Hunter Biden married a Jewish woman in a rushed ceremony and last year, they were blessed with a son. Rabbinic authorities are now investigating whether Joe Biden’s possible election to the presidency of the United States puts his grandson in a heightened position of danger, requiring him to be Biblically redeemed in order to afford him “protection from above.”
Hunter Biden’s Jewish Wife
Hunter Biden married Kathleen Buhle in 1993 and they have three children: Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy. He was successfully sued in a paternity suit for an unidentified child born to a second woman.
But in May 2019, Biden married South African filmmaker Melissa Cohen, 20 years his junior. Their son was born in March 2020 in Los Angeles.
Cohen is a documentary filmmaker. She was adopted by Zoe and Lee, a conservative middle-class Jewish family in Johannesburg, South Africa. Hunter’s wife’s full name is Melissa Batya Cohen. She is the youngest of four siblings. Some media have described her as a “devout Jew” though she has a much-publicized tattoo on her bicep of the Hebrew word After meeting Cohen in L.A., Hunter got a tattoo on his left bicep of the Hebrew word “shalom” (שלום) which Biden copied soon after meeting her. Tattoos are explicitly prohibited by Jewish law. She reportedly learned at King David High School Victory Park, an Orthodox Jewish high school, as did her siblings.
Their son, born in March, was reportedly named Beau, after Hunter’s older brother who died from brain cancer in 2015. Joe Biden’s sons were born to his first wife, Neilia Hunter, who was a Presbyterian.
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It is interesting to note that despite the Biden’s being Roman Catholic, all three of their children married Jewish spouses. Beau married Hallie Olivere. Ashley Biden, his daughter with his second wife, Jill, married Howard Krein.
Pidyon Haben: Redeeming the First Born
Judaism is an ethnic identity that bears with it many religious obligations. It is widely known that Jews circumcise their sons, a ritual called brit milah, on the eighth day as mandated in the Torah. But less well-known is the commandment of pidyon haben, redeeming of the first born. In this mitzvah (Biblical commandment), a Jewish firstborn son is redeemed by giving silver coins to a kohen (a Jewish man of the priestly caste).
The first issue of the womb of every being, man or beast, that is offered to Hashem, shall be yours; but you shall have the first-born of man redeemed, and you shall also have the firstling of unclean animals redeemed. Take as their redemption price, from the age of one month up, the money equivalent of five shekalim by the sanctuary weight, which is twenty geira. Numbers 18:15-16
Pidyon haben is a relatively rare ceremony. A family does not perform the ceremony if its firstborn is a girl, born by caesarian section, preceded by a miscarriage, or if either grandfather is a kohen or a Levite. If a woman gives birth to a second son naturally when the first son was born by caesarean section, that child is not redeemed either. The ceremony is performed for the first born male of the mother. Therefore, a father can perform pidyon haben for many sons born to different mothers but a mother only has one first born who “opens her womb.” The ceremony, accompanied by a festive mel, can be performed from one month after the birth and has no end limit.
Should Hunter Biden’s Son be Redeemed?
On Tuesday, the Hebrew language Haredi Israeli news site, Hadrei Haredim, asked several prominent experts on Jewish law whether Hunter Biden’s son would require being redeemed. The article begins by noting that Hunter’s father-in-law, Lee, is a follower of Rabbi Moshe Taub, the head of the Kaliver Hasidic dynasty in Brooklyn.
Hadrei Haredim reported that Lee Cohen considered performing the mitzvah of redeeming his grandson since his non-Jewish son-in-law could not. At the time of his birth, Lee Cohen received a rabbinic ruling that he should not perform the mitzvah and the ceremony should be delayed until the child reached the age upon which he would be able to redeem himself, as per the Jewish law.
But the possibility of Joe Biden has potentially changed that ruling. There are some rabbinic authorities who believe that it might be advisable to perform pidyon haben as soon as possible. As the grandson of the president, the child would be in a greater position of danger and threat. Remaining unredeemed places the baby at spiritual risk. Performing the commandment would grant “protection from above.”
Hadrei Haredim reported that there are currently several rabbinic authorities who are considering the question which has many facets some of which include the life story and identity of the mother.