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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 21.1.12:
Entering the Covenant: What about babies who are stillborn or die shortly after birth with respect to pidyon haben?

Answer:

A child who dies before the month is up could not have become subject to pidyon haben. However, if it was a natural birth, it is an "opener of the womb", and any subsequent child would not be subject to pidyon haben.

The laws of pidyon haben involve only the state of development of the miscarried fetus, not the location in which it was carried. In the mishnah, the debate is between Rabbi Meir who says that the fetus must have eyes in order to be considered and the majority of sages who say it must be human-looking. (The Talmud's discussion is in Bechoros [logically enough, the tractate named "Firstborns"] 46a.) In practice, there is a large grey area, and it can end up being a rabbi's judgement call.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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