Friday, October 28, 2011
An obscure religious ceremony is becoming less obscure. First in Melbourne, then the Catskills, and now in Cleveland. We hadn't heard about the mitzvah of redeeming a firstborn male donkey with a sheep until a story about a non-Zionist chassidic sect called Adass Yisroel appeared in the Australian press two years ago.
We posted the video in October 2009 and a year later we posted a similar story about another redemption ceremony by the Sanz-Klausenberg sect in their Catskills retreat.
Earlier this month the rare ceremony was performed again, at an assembly at the Mosdos Ohr Hatorah boys' school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The event was attended by 1,200 people, including dozens of Rabbonim.
Similar to the Pidyon haBen ceremony of the redemption of the first-born male child, this ritual involves buying the first-born male donkey back from a Kohen in exchange for a sheep rather than money.
What's making this almost forgotten mitzvah popular again? Probably a surge in interest among the very devout to perform, where possible, every one of the 613 mitzvot listed in the Torah.The source for the redemption is Exodus 13:13, which lists the obligation to redeem a donkey before the obligation to redeem a son.
This particular mitzvah has not been so easy to fulfill. As the rabbi in Melbourne said, "it's difficult to find a Jewish donkey." and "even though it’s not a kosher animal, the donkey has special significance because when the Jews went out of Egypt, the donkeys carried lots of loads.”
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)