Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Redeeming with a Check

The Gemora (Kesuvos 102a)explains that the son is not redeemed because of Ula’s decree. For Ula said: Biblically, his son would be redeemed when he gives the money; the Rabbis decreed that he is not redeemed because people might mistakenly say that one may redeem a firstborn son with a third-party debt document (and those are Biblically invalid for redemption; his own debt document, like in our case, would be Biblically valid, but the Rabbis were concerned that people would not understand the difference between the two types of documents).

The Chasam Sofer in a teshuva (Y”D 134) discusses if redemption would be valid when the father pays the Kohen by check. Is a check regarded as money because it is accepted as cash all over or do we say that it is regarded as a document since there is no inherent value in the paper itself?

He concludes that a check can be regarded as money for some things, but as a document for others. If it is regarding a matter which is between people, then a check would be considered money, since it is commonly accepted. However, regarding redemption of a firstborn, which is between man and Hashem, a check would be regarded as a document and the redemption would not be valid.

He explains: The father is actually redeeming his firstborn son from Hashem, but He gave over the monetary rights to the five selaim to the Kohen. Since it is the Torah that set the requirement for the money, the redemption will only be valid if the father gives to the Kohen something that is itself valued at five selaim.

The Chazon Ish (Y”D 72:10) disagrees and maintains that a check would be regarded as money and the redemption would be valid.