YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM)
Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
A scan of the classic printed daf can be found at:
Key words and phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them.
From time to time, the shiur will include instructions to stop reading and do some task on your own. This will be marked by a
Within the quoted texts, my explanations and additions are also noted in red.
In our past shiurim we have studied the beraita which lists various responsibilities that a father has toward his son, but from which a mother is exempt. The gemara analyzes this list item by item, and last week we learned the section on the first item, berit mila. This week, we continue with the gemara's analysis of the second mitzva, pidyon ha-ben (redemption of the firstborn).
We begin from the "two-dots," five lines into the long lines on daf 29a.
To redeem him: from where do we (learn this)?
For it says, "All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem."
And where his father has not redeemed him, he is obligated to redeem himself,
as it says: "you shall surely redeem."
And she (the mother) from where do we (learn) that she is not obligated?
As it says: shall be redeemed / "shall redeem," anyone who is commanded to redeem himself is obligated to redeem others,
and anyone who is not commanded to redeem himself is not commanded to redeem others.
And she from where do we (learn) that she is not obligated to redeem herself?
As it says: "shall redeem" / shall be redeemed, anyone whom others are obligated to redeem is obligated to redeem himself,
and anyone whom others are not obligated to redeem is not obligated to redeem himself.
And from where (do we learn) that others are not obligated to redeem her?
For the verse states: "All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem," your sons - and not your daughters.
דכתיב: "כל בכור בניך תפדה."
והיכא דלא פרקיה אבוה - מיחייב איהו למפרקיה,
דכתיב: "פדה תפדה."
ואיהי מנלן דלא מיפקדה?
דכתיב: תיפדה תפדה, כל שמצווה לפדות את עצמו - מצווה לפדות את אחרים,
וכל שאינו מצווה לפדות את עצמו - אינו מצווה לפדות אחרים.
ואיהי מנלן דלא מיחייבא למיפרק נפשה?
דכתיב: תפדה תיפדה, כל שאחרים מצווים לפדותו - מצווה לפדות את עצמו,
וכל שאין אחרים מצווים לפדותו - אין מצווה לפדות את עצמו.
ומנין שאין אחרים מצווין לפדותה?
דאמר קרא: "כל בכור בניך תפדה," בניך - ולא בנותיך.
The gemara begins by ascertaining that a father is obligated to redeem his firstborn son. The source of this obligation is the pasuk in Shemot (34:20) that states "All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem." From the fact that the Torah expresses this mitzva in terms of "your sons," it is clear that it is directed at parents. The gemara continues by ruling that if a father does not redeem his firstborn son, the son himself is obligated - when he comes of age - to redeem himself. This is learned from the repetitive phrase "pado tifdeh" (Bamidbar 18:15), translated as "you shall surely redeem." This emphasizes that the redemption must definitely take place, even if the father did not fulfill his obligation.
Having proven that parents are obligated in this mitzva, the gemara asks how we know that only fathers are included while mothers are exempt. The answer is based on a derasha (exegetical derivation) on the word "tifdeh," you shall redeem. In the sefer Torah there are no vowels. We have a tradition of how to vowelize the words, but since in Hebrew the vowels are separate from the letters, the possibility is left open of, at times, using alternate vowelizations for exegetical purposes. In our case, if the word tifdeh is vowelized differently, it can be read "tippadeh," you shall be redeemed. The gemara equates the two situations and concludes that only one who is obligated to redeem himself (tippadeh) is obligated to redeem others (tifdeh).
This just leads to the next question; how do we know that women are not obligated to redeem themselves? The gemara answers this question based on the same tifdeh-tippadeh equation quoted above. Only someone whom others are obligated to redeem (tifdeh from the perspective of the other person) is obligated to redeem himself (tippadeh). How do we know that others are not obligated to redeem women (e.g. a father is not obligated to redeem his daughter)? The pasuk commands: "All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem." From the fact that the pasuk says "sons," the gemara infers that one is only obligated to redeem sons, but not daughters.
