Pidyon Haben In The Afternoon?
‘…The First Reads Hallel Out Loud’
(Rosh Hashanah 32b)
The Mishnah states that Hallel on Yom Tov should be recited by the chazzan who leads Shacharis; it should not be pushed off to Mussaf. The Gemara asks why not. Wouldn’t it be better to say Hallel when there are more people present in shul in conformity with the rule of “berov am hadras melech – the king’s glory is in a multitude of people”?
The Gemara answers that, as a rule, a mitzvah should be performed as early as possible and the zealous hasten to perform mitzvos as soon as the opportunity presents itself (“zerizin makdimin l’mitzvos”).
Why, then, do we wait until Mussaf to the fulfill the mitzvah of shofar? R. Yohanan states that the authorities forbade blowing shofar and, therefore, Rashi explains, the Jews waited until Mussaf to flfill this mitzvah since the authorities wouldn’t be paying attention at that time. (Knowing that Jews like to perform mitzvos as soon as possible, the authorities were only on the lookout for offenders during the morning.)
The Sedei Chemed (Kelallim, Hilchot Pidyon Ha’ben, topic 39) wonders why it is customary to perform pidyon haben ceremonies in the afternoon. He argues that they should be performed early in the morning in conformity with the principle of zerizin makdimin l’mitzvos.
In defense of the common practice he suggests that people began pushing off the pidyon haben to the late afternoon (after the work day) to enable more relatives and friends to attend since it is preferable to perform a mitzvah in the presence of a large crowd.
The Custom In Izmir (Turkey)
The Sedei Chemed, however, rejects this justification. He gleans from our Gemara that when there is a conflict between berov am (performing a mitzvah in the presence of a large crowd) and zerizin makdimin l’mitzvos (performing a mitzvah early), zerizin takes precedence since the Gemara clearly rules that Hallel is recited during Shacharis even though there a larger crowd will be present during Mussaf. Indeed, the Sedei Chemed reports that the minhag in Izmir and its environs was to perform a pidyon haben early in the morning, just like a bris milah.
In Imrei Yosher (Vol. 2:132) we find a justification for our custom to hold the pidyon haben in the afternoon (after chatzos hayom). He explains that we take into account those who opine that we shouldn’t redeem a child until a full month (which is 29 days and close to 13 hours) after his birth has passed. Thus, if the child was born at the end of the day immediately before shekiah, it is possible that during the summer months in northern countries (at higher latitudes) that the month will not be complete on the 31st day until shortly before chatzos.
Responsa Noda BiYehuda (Mahadura Tanina 187) notes that due to the above reason we are strict in our custom not to redeem a child at night, on the eve of the 31st day.