[Avodah] [Torah Musings] Pidyon Shevuyim for Someone Guilty

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Fri Oct 22 07:46:45 PDT 2021

RGS posted this this morning.


   Torah Musings
   Pidyon Shevuyim for Someone Guilty
   Posted by: Gil Student Oct 22, 21
   I. Exorbitant Ransoms
   II. Reasonable Ransoms

   III. Guilty Parties

   In the course of discussing these laws, Rav Shlomo Luria (Maharshal,
   16th cen., Poland; Yam Shel Shlomo, Gittin 4:72) says that if someone
   is captured because he stole from gentiles, there is no mitzvah to
   redeem him from captivity. Even if the punishment is disproportionate
   to the crime, he knowingly entered that dangerous situation and does
   not merit a communal effort of the highest priority to pay his ransom.

   Rav Meir (Maharam) Lublin (17th cen., Poland; Responsa, no. 15)
   discusses the case of a Jewish man who was caught with a gentile
   (Christian) woman. The local gentiles threatened to kill him but would
   have freed him for a ransom. Maharam Lublin says emphatically that
   there is a mitzvah to redeem him from this captivity even though he
   brought it on himself through sinful behavior.

   Radbaz (Mishneh Torah, Matenos Aniyim 8:13) says that he was asked
   whether there is a mitzvah to redeem someone held captive for stealing
   from gentiles. He says that this does, indeed, constitute the mitzvah
   of pidyon shevuyim. This would also be the case of someone is held
   captive for stealing from Jews.

   Ultimately, whether there is a mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim for someone
   guilty boils down to a debate between Maharshal on one side and Radbaz
   and Maharam Lublin on the other. In my survey of authorities of the
   last century, I have found that they seem to follow Maharshal. These
   include Divrei Malkiel 5:60; Shevet Ha-Levi 5:135; Rav Shlomo Zalman
   Auerbach, as quoted in Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol (2:113); Chashukei Chemed,
   Gittin 47a.

The Maharam Lublin's case, though, is about a captivity that likely has an
antisemitic motive. Even if the law allowed them to kill him for having
relations with a Christian woman, the reason for such a law stems from
their percieved inferiority of Jews.

The Radbaz's teshuvah seems more relevant. But I can see why today's
posqim writing in the US and Israel would have different attitudes toward
the shevi of a prisoner than someone who lived throught the expulsion
from Spain. Again, I am not sure we are assuming the same metzi'us as
the precedent.

I would also think, mikal vachomer, that anyone who allows informing on
someone who broke the law wouldn't require pidyon shevuyim if they were
justly jailed for breaking it. Otherwise you get the absurd result that
they would hold it is mutar to help the government catch and likely end
up jailing someone that you then are oligated to help free.

See R MJ Broyde's survey on that topic at
And R Chaim Jachter's at

Both quote R Herschel Schachter's article in RJJ Journal 1:118:
    A 'Moser' is one who aides a pirate, a crooked government official,
    or a tyrant-king to obtain money illegally from his fellow Jew. Even
    if the Jew has actually done something wrong, but if the secular
    government or the ruler would exact a punishment far beyond that
    which the crime should require, then it is likewise forbidden to
    report him. If, however, the government is entitled to its taxes,
    or is permitted to punish criminals as offenders, there is no problem
    of Mesirah in telling the government information needed for them to
    collect their taxes or to apprehend their man.

    One critical point should however be added: There is no problem of
    Mesirah in informing the government of a Jewish criminal, even if
    they penalize the criminal with a punishment more severe than the
    Torah requires, because even a non-Jewish government is authorized
    to punish and penalize above and beyond the law, Shelo Min HaDin, for
    the purpose of maintaining law and order. However, this applies only
    in the situation when the Jewish offender or criminal has at least
    violated some Torah law. But if he did absolutely nothing wrong in
    the eyes of the Torah, then giving him over to the government would
    constitute a violation of Mesirah.


Micha Berger                 "Someday I will do it." - is self-deceptive. 
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   "I want to do it." - is weak. 
Author: Widen Your Tent      "I am doing it." - that is the right way.
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                 - Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

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