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Pidyon Haben -Redeeming of First Born Male Child

Pidyon HaBen (Hebrew: פדיון הבן‎; trans. Redemption of the Son) is one of the rarest performed rituals in Judaism, whereby a firstborn son is redeemed from a Kohen so that the boy is released from his obligation to serve in the Beit Hamikdash, the Holdy Temple in Jerusalem. Although there is no Temple in Jerusalem nowadays the  ceremony is still observed by Orthodox and Conservative Jews.

The ritual of Pidyon Haben goes back to the early days of the Israelites. Way back, at the time of the people of Israel's Egyptian exile, the Jewish firstborn males were spared from the Plague of the Firstborn that struck the Egyptians and were then sanctified priestly class and inducted into God's service. However, when the Jews firstborn included served the Golden Calf in the desert, the priesthood status of the firstborn status was forfeited, and transferred to the tribe of Levi. The assignment of service God in the holy temple was granted to the tribe of Levi, as they, and particularly the children of Aaron, were the only tribe that did not participate in the Golden Calf affair.

The reason for the rarity of this ritual stems from the fact that only one in 50 male children born to Jewish homes actually qualify for the ceremony.  The following factors must be applicable, for a father of a newborn to partake in the ceremony of Pidyon Haben:

1. Pidyon Haben is applicable only to Male Firstborns

2. Baby must be first born to his mother.  "Peter Rechem Imo," the "first to open mother's womb."  Firstborn males of mother suffered a still birth or miscarriages after three months of pregnancy or more, do not qualify for Pidyon Haben.  If miscarriage occurs before 40 days of pregnancy, redemption of first born is celebrated. If miscarriage occurs after 40 days but before the fetus developed distinguishing characteristics, redemption of the first-born is still required, but the blessing said by the father is omitted.

3. Birth must be natural (vaginal delivery),  not by Caesarean section.

4. Father of baby is neither a Kohen or Levi.
Levites and Kohanim do not redeem their children with Pidyon Haben ceremonies, since they are pledged to minister and assist the Kohanim in their divine service in the holy temple, once its built, and cannot reject their obligation.

5. Mother of child is not daughter of either a Kohen or Levi.
The sons of daughters of Levites and Kohanim are not redeemed.


More about the Pidyon Haben:
Pidyon Haben: Redeeming of Firstborn Male Child, an overview
Pidyon Haben: Biblical References
Pidyon Haben: The Ceremony, the Blessings and Recitations
Pidyon Haben: Five Silver Coins
Pidyon Haben: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Perspectives

Jewish Baby Names from A to Z





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