PIDYON SHVUYIM?! Is There a Mitzvah To Assist The Imprisoned Lev Tahor Cult Leaders? – Halachic Analysis

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the This past Motzei Shabbos, yet another Lev Tahor leader was arrested for kidnapping. The FBI made the arrest in Brooklyn, NY. The accused individual, Aron Yeshaya Rosner, was living in Williamsburg.  Reports are surfacing that there is now an active behind-the-scenes campaign underway for Pidyon Shvuyim. There is also a similar campaign underway for the other five leaders of the cult – Nachman Helbrans, Meyer Rosner, Chaim Yankel Rosner, Uriel Goldman, and (First name unknown) Malka – that were arrested in Mexico last week. What follows is a halachic analysis of this topic. This article will attempt to present an unbiased view of the underlying issues. [Full Disclosure: This author has written several articles concluding that the Lev Tahor organization is a true cult in every sense of the word.] THE SOURCES There is a fundamental halachic disagreement between the Poskim that cuts to the heart of the underlying issues. It is between the Radbaz (in his commentary on the Rambam Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 4:13) and the Yam Shel Shlomo (in his commentary on Gittin 4:72) whether the laws of Pidyon Shvuyim apply to someone who actually stole money under circumstances where there exists extraordinary punishment. The Yam Shel Shlomo writes clearly that the halachos of Pidyon Shvuyim do not apply to someone guilty of actually stealing money – even if the person’s life is at stake. The Radbaz disagrees completely and writes that it certainly does apply. It is clear, however, that even the Yam Shel Shlomo would agree that, while it may not be considered Pidyon Shvuyim, there is still an Inyan to save him if possible. APPLICATION TO LEV TAHOR Let us apply this debate to our case. Lev Tahor has been accused of very serious issues, both by former members of Lev Tahor as well as actual family members of the sect’s founder.  Among some of the accusations are kidnapping, serious beatings, and much more. If the Yam Shel Shlomo ruled that Pidyon Shvuyim does not apply to someone guilty of actually stealing money – then most certainly it would not apply to someone accused of kidnapping. The Radbaz would disagree. However, an argument could be made that the Radbaz only advanced his position because theft does not constitute a clear and present danger to others. Here, it may be strongly argued that someone who would stoop to kidnapping a child from his mother would be a clear and present danger to others and should not be freed. WHO DO WE PASKEN LIKE? Which position has become normative Psak halacha – that of the Yam Shel Shlomo or that of the Radbaz? This too is unclear as the Poskim in the past have not issued a definitive ruling. The Jewish people, however, are rachmanim bnei rachmanim and have always responded generously to appeals – even if the person may be guilty.  Once again, however, the issue of these people being dangerous to others is not insignificant. Indeed, this author posed the question to two major Poskim from the New York area. Both of them ruled unequivocally that there is no Mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyim here. It seems to this author that their concern was the danger they pose to others. There are a number of former Lev Tahor children … Continue reading PIDYON SHVUYIM?! Is There a Mitzvah To Assist The Imprisoned Lev Tahor Cult Leaders? – Halachic Analysis