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At a Pidyon HaBen I have observed that the Minhag is to put sugar cubes and garlic cloves on the tray with the baby. What is the source of this Minhag? And why specifically sugar and garlic?

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  • Interesting, there have been some Pidyon Haben questions going around here recently. The DailyHalacha.com has also been discussing this recently. – Hacham Gabriel Jan 20 '12 at 2:07
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    We wouldn't want any vampires visiting the pidyon haben, would we? – Double AA Jan 20 '12 at 2:10
  • @DoubleAA, he does say in the comments there that he doesn't really believe it and was just kidding. (Though that comment by David Meir there is priceless.) – Alex Jan 20 '12 at 17:04
  • @Alex I would hope so! Did anyone actually think Esav was a vampire? If he had been serious, then his site would have lost much more credibility in my book. I understood that HachamGabriel and I were debating the general credibility of the whole site. – Double AA Jan 20 '12 at 19:06
  • @DoubleAA, when you get down to it, saying that Binyamin was a werewolf is hardly less odd - except that it's a rishon who says it. – Alex Jan 20 '12 at 20:09
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Rav Moshe Heinemann said in a shiur that there was a time when garlic was very expensive, and was one of the spices Christopher Columbus was searching for on his path to India. Garlic wasn’t naturally grown in the European countries in that period, so they needed to import it from other countries for a lot of money. The same thing was true about sugar that it was very expensive at times since it didn’t grow in Europe. Only the rich people were able to afford these luxuries and would use it the same way people use jewelry. Therefore, people wanted to show their chashivus hamitzvah by putting these expensive foods on the tray with the baby. Nonetheless, Rav Heinemann said it isn’t an old מנהג, though if someone wants to do it then it's fine.

Rav Yirmiyahu Kaganoff suggests

Some people place pieces of garlic, sugar cubes, or candies alongside the bechor when he is brought in for the pidyon. The sugar cubes show that the mitzvos are sweet, and garlic is a symbol of and segulah for fertility. Some say that when participants take home the sugar and the garlic and use them for cooking their own meals at home, they increase the numbers of people who “participated” in the pidyon haben meal, all of whom will be blessed by this.

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According to this it's because garlic and sugar are spices which last along time and get put in multiple dishes. This way, people can take some of the garlic and sugar home and thereby be able to partake in the mitzvah-food for a long time to come. A similar idea can be found here.

According to this it's because sugar shows that mitzvot are sweet and garlic is a symbol for fertility.

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  • I am also looking for a source. – Gershon Gold Jan 20 '12 at 2:25
  • @DoubleAA I wonder why these properties of garlic and sugar are apparently invoked for this mitzvah alone. – SAH Sep 12 '18 at 22:33
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    @SAH Probably it's just a local gentile/european/christian charm for babies that got mixed up in Jewish practice. Just a guess. – Double AA Sep 12 '18 at 22:37
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People who attend a pidyon haben are counted as if they made 84 fasts, tanesim. Anyone who partakes of the feast of the pidyon, is likewise credited. Since garlic and sugar leave their taste in minute quantities, we cook and then distribute food with this garlic and sugar to be mezakeh many, many, other people as if they too fasted 84 fasts.

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  • Hi motel. Can you provide a traditional Jewish source for this? What does Pidyon haBen have to do with fasting, and why 84, and why is just attending sufficient? – Double AA May 16 '16 at 0:41
  • Hi Motel, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for your first answer! MY places a lot of emphasis on sources (after all most of us don’t know you personally). Maybe you will be interested by something I wrote to help you understand the site "A beginner’s guide to MY - How is this site different from other Judaism sites” ? I hope you find more Q&A of interest and stay learning with us! – mbloch May 16 '16 at 3:18
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    @motel Is it just a coincidence that this is the exact number of fasts prescribed by the Arizal to atone for zera levatala? – SAH Sep 12 '18 at 22:53
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    Sources for 84 fasts: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/121968/… – chortkov2 Apr 26 at 21:42
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    @SAH No coincidence, according to R' Tzaddok Hakohen. See here (simla.otzar.org/download/…) – chortkov2 Apr 26 at 21:44

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