Tuesday, October 09, 2007

pidyon haben - financial obligation or mitzvah?

Following up the question raised in yesterday’s post, the Chazon Ish explains that although a person is usually required to spend no more than 1/5 of his wealth on any mitzvah, the mitzvah of pidyon haben is different. The financial obligation to buy an esrog or talis or other mitzvah item is itself not a mitzvah – it is just a means to an end. In these cases the Torah places a cap on the amount one is required to expend. However, the obligation to pay a kohen for pidyon haben is not just a means to an end, but is the mitzvah itself. Since in the world of dinei mamonos there are no limits on the obligation to pay back debts, e.g. one cannot tell a lender that the terms of payment exceed 1/5 of one's income and therefore one is exempt from payment, there are also no limits on the obligation of payment for pidyon haben.

By defining pidyon haben as working within the parameters of dinei mamonos, the Chazon Ish opens a pandora’s box of other issues, some of which we dicussed in the past (link)– e.g. can a kohen be mochel payment of pidyon haben money? If we treat the mitzvah purely as a financial obligation, the answer would seem to be yes, but if it is a mitzvah like other mitzvos, than not. (Daf Yomi learners: see Tosfos 30b d”h zar regarding whether a kohen can be mochel tashlumei terumah).


  1. Anonymous11:46 AM

    While we do apply the rule of HaMotzee Mechaveiro Alav HaRaaya to Pidyon HaBen as well, the rule of Ain Holchin B'Mammon Achar HaRov probably does not apply (see Shita Mekubetzes to BK 11).

  2. i havent seen the CI inside
    is he saying that PH is dinei momonis or is he comparing it to DM where there is no limitation of 1/5 and saying anywhere where paying the money is the required act (like DM) then one is required to spend any amount

  3. anonymous - see the earlier post I linked to where I touched the issue of rov (I have to see the shita you point to).

    dd - I don't recall the exact words, but what difference are you driving at?

  4. well if he is just comparing it to dinai momonis but not that it is dinai momonis then the kohen wouldnt be able to me mochel

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