Mitzvot of Redemption, Purity, and Nazirites (P#80-109)

The Torah’s positive mitzvot continue.

Read the full text here.

Summary: The 80th mitzvah is to redeem a firstborn son, while the 81st is to redeem a firstborn donkey. The 82nd is to decapitate a firstborn donkey if it was not redeemed. Mitzvot #83-91 all have to do with more nuances of sacrifices, and these mitzvot do not apply today. The 92nd is for one who takes on a Nazirite vow to grow their hair long, and the 93rd is for the Nazirite to shave their hair once their vow is fulfilled and their term is over. The 94th is for a person to fulfil any promises that they might make, and the 95th is to follow the proper procedures of the nullification of vows if one is unable to fulfil a promise. Mitzvot #96-107 list various things that cause a person to become impure, including a woman in menses, a man who has had a seminal emission, and contact with a dead person or dead animal. The 108th mitzvah deals with the purification procedure that uses sprinkling waters of the Red Heifer ashes. The 109th is to immerse in a mikveh for purification.

‘Presentation of the First-born’ (1724 Illustration by Georg Puschner)

Insight: God declared that the entire Jewish people would be a “nation of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Originally, every firstborn male of every Jewish family was expected to serve as a kohen. However, following the sin of the Golden Calf, God designated the tribe of Levi alone to serve as priests, and specifically those male descendants of Aaron to be the kohanim. Henceforth, a firstborn male would have to be “redeemed”, hence the 80th mitzvah above. This means that the father of a child pays a kohen to “buy out” the child from priestly service, designating the kohen to serve instead. This is typically done with 5 silver coins. The ceremony is known as pidyon haben, and is still done today. A firstborn male adult who was not redeemed by his father as a child is still obligated to redeem himself from a kohen!