Parsha Korach

Parsha Korach

A Costly Choice

Those that are to be redeemed - from one month shall you redeem according to the valuation, five silver shekels by the sacred shekel; it is twenty gera." (18:16)

In this week's parsha the Torah lists the various gifts that are given to the Kohain. Amongst them we find the five shekalim that a father gives the Kohain for the redemption of his firstborn son. At the ceremony of the Pidyon Haben, the redemption of the firstborn, Chazal established that the Kohain asks the father the following question: "Mai ba'is tfay?" - "Which do you prefer? Would you rather keep the five shekalim or take the child?" At first glance, this appears to be a ludicrous question, for no father would choose the money over his son. Furthermore, the implication that the father has the option of leaving his son with the Kohain in exchange for keeping the money is not halachically correct; the Torah requires a father to redeem his son. Additionally, the child is not the property of the Kohain, and if, theoretically, the father would refuse to redeem his child, the Kohain would have no claim to the child. Therefore, what was Chazal's intention when they incorporated this question into the Pidyon Haben ceremony?

Chazal are bringing to our attention that unfortunately we often go through life choosing money over our children. We continuously rationalize working late or conducting business which keeps us away from our children. We claim that we are doing this for their future; however, living a more moderate lifestyle which would enable us to have more of an impact on our children would be infinitely more beneficial to them. The notion that we are helping our children by providing them with material benefits is really a rationalization for choosing the money over the child. Chazal are challenging parents to be more discriminating when evaluating their motivations. When does money stop being a necessity that provides for the well-being of the family, and become a luxury that may inhibit a parent's involvement in the development of his child?

Rabbi Mordechai Shifman

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by Rabbi Nachi Klein