Pidyon Haben In The Afternoon?
‘…The First Reads Aloud The Hallel’
(Rosh Hashana 32b)
The Mishna says that Hallel on Yom Tov should be recited by the chazzan who leads the Shacharis services; it should not be delayed until Musaf. The Gemara asks why Hallel is not delayed until Musaf (as is the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashana), when there are more people present in shul in conformity with the rule “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 (zerizin makdimin lemitzvos). R. Yohanan notes that the rule regarding shofar was made at a time when the authorities forbade the blowing of the shofar, otherwise blowing of the shofar, like most other mitzvos, is to be performed as early as possible. Rashi (sv. B’sha’s gezeras..) explains that the authorities, who forbade the blowing of the shofar, assumed that Jews are zealous in this mitzvah and would only blow it early – at Shacharis, therefore it was safely delayed until later in the day – at Musaf.
The Sedei Chemed (Kelallim, Hilchot Pidyon Haben, topic 39) thus wonders why it is customary to perform the pidyon haben ceremony in the afternoon. He argues that it should be performed early in the morning (of the 31st day), in conformity with the principle of zerizin u’makdimin lemitzvos.
In defense of the common practice, he suggests that people began delaying the pidyon haben to the late afternoon to enable more relatives and friends to attend (when they come home from the day’s labor) and it is preferable to perform a mitzvah in the presence of a large crowd.
The Custom In Izmir (Turkey)
In conclusion the Sedei Chemed rejects this argument, based on our Gemara. 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…(performing a mitzvah early), zerizin takes precedence, for the Gemara says that Hallel is recited during Shacharis even though there is a larger crowd in attendance during Musaf. Indeed, he reports that in Izmir and its environs, the minhag is to perform a pidyon haben early in the morning, just like a bris milah.
In responsa Imrei Yosher (Vol. 2:132) we find a justification for our custom to delay the pidyon haben to the afternoon (after chatzos hayom) for we take into account those who opine that we are not to redeem [the child] until a full month – Chodesh Maleh (which is 29 days and close to 13 hours) after his birth. 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 the higher latitudes), the month will not be complete on the 31st day until shortly before chatzos (midday).
Responsa Noda BiYehuda (Mahadura Tanina 187) notes that due to the above reason we are strict in our custom not to redeem at night, on the eve of the 31st day.