In this week's parsha in perek 3 we learn of the appointment of the Levi'im (Levites) and their replacement of the B'chorim. In passuk 12 Hashem says that He has taken the Levi'im from among the b'nai yisroel, in place of every b'chor. Hashem then told Moshe to count the Levi'im and the b'chorim, in order to equally replace them. The Levi'im amounted to 22,000 and the b'chorim amounted to 22,273. This meant that there were 273 b'chorim that were unable to be replaced by a levi. Hashem then commanded that the 273 b'chorim be redeemed with money; 5 shkalim per person to be given to Aaron and his sons. (The Gimorah in B'choros 5a says that actually there were an additional 300 Levi'im amounting to 22,300, however they were b'chorim themselves and could therefore not redeem other b'chorim rather they redeemed themselves.)
The Meshech Chachma (Reb Meir Simcha) points out that the amount of b'chorim that exceeded the Levi'im is divisible by three, which is proportionate to the three kohanim the Torah designated to receive the redemption money. This allowed Aaron and his two sons, to redeem 91 b'chorim evenly.
The Gimorah in Baba Basra (143a) says when one says he will give something to a specific person and to a group of people (if we cannot clarify his intentions by asking him) we should assume he meant that the person that was singled out should receive half and the group should split the remaining half, and not that they all should divide it equally. The Gimorah learns this from the passuk by the lechem hapanim ( Vayikra 24: 9) that says Aaron and his sons are to eat from the bread, and we know that Aaron received half and his sons split the remaining half. Reb Meir Simcha assumes that we can learn from this Gimorah that whenever the Torah says something is to be given to Aaron and his sons, the intention is not for them to divide it into thirds, rather that Aaron is to receive half and his sons are to split the other half.
If we are to apply the Gimorah in Baba Basra to our parsha it would mean that the 273 b'chorim that exceeded the Levi'im would be divided into two, half to be redeemed by Aaron and the other half by his sons. Additionally the Medrash Rabba (4:10) on this parsha explains that half of the b'chorim were redeemed by Aaron and half were redeemed by his sons. Needless to say, 273 is not evenly divisible by two. Reb Meir Simcha therefore assumes that the last b'chor gave half of his redemption money (2.5 shekel) to Aaron hakohen and the other half to his sons.
With this Reb Meir Simcha explains why the Torah occasionally includes the amount that a shekel is worth (20 gairas) and other times It does not mention its value. He says in a scenario when one will have to split a shekel the Torah includes the value of the shekel. For example in the parsha of machtzis hashekel one must give exactly a half a shekel therefore the Torah writes the value of a shekel in that parsha. In the parsha of eiruchin in b'chukosai the Torah does not include the value of a shekel because there are no fractions of a shekel in that parsha, only whole numbers. Based on the Medrash and the Gimorah in Baba Basra we explained that in this redemption process it was necessary to split a shekel in half therefore the Torah includes in this parsha the value of a shekel.
The Gimorah in B'choros 51b discusses whether one may give the 5 sla'im for pidyon haben to different kohanim or all of the money must it be given to one kohen. The Gimorah quotes a Tosefta that says that one may give the pidyon haben to several different kohanim. Reb Meir Simcha suggests that the source for this halacha is derived from this parsha of the redemption of the b'chorim; as we proved earlier there was one kohen who had to give half of his redemption to Aaron hakohen and half to his sons.
The Or HaChaim asks the following question: The passuk says (3:51) that Moshe gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons "Al pi Hashem kasher tziva Hashem es Moshe". Once the Torah said that Moshe did it by the word of Hashem, why is it necessary to state that he did it as he was commanded?
I want to suggest that based on the Meshech Chachma we can answer the Or HaChaim's question. According to the Meshech Chachma the Torah is teaching us something regarding the halachos of giving pidyon haben. The Gimorah in Kidushin(29b) says that the word tziva is to teach us that it applies for all generations. Therefore the passuk repeated and said that Moshe did it as he was commanded (tziva) to tell us that this halacha that one can divide his pidyon haben to be given to more than one kohen is applicable for all generations.
Posted By Dovi milstein to KollelH blog at 5/25/2011 12:35:00 AM