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Redemption of First-Born


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The ceremony at which the first-born male child is symbolically purchased from a priest; Heb. Pidyon Ha-Ben, ‘Redemption of the Son’.

The reason given in Exodus 13 for the redemption of the first-born is that when Pharaoh refused to let the people go God slew every first-born in Egypt, taking the first-born Israelites to Himself, and they have therefore to be redeemed. Many scholars have noted that in ancient societies the first-born son served as a priest and this may be the origin of the redemption law. There has also been read into the rite the idea that by dedicating the first-born to God's service the whole family is set on the right course.

Reform Judaism has generally abandoned rites associated with the ancient priesthood and many Reform Jews do not observe the ceremony of Pidyon Ha-Ben, but others do. Some feminists (see FEMINISM) have sought to introduce a parallel ceremony for a first-born girl.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.


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