Want to keep your Donkey? You need Petter Chamor!
Petter Chamor? Is he a vet? No. Is he an animal dealer? No. So who is Petter Chamor?
Most Jews are aware of a Pidyon Haben…the redemption of the first-born son. Pidyan Petter Chamor is the redemption of a first-born male donkey…a
humble animal who gained star status for being Moses’s answer to pantechnicons as he lead the Jews out of Egypt. With a long hard journey in front of them, Moses’s flock was grateful for the hardy pack animals who bore the baggage of the fleeing Jews and stuck it out until they found their new home.
Subsequently, the priests in the ancient temple would demand the first-born male donkey for themselves as in the case of the first-born son, The son was redeemed for money…but the donkey was redeemed for a sheep.
This unusual and very rare episode in the long history of the Jews captured the imagination of two Melbourne orthodox Jews who thought it was time the ritual was celebrated in Australia.
So last weekend, 1500 members of Melbourne’s orthodox community watched as the ceremony took place.
Organised by Berel Goldberger and Binyomin Friedman who “discovered” the ceremony during a study session at Melbourne’s Adass Yisrael Congregation, the project took two years to come to fruition. First item on the agenda was to find a suitable female donkey. The two collaborators tracked down a breeder in Canberra who had exactly what they were looking for…a female donkey who had never fallen pregnant. A year later, the jack foal was born, although there was doubt over the animal’s sex. But this was cleared up after Adass Chief Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Beck ordered DNA tests be carried out to make sure all was in order.
At last weekend’s ceremony, viewable on YouTube, the sheep was was handed over to a Kohen as the appropriate brochat were recited and the two conspirators redeemed the donkey now aptly called Petter.
Mother and son are grazing on a property on the outskirts of Melbourne, ruminating the bond between themselves and the Jews. The sheep was not so fortunate. He was slaughtered and the meat distributed to the poor.