By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
The Minchas Chinuch, in mitzvah shin tzaddik bais, ois vov discusses whether one may give the value of five sla’im (coins) when it comes to redeeming a first born or whether it has to be the sla’im themselves.
We learn from Tosfos in Kiddushin daf bais, amud alef that one may use the value of money in lieu of actual coins. This is learned from a klal u’prat. The Rashba and Ran argue and say that the value of money may be used by kiddushin because it is a svara (reasoning.) As long as the woman accepts it, then it would be sufficient. Based on this reasoning, if a woman would tell a man to do a service and it would have value for her, she would be able to become mekudeshes through this action. When redeeming an eved ivri, the person who redeems pays the amount of money the eved was purchased for, minus the time served. In such a case one would need the klal u’prat since the owner of the eved is being forced to accept the value in order to free the slave. In this case there would be no svara that service in lieu of money has value.
The question arises whether pidyon haben can be placed in the same category as kiddushin? It is understood from the Minchas Chinuch that it could be. Reb Tzvi Pesach Frank argues and says that the Torah does not specifically say what type of money shall be used for kiddushin; therefore, a woman who decides that this service is worth money to her would work as a kiddushin. In contrast, the Torah specifies five shkalim regarding a pidyon haben. If not for the klal u’prat one would say that we cannot use the value of money, actual coins must be used. The question is if you say the klal u’prat then the value of a service does not have intrinsic monetary value and it would take on the same problem as a shtar (document) which does not have a value of its own, but rather a value on the side because of what was written on it. This would seem to exclude any service that one would perform for the Kohen as a means to redeem a first-born child.
Reb Chaim Kanievsky argues with the above svara and says from the fact that one may give the five coins as a gift on condition that he gets the money back shows that there is no intrinsic value needed in order to redeem the first-born son since the Kohen is left without money. We see that the Torah wanted the Kohen to receive the coins and not the hanaa of five sla’im.
The Shemen Hamishcha says that doing a service for the Kohen is not comparable to a document. A document has no value. Doing a service is a way of earning money as we find in the business world that people work and then get paid a salary; so the work in and of itself has a monetary value. This is unlike the document that has no value of its own, but rather is a side benefit of being able to collect a debt. Therefore, one would be able to use a service for the Kohen in lieu of redeeming his first-born son.
Pidyon Haben is a mitzvah that can only be fulfilled rarely. How important it is that we should be worthy of doing this mitzvah! Let us hope that Hashem deems us worthy and quickly redeems us, Klal Yisroel, Hashem’s first born, in our day.
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