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A father is required to redeem his firstborn son by paying some money to a kohen. A mother is not. The Bavli, Kidushin 29 amud 1, asks, "How do we know she's not commanded?" and answers:

[In the Torah] is written "תפדה / you shall redeem", [which can be read] "תפדה / you shall be redeemed", [and we connect the two readings:] whoever is commanded to redeem himself [if no one else did] is commanded to redeem others, and whoever is not commanded to redeem himself is not commanded to redeem others.

My kid asked: That's patently false! A second-born is not commanded to redeem himself, but is still commanded to redeem his own son. [I might add that the same is true of the maternal grandson of a kohen, and of anyone born by cesarean section.] That doesn't seem to be a class of person less worthy of consideration than females. What does the Bavli mean here?

  • Just to nitpick: The Gemara does seem to retract from this, when it learns תפדה תפדה the other way - anyone who must be redeemed by others must redeem himself, excluding women from בניך ולא בנותיך. However, this is a very strong question on the Hava Amina which doesn’t apply the derasha in this manner. – DonielF Oct 14 '18 at 15:56
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Rashi on

לפדות את עצמו. comments

כשהוא בכור ולא פדאו אביו:

if he were a first-born and his father had not redeemed him.

I understand the gemoro using Rashi to mean: whoever falls into that category of people who - if he were first-born and his father had not redeemed him - would be commanded to redeem himself, he is commanded to redeem others, and whoever is not commanded to redeem himself - if he were a first-born and his father had not redeemed him - is not commanded to redeem others.

The part of your child's sharp question relating to the maternal grandson of a kohen (and a levi btw), and of anyone born by cesarean section is still valid. I suggest that these should technically have been included by Rashi's comment but were left out for reasons of conciseness.

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Sorry to disappoint your kid (if anything).

Further away R' Yochanan states what seems to be the ultimate answer not only to the Sugya of the Time-related Mitzvos but many additional ones:

"אמר רבי יוחנן אין למדין מן הכללות ואפילו במקום שנאמר בו חוץ"

Rabbi Yoḥanan says: One does not learn practical halakhot from general statements, i.e., when a general statement appears in a Mishna and uses the term: All, it is not to be understood as an all-inclusive statement without exceptions. This is the case even in a place where it says: Except, to exclude a specific matter.

In other words, R"Y states that the word כל must be not understood literally.

PS: After learning the Sugya, my understanding is that the Gemmorah's explanation (תפדה-תיפדה) is just an Asmachtah, not the real source. And, just as with all other TR Mitzvos women exempt, the verses are only Asmachtot, not the true sources and learnings.

In other words, this learning is only needed to exempt the women, but not the Kohanim themselves for example, and not second-borns of course.

  • So you’re posing a contradiction in the Gemara. That doesn’t answer the question. – DonielF Oct 14 '18 at 2:17
  • @DonielF It is not. It just states that the word כל must be not understood literally. – Al Berko Oct 14 '18 at 9:00
  • It doesn't apply to this statement...even so, the statement applies everywhere except where the Talmud says it doesn't. Knowing this will guide your learning. – chacham Nisan Oct 14 '18 at 15:02
  • 1. I don’t think אם למקרא/אם למסורת is considered an asmachta source. Consider Sanhedrin 4a-b, and perhaps if you really want to go b’iyun, all of the other Gemaras cited there. How far are you willing to stretch your principle? 2. Can you apply R’ Yochanan to himself - you can’t apply him elsewhere because “we don’t learn practical halachos from general statements”? – DonielF Oct 14 '18 at 15:51

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