Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pidyon Haben - Redeeming The Firstborn Son

Last week I was invited to attend a religious ritual,  Pidyon Haben, that I had never experienced before. Rather than repeat all of its details, you can read about it here. It's an opportunity for family and friends to gather and celebrate the addition of another soul to the worldwide family of Jews. The conditions are stringent, so it's a not-often performed ceremony. The baby must be a first-born son, natural childbirth, with no previous miscarriages, and neither parent's ancestry from the tribe of Kohane or Levi. The baby is presented on a silver platter surrounded by gold jewelry to celebrate the special sanctity of the ritual, and the baby is also surrounded by little packages containing a bit of garlic and sugar - the Jewish sages taught that partaking of a Pidyon Haben meal has the power of fasting for 84 days, and the garlic and sugar carry that same power.

The baby being decorated with gold jewelry:


The mother and baby:


The baby in all his glory:


Two rabbis observe the ceremony:


The maternal grandfather:


The paternal grandfather carrying the baby:


The father carrying the baby to be presented to the Kohane:


The father offering to buy the baby back from the Kohane for five shekels:


Saying a blessing over the baby:


The Kohane making the ritual priestly blessing: