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At the Pidyon Haben ceremony, the father makes a blessing:

ברוך אתה ה׳ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על פדיון הבן

There is a famous rule from the Rashba (Shu"t, V1 §18) that we do not make a ברכת המצות on a mitzva which is toileh bda'as acheirim - which needs the participation or willingness of another party.

Seeing as Pidyon Haben requires the willing participation of the Kohen (see Ketzos Hachoshen 243:4 for reasons it cannot be done without the consent of the Kohen), why do we make a blessing?

  • A very general rule is that there are no rules, but generalizations. Search Yerushalmi for "דרבי יונה אמר, לית כללין דרבי כללין" - even Rebbi's "rules" aren't really rules. That means that even though the rule holds most of the time, there are/might be exceptions. So the question is on Rashba - knowing that there's a Brocho on Pidion, how did HE make that rule? – Al Berko Jul 31 at 5:07
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    @AlBerko and the exceptions are interesting and worth asking about. – Heshy Aug 29 at 22:35
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Rav Pam ZT"L was bothered by your question [and other questions] on the way people understand the Rashba. Most people understand the Rashba's point, that things which may not happen because someone else might back out, you cannot make a questionable bracha, for if he backs out it's a bracha in vain.

However, suggests Rav Pam, the Rashba really intended what he wrote at the end of the teshuvah, as the main reason. At the end, the Rashba writes that a mitzvah, that if one backs out of, does not exist, is a weaker mitzvah and one cannot make a bracha on this weaker type of mitzvah. Pidyon Haben, on the other hand, is not a weaker mitzvah, for even if this kohen refuses to except the money, the father would have to find one that will. Therefore a bracha must be made even according to the Rashba.

This is quoted in a article in Kovetz Beis Aharon V'Yisroel, the last paragraph here 1 and here 2

  • I also think this is pshat in the rashba. But i am an unsure about this: If an ani refuses to accept charity, does that take away the mitzvah of tzdaka or just make it impossible to fulfill the obligation? – chortkov2 Jul 31 at 1:31
  • @chortkov2 - Rav Pam is quoted as saying, that there is no mitzvah if the ani refuses, and there is no Mitzvah to search for another ani. – פרי זהב Jul 31 at 2:08
  • Out of curiosity, if the father makes a bracha with a single Kohen present, that Kohen backs out, and then the father has to seek another Kohen - would the father make a second bracha when he finds a second Kohen? Was the first one a bracha l'vatalah? – Jake Jul 31 at 13:38
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    @Jake - I don"t see why the father should not have to make a second bracha, as in the case of any hesech hadaas. As far as the first bracha is concerned, since he thought that he was going to do a mitzvah according to the Ritva [quoted by the Shaarei Teshuva beginning OC 158] that one who changes his mind after washing his hands for bread, did not make a bracha levatala. In this case where it wasn't even his choice to back out, it definitely won't be a bracha levatala. – פרי זהב Jul 31 at 14:46
  • @פריזהב Very interesting, thank you! – Jake Jul 31 at 17:36

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