Pidyon Haben

Pidyon Haben is a religious ritual that takes place on the 31st day of the male firstborn. The birth has to be a normal vaginal birth rather than a caesarian section, and there cannot be any preceding miscarriages or stillbirths. Essentiall”y, in Biblical times a non-Cohen first male newborn is born to service in the tabernacle in the desert. The family has to redeem (“pidyon means redemption) the baby from this service to the Temple. The contemporary way of looking at the ritual is that, by exchanging our child for 5 shekels (or 5 silver dollars), we acknowledge that we have a gift from God, and we must consciously accept responsibility for caring for the child.

In the Babylonian tradition, the family honors a friend, who must be a Cohen, from whom the child can be redeemed (or “bought back”). The ritual includes haggling over price, in good fun… Naturally, there is feasting afterwards.

The coins are symbolic and are usually returned to the family as a keepsake. Family “lucky ” coins or silver dollars can be used. It is suggested an equivalent sum be donated to Tzedakah in the child’s name.

Link: for a more detailed orthodox reference to this tradition.

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