This letter was addressed to the prominent educator and communal activist, Rabbi Yaakov Yehudah Hecht.

B”H, 22 Tammuz, 5706

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your invitation to the Pidyon HaBen of your son Shalom DovBer: May it be in a good and auspicious hour and may you together with your wife1 raise him [and lead him] to Torah study, marriage, and good deeds amidst prosperity in both a material and spiritual sense.

The concept of redeeming the firstborn began because of G‑d’s redemption of the firstborn of the Jewish people when He slew all the firstborn [Egyptians] in the land of Egypt.

Our Sages (Shabbos 133b) teach [that we must walk in the paths of our Creator:] “Just as He is compassionate and merciful, so, too, you must be compassionate and merciful.” [To apply that concept to the issue at hand,] this is the task [demanded] of each and every one, anyone who has the potential, to save Jewish boys and girls from assimilation among the nations. For [they are all firstborn,] as it says:2 “My son, My firstborn, Israel.” Instead, we should connect them to the G‑d of life through the Torah of life. And in that manner, they will be assured the fulfillment [of the Torah’s blessing]:3 “Today you are all alive.”

You have merited that my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, has committed a portion of this holy work to you. Certainly, you will endeavor to do everything dependent on you to be an appropriate medium and bring out the potential into actual expression.

May it be His will that speedily in our days we all merit to see the Redemption wrought by our Father in Heaven who will redeem His firstborn — “My son, My firstborn Israel” — from this final exile. And may my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, lead us to greet Mashiach in the very near future. Amen, so may it be His will.

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Executive Director

The concept of the redemption of the firstborn does not apply with regard to priests and Levites, and [our Sages say] (Sanhedrin 39a): “G‑d is a priest.” See Likkutei Shoshanim by R. Shimson of Ostrapolia who discusses when the analogy of High Priest [is applied with regard to G‑d] and when, [instead,] the analogy of an ordinary priest[is applied].

This, however, does not represent a contradiction to the above. For the rationale of why the concept of redeeming a firstborn with five sela’im does not apply with regard to a priest or a Levite is that this sum is not sufficient to redeem them. Instead, through G‑d’s redemption of the Jewish people in Egypt, their bodies became sanctified, as stated in Bamidbar, ch. 8.