May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.
This week we learned Bava Batra 82. These are some highlights.
Bava Batra 82: May I host a meal in the shul for the redemption of a firstborn who is not firstborn?
A young couple became pregnant. After many months, the mother experienced a miscarriage. They became pregnant again. She delivered a healthy baby boy. According to the halacha, the child was not truly the opener of the womb and there was no obligation to redeem him. The couple were embarrassed. They did not want others to know that there had been a miscarriage. They asked if they could put on a Pidyon Haben meal in their shul and invite their friends and neighbors to the celebration. Our Gemara would seem to indicate that they can not do so.
Our Gemara discussed a man who had purchased two trees in a field. According to the sages, there is doubt as to whether the purchase included the land under the trees, or perhaps he only got the trees and not the land underneath. Because of the doubt, he should bring the first fruit from the trees, Bikkurim, to the Temple. When gifting the basket to the priest he is not to make the Bikkurim declaration though. It is possible that he does not own the land. He therefore should not be making a declaration thanking God for the “land that You gave me.” The Gemara asked, “Let him recite the declaration. It is just a few verses of Bible. What could be wrong about reciting verses aloud?” The Gemara answered that it would appear dishonest. He might not own any land. It is seemingly declaring a lie as truth to say “Thank You for the land that You have given me.” Tosfot HaRosh explains that this concept—mechezi keshikra—is prohibited by Torah law. Therefore, for our couple to celebrate a Pidyon Haben for a boy who does not need one should also be prohibited because of mechezi keshikra.
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein raised a question from here on the Sefer Yerei’im. Sefer Yerei’im (Mitzvah 235) writes that the verse “midvar sheker tirchak, stay away from falsehood,” prohibits lies that might cause people harm. However, a lie that will not harm anyone is not prohibited by Torah law. How will Yerei’im deal with our Gemara? Were the farmer to declare thanks for the land that he was given he would not cause anyone any harm. Why does the Gemara prohibit the farmer from making the declaration due to mechezi keshikra?
Rav Chaim Kanievsky in his work Derech Emunah (Hilchot Bikkurim 4:4) suggested an answer. Perhaps Rosh was not saying that the farmer, who only possibly owns land, would violate the command of midvar sheker tirchak were he to make a declaration. As Yerei’im teaches, the Torah’s prohibition on lying refers to lies that can cause harm. Rosh meant that a dishonest declaration in the Temple is a violation of the Biblical mitzvah to fear God, et Hashem Elokecha tira. One cannot tell God something that appears dishonest. It is disrespectful. It is insulting and degrading. The farmer who brings Bikkurim makes a declaration in the holy Temple, God’s house. It is lack of fear of Him to say a somewhat dishonest statement to the Almighty, especially in His home.
In light of Rav Chaim’s analysis of our Rosh, in the case of the couple who want to put on a fake Pidyon Haben party in the shul, they should not do it. To celebrate the birth of a boy, who is not firstborn, as firstborn in a shul, which is a Mikdash Me’at, a mini Temple, is an insult to the Almighty. It is lack of fear of Heaven. Especially in His home, we are to only convey truths to Him (Chashukei Chemed).
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.