- Question: [Wednesday, 9th Kisleiv 5781]
What is to be given to the Kohen by the Pidyon Haben if the Kohen does not own the silver coins used for the Pidyon Haben? May I give him a check or credit card cash, and if so how much?
The father of the firstborn child who is obligated in Pidyon Haben is required to give the market value equivalent of 103 grams of silver to the Kohen. The simplest way of accomplishing this is to give him an item that contains 103 g of silver, such as five silver dollars, or any item purchased from a silver store that contains 103 g of silver. One can preorder from the silver store five coins made of silver, which contain a total of 103 g of silver. Alternatively, you can search for a Kohen who already owns the five silver coins, purchase it from him for its market value, and then return it to him as part of the Pidyon Haben. Technically, however, one may give the Kohen any item that its market value is equal to or more than the price of 103 g silver on that day, although the custom is to give an item that contains an actual 103 g of silver. One may not however give the Kohen a check, credit card payment, or even cash, whether bills or coins, unless the coins contain actual silver as stated above regarding the ability to use the silver dollar, which contains a very high percentage of actual silver. The reason for this is because the above methods of payment do not contain actual inherent value and are simply similar to a promissory note of payment which people decided to accept for commerce purposes but remains invalid for Pidyon Haben.
Sources: Regarding the value see: Siddur Admur; Michaber and Rama Y.D. 305:1; Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 223; Shiurei Torah 3:43, p. 288; Regarding using objects and not promissory notes see: Siddur Admur; Michaber Y.D. 305:3; Shach 305:2 Regarding not using cash and checks etc. see: Chasam Sofer Y.D. 134; Teshuvah Meahava 2:404; Kitzur SHU”A 164:4; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso pp. 184-186; Regarding using silver dollars see: Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:2; Shevah Habris p. 109