A rare ceremony

I was privileged to participate in the Jewish ceremony to “redeem” my great-grandson, Roi Michael, known as a “pidyon haben” or “redemption of the son.”   This ceremony is only carried out for a first-born son who is not a Cohen or a Levy , but is born of an “Israelite wife.”  Because of these limitations the ceremony is quite rare.

It consists basically of a Cohen (priest) being given the son and then he is sold back or redeemed by the father for 5 silver shekels or coins.   I was the Cohen in this case, and after the baby was redeemed, I blessed him by holding my hands on his head and saying a specific prayer. Hebrew prayers are not my forte, but with some prompting I managed to succeed.  After the ceremony there was a blessing with wine (kiddush) and then a wonderful meal hosted by the family of the mother.

Note that a “Cohen” was a priest in the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem and not a Rabbi (teacher) as we now have in Judaism.  The priests are the descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses.  In order to be an actual Cohen today the mother must be Jewish and the father must himself be a Cohen.  By the way, a Cohen need not have that surname, and there are many variants in various languages, such as Cohn, Cahn, Cahnman, Kohn, Kogan, Cogan, Kagan, Katz, Kahane, Conway, Cowen, Coen, Coelho, etc.

This is an ancient tribal ritual that many secular Jews might find archaic, but nevertheless, while they might not want to participate in something like this, they would have no difficulty doing so if it were some ancient African or Asian custom.  By the way, this ceremony should not be confused with the circumcision or brit mila that occurs 8 days after birth for all Jewish boys.  The pidyon haben is held a further 3 weeks after that. Note that it has nothing to do with pigeons!

By the way, as an aside, I was given the address for the ceremony as Aharon ben Yosef Street, and when we were leaving I opened Waze and saw there what I thought was the correct address, so I entered it as the destination and off we went.  I was very surprised to find that we arrived back at the Hall where the brit had been 3 weeks  before.  Since I knew the ceremony was not there, I called urgently to find out why there had been a mistake. After some discussion it turned out that the address of the Hall was on Shlomo ben Yosef Street.  So then I entered Aharon ben Yosef Street as the destination, and after another half hour of driving thru the city and out the other side and then back again we finally found the destination, and we were still early.



4 thoughts on “A rare ceremony

  1. So happy to hear that you and Naomi got to the Pidyon Haben on time, and had such an impressive role in all the proceedings. May little Roi Michael always be surrounded by love, and grow into a fine young man.
    Kol Hakavod! Shabbat Shalom!
    Rachel and Raymond


  2. Mazel Tov again and again, dear Jack and Naomi, on reaching the privileged status of becoming great grandparents—also to Miriam and Jeff.  Hope to see you after Sept. 22….Renie & Henry —about to leave Falcon’s Landing near Wash. D.C. visiting my roommate from Cornell (fixed her up 65 yrs. ago with the brother of my friends from California (since meeting them in 1959…)


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