To sum up, we can infer from the word "sons" that one is not obligated to redeem one's daughters. Based on a derasha comparing tifdeh and tippadeh, the gemara concludes that when the girl grows up she is not obligated to redeem herself. Furthermore, because she is not obligated to be redeemed (neither by her father nor by herself), she is not obligated to redeem others, including her son.
|Compare this discussion with the gemara's previous presentation of the sources of obligation in berit mila. What is mentioned in that presentation that is left out of our discussion here?|
When explaining who is obligated in the mitzva of berit mila, the gemara presents a three-tiered hierarchy:
1) The father is obligated to circumcise his son.
2) If he does not do so, the beit din must fulfill this obligation.
3) If no one circumcises the child, he is obligated to circumcise himself when he comes of age.
In our gemara regarding pidyon ha-ben, the gemara similarly states that a father is obligated to redeem his son and that if he does not do so the son is obligated to redeem himself when he comes of age. However, there is no mention of an obligation upon beit din to assume this responsibility.
This omission led the Rama (YD 305:10), the authoritative halakhic decisor of the Ashkenazic community whose glosses to R. Yosef Karo's Shulchan Arukh have been incorporated as part of that monumental work, to rule that in fact the beit din is not obligated, or even able, to redeem a baby boy whose father is unable or unwilling to do so. It is only the father or the boy himself, when he comes of age, who are able to perform the redemption. In the unfortunate event that the father of the baby has not or cannot redeem his son, the Rama recommends (ibid., s'if 15) making the baby a necklace with a silver pendulum that says, "unredeemed," so that he will know to redeem himself when he becomes legally competent. The Rama goes so far as to claim that even if the father is present and willing to perform the redemption, he must actually give the money to the kohen himself, and may not appoint an agent to perform the mitzva on his behalf.
The Rama's assertion seems to be partially based on the fact that our gemara finds it necessary to specially derive that a son is required to redeem himself; otherwise, we might have thought that it is a mitzva incumbent only upon the father and nobody else at all. Apparently, it takes a derasha to introduce an obligation in this mitzva; but there is no such derasha obligating beit din to perform the redemption. This becomes even more striking when contrasted with berit mila, regarding which the gemara does derive from a derasha that beit din is obligated to perform the circumcision if the father does not.
The majority of posekim (halakhic decisors), even within the Ashkenazic community, differed with the Rama's ruling. There are two camps of those who disagree with the Rama:
1) Many authorities (Taz and Shakh, ad loc.) rule that beit din, or someone else, can perform the mitzva as an agent of the father. Halakha generally allows for the appointment of an agent to carry out halakhic processes, and this is no exception. The Shakh goes so far as to argue that even if the father is no longer alive, beit din can, and should, perform the redemption as agents of the boy himself; their agency can be assumed even if the boy is so young that he cannot actually appoint them as agents on his own.
2) The Vilna Gaon (in his commentary on Shulchan Arukh, ibid.) and some other authorities argue that anyone can perform the redemption on behalf of this boy, including someone who cannot be considered the agent of the father or of the son. This argument goes to the core of the mitzva of pidyon ha-ben. What is this mitzva all about? One can understand that the essence of the mitzva of pidyon ha-ben is the handing over of 5 silver shekalim, or their value, to a kohen. If so, the mitzva is ritualistic; just as one is required to don tefillin each day and to blow shofar on Rosh Ha-shana, one can become obligated to give 5 shekalim to a kohen. If so, the mitzva is an actional mitzva that is to be performed by the father or son, and if it is possible for someone else to perform the mitzva, it can only by as the agent of the father or son. On the other hand, the Vilna Gaon holds that the mitzva of pidyon ha-ben simply posits that the father owes 5 shekalim to the kohen. It is a regular monetary debt. Just as anyone can, on his own accord, pay his friend's creditor and thus relieve his friend of the debt, so one can pay the 5 shekalim for the redemption, even without being appointed as agent of the father or son.
Back to the gemara
Let us continue on in the gemara; we are two lines from the bottom of 29a.
The Rabbis taught: "He to redeem and his son to redeem
He precedes his son;
R' Yehuda says: 'his son precedes him, for this (the father's redemption) is a mitzva is on his (the father's) father and this (the redemption of the son) is the mitzva of his son on him.'"
R' Yirmiya said: "Everyone admits, where there is only five sela'im - he precedes his son.
