About Pidyan Haben
Redeeming the First-Born Son
Some Reasons for Pidyon HaBen
1)The Miracle of the Plague of the First Born.
In the Section mentioning leaving Egypt (in the book of Exodus) immediately after the Plague, the Torah tells us to "sanctify our First-Borns". Then the Torah continues, "and when your son 'asks what is this all for?', tell him because Hashem (G-d) took us out of slavery..." In the book of Numbers, we are told " Because (of this) all the first -Borns are Mine, from the day I smote all First-Borns in Egypt."
Pidyon HaBen is not just a Memorial, but also an absolute necessity. Since the Plague, all First-Borns are consecrated (ie dedicated) to the Service of Hashem, and this intrinsic Holiness must be redeemed in order to allow the child to carry on a normal life.
2) All first fruits belong to Hashem.
The First of anything is seen to be special, more desirable, stronger, and with greater Spiritual potential. The Cohanim (Priests) are entitled to all first fruits, animals and wool. The First-Born son is also included in the portion that must be given to the Cohanim.
Hashem is the First Existence and therefore 'Firsts' have an extra connection to Him, and it is fitting that the First of everything be given to Hashem (through the Cohen).
3) Everything belongs to Hashem.
Everything in the World is really Hashem`s property, but He gives us material items on loan to use for Holy purposes. The Mitzvah (Commandment) of Pidyon HaBen comes to stress the point that even our most dear thing, our First-Born Son, is still His property and we must buy him back.
4) The Pidyon HaBen saves the child from negative spiritual aspects.
All Worldly details that are connected to higher Spirituality (eg First-Borns) have a connection to the other end of the scale (evil) as well, in order to balance Good versus Evil in the World and allow for true Free Will. Not only does the Pidyon HaBen add holiness to the child, but also helps to nullify the negative.
5) Atoning for the sale of Joseph.
Joseph was the First-Born of his mother, Rachel, and his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt for the value of five shekels. The Mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen atones for this sin.
Significance of the Mitzvah (Commandment)
1) The Zohar (Book of Jewish Mysticism) states that the Pidyon HaBen protects the health of the individual throughout his life.
2) In the Mishnah (Brochos) the Rabbis say that in the merit of this Mitzvah we will enter the land of Israel (ie be redeemed)
The Reason for The Festive Meal
1) The meal corresponds to the meal the brothers (Jacob's sons) made when they sold Joseph.
2)We make a meal to celebrate the fact, that in this merit of this Mitzvah, the child will have a long and healthy life.
3) When the Jews were on the verge of the Exodus from Egypt, they ate the special Pesach Meal, as commanded by Hashem, at the same time that the Plague of the First-Born was happening.
4) The joy of being able to perform this (uncommon) Mitzvah.
Why is the Child Redeemed with Five Coins (Sela`im) of Silver?
1) Joseph was sold for 20 mo`ohs of silver. This has the same value as five Sela`im, and as previously stated, the Pidyon HaBen atones for Joseph's sale.
2) The Zohar says that we use Five Sela`im in connection to Abraham, the First Jew. Abram (orct) had the letter v added to his name to make it Abraham (ovrct) and v corresponds to the number 5.
3) The soul of a person who learns Torah is connected to the Five Books of the Torah, and we want to encourage this with a number five.
4) The Erech (Value) of a person can be given as a donation to the Temple. The amount is prescribed by Torah according to age, and the value of a one month old baby is Five Sela`im.
What is the Significance of the Ceremony?
All details in Judaism and Mitzvos (Commandments) are exact, and in order to fulfil the Mitzvah of Pidyon HaBen properly certain conditions must be met. Therefore, the Rabbis have instituted the special text, to ensure that both the Father and the Cohen (Priest) perform their Duties correctly for the Child.
Why Wait Until One Month?
We wait until thirty days have passed, to be sure that the child is healthy and will survive
First "Opening of the Womb" (Petter Rechem)
The Fist-Born is reckoned only according to the mother, and not the father, because we find these Laws concerning Humans mentioned in the section dealing with Animal First-Borns. Just as we cannot be sure if an animal is a first-born to a particular male, similarly we connect First-Born status of a Child to the Jewish Mother.
Why Not Redeem Girls?
1) In Egypt, the men had descended to the lowest Spiritual level, and it was only in the merit of the Righteous Women, that the Jews were redeemed. Therefore Jewish Women were spared being killed as the First-Born.Consequently, women do not need a Pidyon.
2) The First-Born were to have dedicated to the Temple Service, and as women did not do the work of the Cohanim (Priests), they are spared the need for Redemption as First-Borns.