05 Nov Pidyon Shvuyim
In Bereishis (14:14) the posuk tells us that Avraham went and mobilized his army to rescue his nephew Lot from captivity. The Rambam in Pirush Hamishnayos in Meseches Peah says that when a person sees people in captivity, he is required to redeem them. He is only required to spend up to a fifth of his worth to do so. Earlier, the Rambam says that as far as middas Chassidus, he should spend even more than a chomesh of his worth for pidyon shvuyim.
The Chofetz Chaim in his Sefer Ahavas Chesed (20:2) explains that the issur of not spending more than a chomesh of one’s worth is only if the captive or the poor person being helped is not in front of you; however, if the captive or poor person is in front of you, then it is proper to spend even more than a chomesh. What difference does it make whether or not the person you are helping is in front of you?
The gemara in Kiddushin (29a) says that a person could spend all of his money for the mitzvah of pidyon haben and for the mitzvah of aliya leRegel. Why are these mitzvos different than the regular rule that one is not allowed to spend more than a fifth on a mitzvas asseh? The Chazon Ish in Kiddushin (148:29) explains that pidyon haben is different since it is like one has a loan that is already written in the Torah; therefore one has to pay back a loan even if it is more than a fifth. Regarding aliyah leregel he says that if a person wants to be oleh leregel, he should do so and even spend all of his money. Since a person is allowed to spend his money on whatever he wants, there is no rule that a person can’t spend money for his own things. Therefore, in a case where a person would want to be oleh leregel, even if it was not a mitzvah, just to go on a vacation, he would be allowed to spend the money. Accordingly, for the mitzvah he is now required to spend more than a fifth. The bottom line is that if a person has a personal hana’ah when doing a mitzvah, he is not limited to spending less than a fifth. The Sefer Chut Hashani (1:45) paskens that one may spend more than a fifth on oneg Shabbos since he enjoys it. That is why the gemara in Beitza (16a) says the more we spend on Shabbos, the more reward we receive.
When it comes to the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim or tzedaka for one’s relatives, a person is definitely allowed to spend more than a fifth since he has a personal stake in this mitzvah. With this we can understand why the Chofetz Chaim differentiates between the captivity of a poor person being in front of you or not. When one sees a captive in front of him he usually has great compassion and really feels the other person’s pain. It would therefore be permissible to spend more than a fifth since he would do so even without the mitzvah, therefore the fact that he gets a mitzvah does not limit him from spending more than a fifth.
Let us hope that we all get redeemed from captivity of this golus very soon!