A 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 descendant of Aaron) five silver coins, thirty days after the baby’s birth. -chabad.org
For the exact reasons why we do this, please refer to the following link: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/928156/jewish/What-Why.htm
It’s 30 days after the birth of my little great nephew. He was her first, born naturally so a pidyon haben could be celebrated. It’s a special ceremony as not everyone can do it. No pidjon will be held if the child has been born by cesarean, if she is a girl or if the father is a Kohen. It was a long while since we had a pidjon haben in the family so it’s a special occasion. We all come dressed in our finery and wish each other mazel tov.
The baby is slumbering peacefully, looking regal in an all-white outfit. He is placed on a silver tray to show our love for this mitzvah (commandment) and will be bedecked with jewelry. Everyone eagerly gives a piece.
He is being carried to the men’s side and the ceremony begins. The exchange between the father and the kohen follows. The father “redeems” his firstborn son by exchanging the equivalent of 5 silver coins with the Kohen, a blessing is recited and the baby is brought back to his mother.
We all sit down to a festive meal. It’s customary to include meat and wine. I’m enjoying a moment of relaxation in the midst of the hectic Passover preparations.
My son was asked to play on his keyboard and the background music adds a lot to the event. I’m grateful to have been a part of this most beautiful tradition of ours.
My grandparents were very special people. My grandfather passed away a few years ago. My grandmother passed away last summer. As per Jewish tradition, the headstone (matzeivah in Hebrew) was being unveiled around 11 months after her death. Most people do it either after 30 days or between 11-12 months after the passing. This past Sunday, a hot summer day, we made our way to the cemetery for the unveiling. The extended family was there which included all their children and grandchildren and people close to them. My grandfather had been an influential member of our community, one of the leaders. We had a quite a few people coming for my grandmother’s unveiling in my grandfather’s honor.
We started off with saying psalms corresponding to the deceased’s Hebrew name. Then one of my uncles spoke a few words. He said he will be reading a letter my grandfather wrote. This is what the letter said: “This letter is to opened by the unveiling of my wife’s headstone. As I went through the Hell that was Auschwitz, I made a promise to G-d that if I get safely out of this hell, I will dedicate my life to charity and good deeds. I came here, found my woman of valor that I shared my life with and settled down. I tried as best as I could to fulfill my promise and my dear wife was a full partner and did all she could to help me. She told me: “I ask nothing of you but when the time comes, I want to be put to rest next to you” so if this is in accordance with Jewish law, I want you to bury her next to me. If this is not possible for whatever reason, make sure I’m not buried next to a non Sabbath observer or a stingy rich man.”
My grandfather was the most giving person I knew, he couldn’t fathom someone having riches and not give to charity. he lived for charity and so did my grandmother. My own family was the recipient of his monthly envelope with cash in the mailbox. Until today my family has no idea it was him.
I found that letter extremely moving. After that my brother in law said some words, remembering that special couple who left behind a legacy of charity and righteousness and G-d fearing descendants. He broke down in tears while begging them to intervene on his son’s behalf who is stricken with pediatric cancer. Not a dry eye was left after his plea.
The ceremony ended with the Rabbi saying the Memorial Prayer and the sons reciting Kaddish.
After our engagement was announced, the town was abuzz. An in-town match is always exciting and the news had spread like wildfire. Since I was still one of the first of my grade to get engaged, the excitement was high. As for me, it was surreal. I couldn’t believe I was engaged, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Many people came over to congratulate us even though it was quite late at night. The wedding was planned for September which was four months away. My fiancé and I sat down to talk after our engagement party. In our ultra Hasidic circles it was customary for the bride and groom to not see or talk to each other until the wedding. No phone calls, no face to face meetings and no contact whatsoever. He went back to his Yeshiva. About 2 months later we did have to meet in order for us to get married civilly. It was nerve wracking but actually fun to see him again. I remembered again why I said “yes”. I felt so comfortable around him, it was as if we saw each other yesterday.
It didn’t take long for the big day to arrive. I woke up early and spent the morning praying. Some brides fast until after the Chuppah (ceremony) but I didn’t. By lunchtime we had to get ready. Make up, hair. Some brides cover their hair with a wig from the ceremony, some only for the wedding party and others from the next morning. I covered my hair from before the ceremony. Continue reading My Hasidic wedding