Great-grandson of Hasidic leader ‘redeemed’ in ancient Jewish ceremony

BEIT SHEMESH (AP) — Shortly after sundown, Yaakov Tabersky presented his firstborn son on a silver platter to a Jewish priest in a ceremony harking back to the biblical exodus from Egypt.

The ceremony, known as pidyon ha-ben, or redemption of the firstborn, was held in an ultra-Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem. Thursday night’s ceremony had added significance because the baby is the great-grandchild of Aharon Biderman, the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty.

Firstborn sons originally made up the priesthood of the ancient Israelites. As described in the Book of Exodus, they were spared from the final plague brought upon the pharaoh, in which God was said to have wiped out the firstborn sons of Egypt, an event commemorated every spring at Passover.

However, the Jewish firstborn later lost that privilege when the Israelites joined in the worship of a golden calf, after being delivered from Egypt, in defiance of the prohibition against idolatry.

The priesthood was then transferred to the descendants of the prophet Aaron, who did not participate. Tradition holds that Jews should redeem their firstborn sons to a kohen, a member of the priestly class descended from Aaron.

The ceremony is held 30 days after the birth of the mother’s first son and accompanied by a festive meal attended by family and friends. Participants dress in their finest attire and adorn the baby with jewelry to celebrate the blessing. The rite is mainly observed by the ultra-Orthodox.

The father presents the baby on a silver platter to the kohen, symbolically returning his firstborn son to God. The kohen then offers to accept five silver coins instead of the child, and once the payment is made the son is redeemed. The kohen then raises a glass of wine and recites a prayer.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women are seen behind a curtain during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony for Yossef Tabersky, a 30-day-old great grandchild of the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, members of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty attend the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony of the great grandchild of their chief rabbi Aharon Biderman in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, members of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty attend the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony for the great grandchild of their chief rabbi Aharon Biderman in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish newborn Yossef Tabersky, the great grandchild of the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, is seen in the women section during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Yaakov Tabersky, right, presented his firstborn son, Yossef on a silver platter to Jewish priests from the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Yaakov Tabersky, right, presented his firstborn son, Yossef on a silver platter to Jewish priests from the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women adorn 30-day-old Yossef Tabersky, the great grandchild of the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Yaakov Tabersky, left, blessed by Haharon Biderman, the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony for his son, Yossef, in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Yaakov Tabersky, lest, presented his firstborn son, Yossef on a silver platter to Jewish priests from the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Yaakov Tabersky, right, presented his firstborn son, Yossef on a silver platter to Jewish priests from the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on Thursday, September 16, 2021. The Pidyon Haben, or redemption of the firstborn son, is a Jewish ceremony hearkening back to the biblical exodus from Egypt. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Yaakov Tabersky, carries his 30-day-old son Yossef, the great grandchild of the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women adorn 30-day-old Yossef Tabersky, the great grandchild of the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women are seen behind a curtain during the “Pidyon Haben” ceremony for Yossef Tabersky, a 30-day-old great grandchild of the chief rabbi of the Lelov Hassidic dynasty, in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on September 16, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)