able to perform that action himself. So since a levi cannot perform pidyon ha’ben he cannot serve as a shaliach. The Yehuda Ya’aleh says that we should derive from this parshah that a levi can serve as a shaliach from the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu – who was a levi – served as a shaliach on behalf of the bechorim.
There is a machlokes whether the opinion of the Rivash and the Rema, who rule that one cannot become a shaliach, applies even if the shaliach is using the father’s money or only if he uses his own money. The Chasam Sofer opines that the Rivash would permit one to be the father’s shaliach if he uses the father’s money. Therefore, this question from Moshe Rabbeinu – who was a levi and served as a shaliach – is not as difficult, according to the Chasam Sofer himself, because Moshe used the money of the bechorim.
The Panim Yafos suggests that Moshe served as a shaliach only to deliver the money, not to perform the pidyon. The Rivash and the Rema only restricted the father from appointing a shaliach to perform the actual pidyon. However, they never restricted a father from sending the money with a shaliach if the father himself would actually recite the pidyon statement. Based on this, we must suggest that each bechor – individually – went to Aharon and his sons and recited the pidyon statement.
The Brisker Rav says that it is implicit from the pesukim that the bechorim were redeemed when they gave the money to Moshe Rabbeinu – before he gave it to Aharon and his sons. This is difficult to understand. How could the pidyon have been accomplished when the money got to Moshe’s hands? One cannot suggest that Moshe served as a shaliach of Aharon and his sons to accept the money because there is a halacha that one can only be a shaliach of the ba’al hamamon (one who owns the money).