By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar, Perek Gimmel, posuk mem tes, the Torah tells us that Moshe took the redemption monies of the bechorim who were higher in number than the Levi’im. We see that the bechorim did not redeem them. They had Moshe act as a proxy on their behalf. Moshe, in turn, took the monies and gave it to Aharon and his sons. Can we learn from this procedure of events that any Pidyon HaBenmay be done via “shaliach” (proxy)?
The Rema in Yoreh Deah, siman shin heh, seif yud says that a father may not do the mitzvah of pidyon haBen via shaliach. The Taz, Shach, and Gra all argue with this position and say that the father may do the pidyon via proxy as long as the money being used belongs to the father. The above mentioned posuk would seem to be a proof to the ones who hold that one may redeem a bechor via proxy.
The Shailos U’tshuvos of Reb Yehuda Ossad sees a contradiction between the Rema’s shitta that there is no shlichus and the posuk that shows us that Moshe was a shaliach. The Panim Yafos explains in his Sefer Haflaah in Meseches Kesubos, daf ayin daled, amud alef that everyone will hold that the giving of money as payment may be done via shaliach. We find this in Gemara Bechoros, daf nun, amud alef when Rav Ashi sent money for payment to Rav Achi, the son of Rav Huna. The “amirah” (saying) of “Harei bni paduy” (My should be redeemed) needs to be said by the father himself according to those who posit that there is no shlichus for Pidyon HaBen. According to this differentiation we can understand that Moshe was just a shaliach as far as passing the money to Aharon, but was not a shaliach to the pidyon itself.
There are others who argue that the first pidyon bechorim was only via the exchange of money and there was no amirah involved, Moshe was therefore able to be a shaliach. However, when a Pidyon Haben is done today and an integral part of the pidyon is the amirah of “Harei bni paduy,” it would not be able to be done via shlichus. This machlokes would be applicable to the selling of chametz to a goy if the goy has a shaliach to accept the money on his behalf. We may say that as long as the money is being given from the Jew to the goy there is no problem of shlichus since there is no shlichus needed. So long as the transaction of the kinyan is not done via proxy, the transferring of money may be done. This is a machlokes in the Ktzos and the Machne Efraim. The Ktzos says there is no shlichus for a goy and therefore the goy and the yid need to do transaction one on one without a third part involved. The Machne Efraim disagrees with this position and says that sending money is not a shlichus, therefore it would work.
This would also work the other way as far as the Kohen making a shaliach to collect the money. May the Kohen appoint another Kohen or Levi that do not have the mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen to receive the money on his behalf? If you hold that it is a din shlichus, it would not be permissible since they are not mechuyav. If you hold that passing the buck, so to speak, is not a din shlichus, then it would be permissible. Some want to argue and say that since bechor beheima and bechor adam are mentioned in the same posuk and we know that Kohanim and Levi’im are involved in the mitzvah of bechor beheima, they are part of the mitzvahof pidyon bechorim and therefore are able to be a shaliach for another Kohen.
Pidyon Haben is a mitzvah that can only be fulfilled rarely. How appropriate it is for the parties themselves to do it! Let us hope that Hashem quickly redeems us, Klal Yisroel, Hashem’s first born, in our day.