Redemption of the Firstborn

Raphael Menachem Nochum ("Rafi") Junik

pidyon haben, or “redemption of the firstborn son,” is a ceremony wherein the father of a firstborn male redeems his son by giving a kohen (a priestly descendent of Aaron) five silver coins, thirty days after the baby’s birth.

Originally, the Jewish firstborn were the sanctified priestly class. They were inducted into G‑d’s service when they were spared from the Plague of the Firstborn that struck Egypt. However, when the Jews—firstborn included—served the Golden Calf, the firstborn forfeited their status. The priesthood was transferred to the tribe that did not participate in the Golden Calf hoopla—the Levites, and particularly the children of Aaron.

Ever since, all male Israelite firstborn must redeem themselves from a kohen in a pidyon haben ceremony.

Chinuch adds that this reminds us that everything in the world belongs to G‑d. When we consecrate our very first and very best, we are reminded that everything really belongs to our Creator, and that we must “purchase” it from Him before using it.

Maharal (Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, 1512–1609) explains that since G‑d is the first being, it is fitting that firstborns are consecrated to Him.2


The pidyon haben ceremony is a relatively rare ceremony only involving the firstborn son of a non-Levite and non-Kohenite father and mother who had a natural (non-Caesarian) birth. We would be honored to have you join us for this ancient Jewish tradition.

Sunday, Nov. 13


Delicious food like always