GOOD MORNING!  If you are Jewish, firstborn, male, whose parents are neither Cohanim or Levites and your mother didn't have a previous miscarriage ... and you were not born by cesarean section -- you are required to be redeemed from a Cohen. This mitzvah goes back 3329 years ago during the Exodus from Egypt.

Before the transgression of the Golden Calf, the firstborn sons were designated to be the Cohanim (priests) for the Jewish people. "For every first born among the children of Israel is Mine ... I consecrated them to Myself on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt" (Numbers 8:17). However, since they -- and the males of every tribe except the tribe of Levy -- were involved in the incident with the Golden Calf, the priesthood was taken away from them. It was instead given to the descendants of Aharon from the tribe of Levy. "Now I take the Levites instead of every firstborn among the Children of Israel" (Numbers 8:18).

Even though the firstborn lost their positions, they were still consecrated to the Almighty for all time; they require a pidyon, a redemption, of their holiness. "You shall redeem every firstborn of your sons" (Exodus 34:20). Our tradition teaches that in the time of the Final Redemption the firstborns will be returned to the position of Cohanim.

The ceremony is called a Pidyon HaBen, Redeeming the Son. The father is required to redeem his son on the 31st day after he is born. Until the age of 13, the father is responsible to redeem the son. After that, the son is required to redeem himself. A Cohen told me of a celebration where the son, the father and the grandfather all had their redemption ceremonies, one following the other.

Though it is a rare celebration, it is a very festive and spiritual celebration. It takes place during a seudas mitzvah, an obligatory festive meal. One gathers at least a minyan, 10 Jewish males over 13 years old who wash their hands and eat bread. After the meal has begun, the ceremony takes place.

The baby is brought in on a silver tray adorned with jewelry from the attending women. This is done to beautify the mitzvah. The father presents the baby to the Cohen and declares that the baby is the first born to his mother according to all of the requirements of the Torah. The Cohen then asks the father, "Which do you prefer -- to give me your first born ... or to redeem him for five shekels as the Torah obligates you?" The father declares, "I wish to redeem my son and I give you the value of his redemption as I am required to do by the Torah."

The father then takes 5 silver coins (some Cohanim have a custom to use 6 coins to make sure that the amount of silver exceeds the minimum requirement of 117 grams) and recites the following blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding the redemption of the son." Then he recites a second blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time."

The Cohen accepts the money, makes a verbal declaration that the child is redeemed and blesses him with the traditional blessing of the Cohanim: "May the Almighty make you like Ephraim and Menashe. May the Almighty bless you and safeguard you. May the Almighty shine His countenance upon you and be gracious unto you; May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace."

The Cohen returns the child to the father, takes a cup of wine and makes the blessing over the wine. And then everyone continues with their meal.

The Kabbalah tells us that attending a Pidyon HaBen is equal to 84 fasts -- which atone for many transgressions! The question the Cohen asks the father "Which do you prefer -- the baby or the money?" is on one hand rhetorical and on the other hand a very deep question. There is NO WAY a father is going to or allowed to give his son to a Cohen. However, there is a very powerful question that every parent should keep in mind -- "Which do you prefer -- your child or spending more time in the office?" We as parents must always be aware that our children come first before all our other desires and responsibilities.

 

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Torah Portion of the week

Beha'alosecha, Numbers 8:1 -12:16

Aharon is commanded in the lighting of the Menorah, the Levites purify themselves for service in the Tabernacle (they trained from age 25-30 and served from age 30-50). The first Pesach is celebrated since leaving Egypt. The Almighty instructs the Jewish people to journey into the desert whenever the ever-present cloud lifts from above the Tabernacle and to camp where it rests. Moshe is instructed to make two silver trumpets to be sounded before battle or to proclaim a Yom Tov (a holiday).

The people journey to the wilderness of Paran during which time they rebelled twice against the Almighty's leadership. The second time they complain about the boring taste of the maneh and the lack of meat in the desert. The Almighty sends a massive quantity of quail and those who rebelled died.

Moshe asks his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro) to travel with them in the desert, but Yitro returns to Midian.

Miriam, Moshe's sister, speaks loshon hora (defaming words) about Moshe. She is struck with tzora'as (the mystical skin disease which indicated that a person spoke improperly about another person) and is exiled from the camp for one week.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Miriam, Moshe's sister, heard from Moshe's wife, Tzipora, that Moshe had separated himself from her (so that he, Moshe, could receive a prophecy from the Almighty at any time). Miriam felt that Moshe's behavior was improper, since both she and her brother, Aharon, both carried on their respective married lives, yet received prophecy. Miriam related her feelings to her brother, Aharon.

The Torah states, "And Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, 'Has God spoken only with Moshe? Has he not spoken also with us?' And the Lord heard. But the man Moshe was very humble, more than all the men that were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:1-3).

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, writes (Shmiras Haloshon 2:18) that from these verses we learn a number of principles concerning loshon hora, the laws regarding defamatory speech:

1) The prohibition against speaking loshon hora applies even when the person spoken against is very humble and does not mind if others speak against him. For this reason, immediately after Moshe was spoken against, the Torah states that he was humble.

2) Even if you have done many favors for another person, it does not give you the right to speak against him. Miriam helped save Moshe's life when he was an infant, but was still punished for her loshon hora.

3) The prohibition against loshon hora applies even if you do not publicize the loshon hora, but only relate it to one person, and that person is a relative who will not repeat it to anyone else. Miriam told the loshon hora only to her brother Aharon who would not publicize it.

4) If you say about a truly great man that his behavior would only be proper if he were on a higher level, but on his present level his behavior is improper, it is considered loshon hora. Miriam felt that Moshe was wrong for separating himself from his wife. She erred, however, since Moshe's level of prophecy was such that at any moment God could communicate with him and his abstention was proper.

 

Candle Lighting Times

June 9
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)

Jerusalem 7:09
Guatemala 6:13 - Hong Kong 6:49 - Honolulu 6:55
J'Burg 5:05 - London 8:58 - Los Angeles 7:46
Melbourne 4:49 - Mexico City 7:56 - Miami 7:54
New York 8:11 - Singapore 6:52 - Toronto 8:40


Quote of the Week

One who has missed an opportunity and
doesn't do something about it ...
is missing another opportunity

 

 

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Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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