Firsts (Reishit) - Including Pidyon HaBein


Jews thank God for His blessings by giving Him the “first” (reishit) of various products (as well as a tenth/ma'aser of agricultural and other wealth).

“First” applies to:

  • First-Born/Petter Rechem
    • First-born male children/petter rechem (redeemed with money).
    • First-born male kosher domestic animals (calf, lamb, kid)/petter rechem (in Temple times: sacrificed on altar; now, permanent holy status).
    • First-born male donkeys/petter rechemchamor (redeemed with sheep/goat; holiness of both the donkey and the sheep or goat then disappears).
    • Dough/Challa (In Temple times, given to cohen, now burned).
    • First Fruits/Bikurim (In Temple times, the Jewish man or woman brought the bikurim fruits to the area between altar and Temple building; only a man recited the confession).
    • First Shearing/Reishit HaGeiz (Portion of sheep's wool, given to cohen).

NOTE: All of the above have holy status except for the wool and the human petter rechem.

Selling Mother Animal before Birth of Petter Rechem

SITUATION: The first-born male baby of a female kosher domestic mammal or of a female donkey, if completely owned by a Jew, is a petter rechem (which may not be used for any purpose).

WHAT TO DO: Before the mother has her first baby, sell part of her to a non-Jew so the firstborn will not be wholly owned by a Jew and, if male, will not become a petter rechem. Rabbinic guidance is recommended!


A Jewish mother's first-born male child must be “redeemed” by giving money to a cohen if the below criteria apply. Pidyon ha'bein is a mitzva for the father of the boy. Anyone may do the actual redemption (including a woman) as long as the father appoints him or her as his emissary to do so.

NOTE: If the father has not done the pidyon, the boy redeems himself when he reaches 13 years old.

Three Criteria for Pidyon HaBein

There are three criteria for Pidyon ha'bein:

  1. First child born of a mother must be male.

    NOTE: If a woman miscarries a fetus that has already developed limbs, any male child born after that is not considered a first-born male (bechor) and no pidyon is done.

  2. Boy must not have been born by caesarean section.

    NOTE: A boy who was born normally after his brother was born via caesarean section is NOT a bechor.

  3. Mother may not be the daughter of a cohen or levi (priestly family or assistants) and the father may not be a cohen or levi.

How To Do Pidyon HaBein

To do Pidyon ha'bein:

  • Pidyon ha'bein is done at least 30 days after the boy was born.
  • The boy's father gives six genuine American silver dollars to any cohenIf there is no father, consult a rabbi.
  • The boy's father says the blessing al pidyon ha'bein and she'hecheyanu.

   NOTE: If the boy redeems himself, consult a rabbi about the blessing.

Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L’Maaseh appears courtesy of Visit their website for more information.