May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h, and Meira Chaya Nechama Beracha, a”h, bat Reb David Mordechai Fishel, sheyichyeh.
This week we learned Bechorot 46. These are some highlights.
Should a kohen serve as a sandek or redeem a child?
Our daf discusses the mitzvah to redeem the first-born son. A son who is the first child to emerge from his mother is to be redeemed with the father paying five shekel to the kohen. A kohen was asked to come to a home to participate in a pidyon haben; he was also asked to come, at the same time, to a different location to serve as the sandek for a bris. Which mitzvah should he choose to attend?
One might say that the kohen should choose to attend the pidyon haben for he would then be an integral part of a mitzvah. It is a great privilege to hold a baby during a bris; however, if there was no one around to serve as a sandek, it would be a kosher bris if the baby were circumcised on a table. A sandek is helping a mitzvah to occur. On the other hand, a kohen is needed for pidyon haben; without his involvement the mitzvah cannot be fulfilled. Chatam Sofer (Yoreh Dei’ah Siman 292) writes that the kohen who accepts any of the gifts of kehunah is also fulfilling a mitzvah.
Ultimately, Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein argues that the kohen should choose to serve as sandek. Rama (Yoreh Dei’ah Siman 265:11) rules that the sandek is preferred to the mohel; the sandek has the status of a person who offers ketoret and therefore he should be called up first to read from the Torah. Chatam Sofer (Orach Chaim Siman 159) explains that the Rama was teaching that there are two blessings in serving as a sandek. Since every circumcision is like the offering of a korban, the sandek, on whose knees the bris takes place, is a mizbeiach during the bris. In addition, since the sandek is helping the bris take place he is considered an active helper in the fulfillment of a mitzvah. One who helps a mitzvah get done is considered as if he performed the mitzvah himself. The mohel, however, is only doing a mitzvah and is not someone who has the status of the mizbeiach. In light of this idea, in regard to our scenario as well, the man should choose to serve as a sandek and not to attend the pidyon haben. A kohen who redeems a child merely performs a mitzvah; however, a sandek is considered a person who performed a mitzvah and he becomes an altar. Shu”t Lehorot Natan (Chelek 13 Siman 75) also rules that when facing the choice of pidyon haben and sandek, the kohen should choose to serve as a sandek because serving as a sandek sanctifies the body itself. (Chashukei Chemed)
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.