Pidyon Haben (Redemption of the first born)
“For every firstborn of the Children of Israel became Mine, of man and livestock; on the day I struck every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. I took the Levites in place of every firstborn among the Children of Israel.” (Numbers 17:18)
Originally, the firstborn were the religious leaders of the Jewish people. This sanctification was the result of a historical event that took place at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. During the tenth plague, every Egyptian first-born was destroyed while the Jewish first-born were spared.
The firstborn were relieved of their duties when they were involved in the sin of the golden calf. Only the tribe of Levi remained faithful to God and was not involved with the golden calf. As a result, they were appointed to be the religious leaders in place of the firstborn and it was decreed that the firstborn should be redeemed from a Kohen (a descendant of Aaron the High priest and a member of the tribe of Levi).
The redemption takes places when the baby is 31 days old (including the day of birth) by the father giving a certain amount of money to the Kohen. It is considered a festive occasion and, if possible, should be celebrated among family and friends with a festive meal.
The following four conditions need to be met to obligate one in the redemtion:
- The child is a firstborn male
- The mother never carried a fetus in utero more than 40 days.
- He was born through the birth canal and not by cesarean
- The father himself is not a Kohen or a Levite nor is the mother a daughter of a Kohen or Levite.
As mentioned, a Kohen is needed to perform the redemption. The following Kohanim in the Atlanta area regularly perform this ritual:
Rabbi Mordechai Cohen: (404) 634-3078
Rabbi Reuven Stein: (404) 320-6433