Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pidyan Haben: How to Redeem Your Firstborn Son

Did you know that according to traditional Judaism every first-born child who is male belongs to God, and his parents should "redeem" him by making a symbolic payment? Pidyon HaBen (Redemption of the Son) is the ritual in which Jewish parents redeem their first-born son.

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God took the life of every first-born Egyptian and spared the first-born of every Israelite. As a commemoration of this event, God said "the first issue of every womb among the Israelites is Mine" (Exodus, 13:2). Thus, first-born sons were sanctified and obligated to serve in the Temple.

Observant Jews hold a Pidyon HaBen ceremony for first-born sons when the baby is at least one month old. The ritual is usually performed on the 31st day after the birth (counting the day of birth as the first day). If the 31st day falls on Shabbat or a holiday, then the ritual is delayed. Pidyon HaBen is only held if all of the following are true about the male baby:

-He is the first-born child of his mother.
-His parents are neither Kohanim or Levites.
-He was born in natural childbirth (not via C-section).
-His mother did not previously have a miscarriage after more than 40 days of pregnancy.

The child is redeemed via a symbolic payment to a Kohen. In biblical times the payment equalled five silver shekels. Today, the payment is generally five silver dollars or a small article of silver.

During a Pidyon HaBen ceremony, the father recites two blessings. The first praises God for commanding the redemption and the second, Shechiyanu, thanks God for giving them life and bringing them to this time. The father then hands the money to the Kohen. The Kohen holds the money over the baby's head and says, "This instead of that, this in commutation for that and this in remission for that." Then he prays for the child and recites the traditional priestly prayer. A festive meal (seudat mitzvah) is often held following the ceremony.

[All this information was taken from here. And for more information, you can read up here.]

Now, we are not observant, but we did this ceremony out of respect for my in-law's, and for the reason that if Sean choses to practice religion later on in life, (100% his decision), then he will have been redeemed properly, and there won't be any problems for him later on in life (what kind of problems? That I don't know. I'm not sure how it would affect him - but this way, it's done and over with - and we had a fun party at our house!)

The Cohen, was my friend Adam, who's mother is a Cohen, so that makes him one. My family and Jamie's family are all Israelites, so we had to perform this ceremony. It took a whole 3 minutes from start to end, and then we had a feast! Here are some pictures from today:

These are the 5 silver coins used to buy our son back, and then the coins were later given to Sean to put away for later on. Three of them have hockey pictures on them!

Here is Sean & I before the ceremony, he had just eaten and was falling asleep on me!

Sean was brought in on a silver tray (covered with a pillow to make it comfy for him), and was placed on the table with all the food. He was sooo good during the entire ceremony - not a peep!

Sean was staring at the Cohen while he was blessing him. What a cutie!

And Sean after during the party - was very content, everyone was taking turns holding him, and he was such a good boy! This is a new fave photo of mine!

And here, is Jamie's Pidyan Haben back in 1975! Jamie looks a lot bigger than Sean at the same age! We should have done Sean's Pidyan Haben last weekend (last Saturday was technically his 31st day of life), but since Jamie was out of town on business, we postponned it a week. (That's how relaxed we are - and non-practicing!)

Tonight after everyone left we had two friends over to watch the SuperBowl, (GO COLTS GO!) and it was a chilled evening at home with a LOT of leftover food! (Good food too! No complaints here!)

My throat ache went away by lunch today, and both Sean & mommy are feeling at LOT better!


g-girl said...

thanks for the great lesson on pidyon haben! :) it was really cool and interesting to learn about. It sounded like Sean did a great job and I love the pic of you and Sean too!

Drea said...

And yes Travis was glad the colts won ;-) we were among the few in this area who root for the colts.
Sean is putting on weight I can tell :-) they get so cute once they start developing those rolls!

Firefly said...

When I first saw that picture of Jamie, before reading the text I thought"who are those people holding Sean?"

Jenny said...

What a neat tradition! I had never heard of this particular one and it is such a cool thing to have for his baby book mementos when he grows up. Regardless of what he decides about religion as an adult, I bet he will be glad you did it.