Only 1-of-10 Jewish families ever meet all the conditions for Pidyon Ha’Ben.
- If you were eligible for a Pidyon Ha’Ben, but did not have one, then you still can and should have one. Speak to your rabbi to arrange the ceremony!
- Some people have the custom to give their guests cloves of garlic and cubes of sugar to take home. These strongly-flavored foods can be used to flavor other quantities of food which in some sense extends the Pidyon mitzvah beyond the actual ceremony itself.
- Jewish law requires that the silver coins used have a requisite total amount of silver which according to various opinions falls between 100 grams and 117 grams. Coins which do not contain this requisite amount of silver do not result in a valid redemption.
- The Israeli Mint has minted special edition 23.4 gram silver commemorative coins for the purpose, five of which would come to exactly 117 grams of silver.
- Though the silver coins are the payment to the Kohen under Jewish law, they are usually returned to the family as a gift for the child, as the coins themselves are often commemorative in nature. There are many examples of artistically crafted gift boxes or display cases made for the child to have as a memento of the occasion. The father then usually offers a gift or fee of more conventional cash to the Kohen.
According to the Torah, Pidyon Ha’Ben only applies to a son who “opened his mother’s womb.” Therefore, all the following conditions must apply:
- The mother is Jewish, and she has never had a baby before, male or female.
- The baby was delivered in the normal way, not via C-section.
- The mother had no abortions or miscarriages prior to this birth.
- The father of the baby is not a Kohen or a Levi, and the mother’s father is not a Kohen or a Levi.
1) Find a Kohen who will be happy to partake in this special ceremony. If you are unsure who to choose confer with your local rabbi who will be able to help you.
2) You will need five silver coins, containing approximately 110 grams of silver. Five U.S. silver dollars are often used, though the specific type of coins depends on where you are in the world. Once again – if in doubt ask your rabbi.
3) The ceremony is held when the baby is 31 days old. If the 31st day is Shabbat, the ceremony is held the following day.
4) The ceremony is held in the context of a festive meal. Traditionally, the baby is brought in on a silver tray decorated with jewelry which symbolizes how precious this mizvah is to us.
5) The actual ceremony is as follows: The father attests to the fact that this is indeed his first-born son. The Kohen then asks the father: “Which do you prefer, to give me your first born or to redeem him?” (It is really a rhetorical question, because the Torah requires the father to redeem the son.)
6) The father answers (that he would prefer to redeem the boy) and recites the following two blessings:
(1) Baruch ata Adonai, Elo-heinu Melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu bi’mitzvotav, vi’tzivanu al Pidyon ha’ben.Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His mitzvot, and instructed us regarding the redemption of a son.
(2) Baruch ata Adonai, Elo-heinu Melech ha’olam, Sheh-he-che-yanu vi-kee-yimanu Vi-hee-gee-yanu laz-man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
7) The father then gives the coins to the Kohen, who blesses the child, and recites a blessing over a cup of wine.
Pidyon Ha’Ben, literally means the “redemption of the first born son.” The Pidyon HaBen takes place when the first born who is male, is at least 31 days old. The ceremony involves “buying him back” from a Kohen/Priest in order to release him from the obligation of serving in the Temple. (see Numbers 18:15)
Pidyon Ha’Ben, literally means the “redemption of the first born son.” The Pidyon HaBen takes place when a baby is at least 31 days old, and involves “buying him back” from a Kohen in order to release him from the obligation of serving in the Temple. (see Numbers 18:15)
This Mitzvah can be traced back to the sin of the Golden Calf. Before the sin the first born of each Jewish family was chosen to be a Kohen – a Jewish priest – who would serve as his family’s representative to the Holy Temple. (Exodus 13:1-2, Exodus 24:5 with Rashi). However when the Jewish males sinned in the incident of the Golden Calf, the first born sons lost their “Kohen” status. Only the tribe of Levi who abstained from the sin were granted the roles of serving as priests in the Temple. (Numbers 3:11-12). Since the first-born son is technically a “Kohen” whose potential cannot be actualized, he has to be replaced (so to speak) by a Kohen from the tribe of Levi. This is accomplished at the Pidyon HaBen ceremony when the father of the baby boy offers the Kohen a redemptive value of five silver coins for the boy.
Some other reasons for performing the Pidyon HaBen
- At the time of the ten plagues God spared the Jewish first born while He killed the Egyptian first born.
- A person cherishes his first born, and this is a fitting time to acknowledge that all that we have in fact belongs to God.