First-born great-grandson of the Orthodox rabbi is presented on a silver platter adorned with jewelry

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Pidyon ha-ben (redemption of the firstborn) is a relatively rare Jewish ceremony in which a firstborn son is brought by his father to a high priest who “redeems” the baby for five silver shekels.

Historically, the firstborn son of every family was required to become a priest, as the Bible says.

“You shall give me the male firstborn among your children. Do the same with your cattle and your flocks, ”says Exodus 22:28.

This has been interpreted to mean that all firstborn animals were brought to the priests for sacrifice while firstborn sons entered the priesthood.

As described in the book of Exodus, the firstborn sons of the Israelites were spared the final plague brought upon Pharaoh, in which God annihilated the firstborn sons of Egypt, an event remembered each year at Passover.

However, the Jewish firstborn later lost their priestly privilege when the Israelites, after leaving Egypt, began worshiping idols when they joined in the worship of the golden calf.

As described in the book of Exodus, the firstborn sons of the Israelites were spared the last plague brought upon Pharaoh, in which God annihilated the firstborn sons of Egypt, an event commemorated every spring at Passover (pictured: Spanish 15th century, Massacre of the Firstborn and Egyptian Darkness, around 1490, hand-colored woodcut, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection)

The priesthood was then transferred to the descendants of the Prophet Aaron who did not attend.

At the same time it was determined that the firstborn of each family should be redeemed to a descendant of Aaron.

The ceremony is preceded by the breaking of bread, unlike a Brit Milah (circumcision ritual) or a wedding, where the bread is broken afterwards.

The boy is brought out by his father on a silver platter and adorned with jewelry that the women present have borrowed for the occasion.

This is in contrast to the golden calf, when gold and jewelry were used for a sinful purpose.

The ceremony is performed by a well-known Kohen – an elite cleric from the Aaronic Lineage of the original temple priesthood.

The boy’s father recites answers to ritual questions and says that the child is the firstborn son of the Israelite mother and that he has come to redeem him as directed in the Torah.

The Kohen asks the father whether he would rather have the child or the five shekels. The father replies that he prefers the boy to the money, then says a prayer and hands over the coins.

The Kohen then holds the shekel over the child and declares the redemption price paid and blesses them.

This is followed by a celebratory meal that is enjoyed by family and friends.

Pidyon have only been reserved for the first-born males who were born naturally – not by caesarean section.

It must take place on the 30th day after the birth of the child.

A minyan of ten men is gathered to attend the ceremony. A minyan is also required at other Jewish religious festivals.


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