Weekly Letter: The Law of Pidyon Ha’ben – The Redemption of the First Born

The Rebbe’s letter this week touches upon the law of pidyon ha’ben – the redemption of the first born, which has its origin in the events of Pesach night in Mitzrayim, when the first born of the Egyptians were slain and the first born of the Jews were spared. It is the custom for Jewish first born males to fast on Erev Pesach (or participate in a siyum). This letter is from volume 5 of The Letter and The Spirit.

By the Grace of G-d
19th of Av, 5742
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brookline, Mass. 02146

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter with the enclosures.

To begin with a good thing, I was pleased to receive the report about the Pidyon Ha’ben of your grandson. It is written in our sacred sources that participation in a se’uda of Pidyon Ha’ben is the equivalent of 84 fasts, which we do not find in connection with any other Se’udat Mitzvah. One can well understand the great zechut of it for the parents and grandparents and all participants.

The above can serve as an introduction and an answer to those parts of your letter which have apparently been written in a mood of atzvus – contrary to what the Alter Rebbe writes about the negative nature of atzvus, and the cardinal difference between atzvus and merirus. Although there are certain times when it is in order for a Jew to have merirus, especially as it is meant to spur one towards greater commitment to Torah and mitzvos, the matter of atzvus is completely ruled out, inasmuch as it induces a state of depression, a lack of energy and initiative etc. Such a state of mind is not only contrary to the teachings of Chasidus, but also to Yiddshkeit in general.

Actually, one does not have to delve very deep and be a devout Chosid to cultivate a feeling of “serving G-d with joy.” It is sufficient to reflect on the very first 18-20 blessings with which a Jew begins the Morning Blessings and Prayers, and which express gratitude to Hashem for His kindnesses. These blessings are later followed by the blessings of the Amidah. Thus, it is really inconceivable that a Jew should sit down to write a depressing letter. It is only that we are in golus and also the intellect is in golus, and in the darkness of it it might appear that there is also some justification for atzvus.

Be it as it may, since you are a member of the “wise and understanding people,” I am sure that on a little reflection, you will recognize the true state of affairs, and will be in proper state of mind at all times.

Receipt is enclosed for your tzedoko, and may the zechus of it speed the above and bring you an ever growing measure of joy, coupled with a growing measure of G-d’s blessings to keep this joy on the up and up.

I am glad to say that I have noted also one improvement in your writing, namely, the omission of finding fault with your job. I hope and pray that this is a sign that there has been a substantial improvement in this area, as well as a substantial improvement in your sensitivity and response.

I will conclude with a hearty mazal tov in connection with the engagement of your daughter, and may G-d grant that, together with your wife, you should enjoy much true Yiddish Chasidish Nachas from each and all of your children and offspring, being brought up to a life of Torah, Chuppah and Good Deeds.

With blessing,

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