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Psalm 49:8:

"אָח לֹא־פָדֹה יִפְדֶּה אִישׁ לֹא־יִתֵּן לֵאלֹהִים כָּפְרוֹ׃
וְיֵקַר פִּדְיוֹן נַפְשָׁם וְחָדַל לְעוֹלָם׃
וִיחִי־עוֹד לָנֶצַח לֹא יִרְאֶה הַשָּׁחַת׃ "

teaches that (all the) wealth and riches (from this world) cannot redeem a man, nor pay his ransom to G-d. This is because the redemption of the soul is too costly/expensive; the price for life is too high... [and so one would cease to be, forever].

A couple of verses later David makes the claim (verse 16) that G-d will redeem his life:

"אַךְ־אֱלֹהִים יִפְדֶּה נַפְשִׁי מִיַּד־שְׁאוֹל כִּי יִקָּחֵנִי סֶלָה׃ "

So how does G-d pay this ransom and redeem his soul? Or does He just write-off/cancel the debt ?

  • Keep in mind that the Psalms are not Halacha, King David does not "rule" Halachos. Psalms are but imaginations and metaphors, not exactly "how things work" stuff. – Al Berko Jan 16 at 15:06
  • @AlBerko The OP seems to be assuming that the metaphor has to be self-consistent, at the very least. – DonielF Jan 16 at 20:39
  • @AlBerko Apologies, but one cannot call Tehillim imaginations! The books of Nevi'im are Nevuah and the Sifrei Kesuvim, Ruach Hakodesh. "Metaphors" would be appropriate. But please note that one can certainly question halocha from Sifrei Kesuvim, countless times, Pesukim from Nevi'im and Kesuvim are quoted by Gemarah and chazal to support halocha. A case in point, Shir hamaalos mimamakim, halachic discussion as to whether the Shatz should stand lower than the rest of the kehal. famous Shul in Europe where this was implemented. – Doodle Jan 16 at 22:59
  • another example: יִמָּ֣לֵא פִ֭י תְּהִלָּתֶ֑ךָ כָּל־הַ֝יּ֗וֹם תִּפְאַרְתֶּֽךָ׃ -- קיצור שלחן ערוך ו׳:ב׳ כְּשֶׁהוּא מְבָרֵךְ, יְהֵא פִיו נָקִי מִן הָרֹק, וְגַם שְׁאָר דָּבָר לֹא יְהֵא בְּתוֹךְ פִּיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, יִמָּלֵא פִי תְּהִלָּתֶךָ. – Doodle Jan 16 at 23:26
  • @doodle my bad, I probably mistranslated it from Hebrew דימויים vs דמיונית. And you're absolutely right that the text supports Halochos (אסמכתא) but can not be considered the source. Please note that we hardly understand the meaning of the words, let alone learning Halochos from it. – Al Berko Jan 17 at 7:05
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Rashi (v. 16) explains:

אך אלהים יפדה נפשי. אבל אני שהטיתי למשל אזני, אלהים יפדה נפשי שלא אלך אל שאול כי יקחני בחיי ללכת בדרכיו:

“But G-d will redeem my soul” - but I, that I turned my ear to the parable, G-d will redeem my soul; for I will not go to Sheol, for He will take me in my life to go in His ways.

In other words: while money can’t redeem one from Gehennom, following the Torah will.


Radak (v. 8) takes a different approach:

אח. מה יועיל עשרם ביום המיתה כי לא יוכל לפדות איש את אחיו מן המות בכל עושרם

What help will their wealth be on the day of death, for a man is unable to redeem his brother from death for all of his wealth?

Compare his comments to v. 16:

אך אלהים. אמר הנביא בראותו אבדון נפשות הרשעים במותם יפדה אלהים נפשי מיד שאול שלא תאבד נפשי עם הגוף:

”But G-d” - The prophet said when he sees the loss of the souls of the wicked in their death, “G-d will redeem my soul from Sheol, so that my soul is not lost with my body.”

In other words, according to Radak, v. 8 refers to the body while v. 16 refers to the soul.

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The emphasis of this chapter is on the interdependence of everyone, and especially the wealthy and powerful with the poor and destitute.

As the authors of this psalm (the rich and powerful sons of Korach) say in 49:5, the riddle of this psalm will be solved via the harp (בכנור) which in Mispar Katan is 17 (טוב good, as in doing good for others) and with the kollel is 18 (חי vitality/life, helping to sustain them).

49:8 is saying that the Ish (as in איש גבור, meaning the powerful and wealthy person) who will not remember (פדיון) his brother and redeem him (also an expression of פדיון) from his plight of poverty and need, will not have his own atonement given to G-d.

Through the wealthy persons death, his money will be abandoned to others, as he should have done voluntarily during his life, measure for measure.

  • How does this answer the question? – DonielF Jan 16 at 20:40

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