This summary of the beginning of the Pidyon Haben (redeeming the first born son) is on wikipedia

In the traditional ceremony, the father brings the child to the Kohen and recites a formula, or responds to ritual questions, indicating that this is the Israelite mother's firstborn son and he has come to redeem him as commanded in the Torah. The Kohen asks the father which he would rather have, the child or the five silver shekels which he must pay.

When I went to my friend's sons pidyon, the father hesitated when the Kohen asked him the question. After the Kohen proded him for an answer, my friend said, "Wait a minute. I'm thinking it over!"

At the end, he redeemed his son, of course. My friend has a strange sense of humor...

But I'm curious... If he were serious and said to the Kohen, I'm giving my son to you. What happens? Does the Kohen now bear the responsibility of raising the boy? If it is assumed that every father will redeem his son, as the text of the ceremony indicates, then why ask the question in the first place if the Kohen knows the answer?

  • 3
    That hearkens back to the old Jack Benny joke.
    – Fred
    Feb 1, 2015 at 18:40
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    @Fred Hmmm ... wasn't Jack Benny a Cohen? That would explain why he had to think things over ... I think!
    – DanF
    May 12, 2017 at 15:53

2 Answers 2


I believe Siman Tav-Tzadi-Vav(496) in Shut haRadvaz Vol 1 describes the same situation.

"....and therefore, we might conclude that if the Israelite wishes to give his son, he performed the Giving. However, it has no relevance in here. If the Kohen wants to use the bechor as a slave - an Israelite is not sold for slavery. And if the Kohen wants him as his son - he is not the kohen's offspring. And since Kinyan does not work here (in contrast to with Peter Chamor), the Israelite father did not fulfil the Giving and must perform the Pidyon."

(I tried to translate it, but cannot guarantee reliability)

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, Zeev, and thanks for the answer! Hope to see you around. :)
    – Scimonster
    Feb 1, 2015 at 13:06

No. The Kohen would not receive the child if the father would refuse to redeem the boy. The function of the question, according to the Artscroll Siddur quoting the Chut Hashani, is merely to endear the mitzvah to the father.

The sole reason for the father to redeem the child is to fulfill the explicit mitzvas asei of pidyon bechoros. As an aside, if the father does not redeem the child, the child will have to redeem himself when he comes of age (Kitzur Shulchan Oruch 164 (8)).


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