pidyon ha-ben

pidyon haben

[Sephardic Hebrew peed-yawn hah-ben; Ashkenazic Hebrew, English pid-yuhn hah-ben]
noun Judaism.
the rite of relieving the first male child born to parents not descended from Aaron or Levi of certain religious obligations by redeeming him from a member of the priestly class, celebrated 30 days after the child's birth.
Also, Pidyon ha-Ben.


Origin:
< Hebrew pidyōn habbēn literally, redemption of the son

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pidyon ha-ben

Jewish ceremony in which the father redeems his wife's firstborn son by offering to a cohen (a male Jew descended from the first priest, Aaron) the equivalent of five silver shekels (ancient coins). The ceremony, which normally takes place 30 days after the child's birth, dates from Old Testament times, when the firstborn sons of the Israelites were spared from death on the first Passover (Exodus 12). These children subsequently belonged to God in a special way and would have constituted the Jewish priesthood had not the Levites been substituted in their place. Pidyon ha-ben thus commemorates a historical event, for the father ritually gives money to a cohen in order to keep his son. If the father is a cohen or if either parent is related to the tribe of Levi, such children already belong to God by reason of heredity, and no redemption is required

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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