What is the reason? His own mitzva is preferable.
They argue - where there are five beholden and five "free,"
R' Yehuda reasoned: a loan that is written in the Torah is similar to one written in a document,
with this five he redeems his son,
and a kohen comes and collects the five beholden for his (the father's redemption).
And the rabbis reasoned: a loan written in the Torah is not like one written in a document,
and therefore his own mitzva is preferable."
תנו רבנן: הוא לפדות ובנו לפדות
הוא קודם לבנו;
רבי יהודה אומר: בנו קודמו, שזה מצותו על אביו, וזה מצות בנו עליו.
אמר רבי ירמיה: הכל מודין, כל היכא דליכא אלא חמש סלעים - הוא קודם לבנו.
מאי טעמא? מצוה דגופיה עדיפא.
כי פליגי - היכא דאיכא חמש משועבדים וחמש בני חורין,
ר' יהודה סבר: מלוה דכתיב בתורה ככתובה בשטר דמיא,
בהני חמש פריק לבריה,
ואזיל כהן וטריף ליה לחמש משועבדים לדידיה.
ורבנן סברי: מלוה דכתיב באורייתא לאו ככתובה בשטר דמיא,
והילכך מצוה דגופיה עדיף.
Our gemara begins with the term tanu rabbanan, "the rabbis taught," which always introduces a beraita. The beraita quotes a disagreement regarding a man who is obligated to redeem himself as well as his son. Clearly, the case is that the man is himself a firstborn who was never redeemed, which means that it is incumbent upon him to redeem himself. In addition, he now has a firstborn son of his own whom he is also obligated to redeem. The tanna kama (lit. "first tanna," a term used to refer to the first, anonymous opinion cited in a mishna or beraita) rules that the man's own redemption takes precedence, while R' Yehuda argues that the son's redemption should take precedence; from this father's perspective, his own redemption was really his father's obligation that has trickled down to him, while his son's redemption is really his obligation to begin with.
The gemara now quotes R' Yirmiya, who explains the beraita. What does it mean that one redemption takes precedence over the other? R' Yirmiya argues that it does not mean that one only has in one's possesion the value of five silver shekalim (a Biblical shekel is a "sela" in the Mishna); in such an event, even R' Yehuda would agree that the man's own redemption precedes his obligation to redeem his son, because it is a redemption that relates directly to himself. Rather, the case is that one has five shekalim available to use for the redemption and another five shekalim worth of property that he has since sold to a buyer. The disagreement in the beraita hinges on whether a debt decreed by the Torah has the same force as a loan recorded in a document. Let's explain this further:
If one owes money to a creditor from a legally documented loan, the creditor has a lien on the debtor's property. If the debtor then sells his property, it is considered "beholden" to the creditor; if the debtor defaults on the loan, the creditor is awarded the sold property while the buyer will have to wait for the seller (i.e. the debtor) to reimburse him for the purchase price of the land. This does not apply if the loan was undocumented. In such an event, potential buyers have no way of knowing if the seller owes money. Therefore, the creditor does not have a lien on property of the debtor which he has sold to others, and he may only collect his loan from "free" property, meaning property that has remained in the in the debtor's possession.
In our case, the father owes five shekalim to a kohen as redemption for himself, because he is a firstborn. R' Yehuda holds that this Torah obligation has the status of a legally documented loan. The kohen should therefore be viewed as having a lien on any property the father has ever sold, as his claim dates back to the thirtieth day of the man's life, thus preceding any sales he has made. With this in mind, R' Yehuda rules that if the father has only five shekalim to his name but there is property he used to own but has sold, he should use his remaining money to redeem his son. The kohen can then come and collect the other 5 shekalim for the redemption of the father himself from property that the father has sold. In this way, both redemptions end up taking place.
The rabbis (the majority of them), whose view is expressed by the tanna kama, argue with R' Yehuda. In their view, a Torah obligation is not to be viewed as a legally documented transaction. Therefore, the kohen would not be able to collect the 5 shekalim from beholden property if the man has no more money. Since, in such a case, it will be impossible to carry out both redemptions, the man's own redemption takes precedence and he should wait until he has more funds in order to redeem his son.