Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cohen II - marrying a baalas teshuva

Just received this email. I am posting it to remind/inform people of the problems that exist. This is obviously a problem for a major posek - not a blog. I will see if I can get clarification of this issue. There might be a solution - but they truly need a major posek - not only to make the decision but so that the decision is accepted.
Dear Rabbi.
A baal teshuvah dated a cohen 11 years ago. She thought a cohen could only not marry a divorcee or convert. The cohen did not ask the girl about her past because he had heard not to ask a baal teshuvah about past history. After the couple was engaged she was approached by a religious neighbor seeking to know if she had been married or dated a goy. The girl was distraught and told the fiancee that she was told not to marry him. The cohen and the girl went to a Sephardic rabbi ... The couple was married by heter with this rabbi. Now the wife told her husband that she was not honest with the rabbi about the details of her past sexual history.... The man and woman are afraid that they will now be forced to divorce under Jewish law once they go to the rabbi who married them. The wife is distraught crying every day and the couple has two children. Is there anyway they can stay together? And if they are forced to divorce can they postpone the divorce until the children are older, etc?
Please advise.
ויקרא (כא:ז): אשה זנה וחללה לא יקחו ואשה גרושה מאישה לא יקחו כי קדש הוא לאלהיו:

שולחן ערוך (אבן העזר ו:ח): אי זו היא זונה, כל שאינה בת ישראל, או בת ישראל שנבעלה לאדם שהיא אסורה לינשא לו איסור השוה לכל, או שנבעלה לחלל אף על פי שהיא מותרת לינשא לו. לפיכך הנרבעת לבהמה, אע"פ שהיא בסקילה, לא נעשית זונה ולא נפסלה לכהונה, שהרי לא נבעלה לאדם. והבא על הנדה, אע"פ שהיא בכרת, לא נעשית זונה ולא נפסלה לכהונה, שהרי אינה אסורה לינשא לו. וכן הבא על הפנויה, אפי' היתה קדשה שהפקירה עצמה שהיא במלקות, לא נעשית זונה ולא נפסלה מכהונה, שהרי אינה אסורה לינשא לו. אבל הנבעלת לאחד מאיסורי לאוין השוין בכל ואינה מיוחדת בכהנים או מאיסורי עשה, וא"צ לומר למי שהיא אסורה לו משום ערוה, או לעובד כוכבים ועבד, הואיל והיא אסורה לינשא לו הרי זו זונה. וכן הגיורת והמשוחררת, אפילו נתגיירה ונשתחררה פחותה מבת שלש שנים, הואיל ואינה בת ישראל הרי זו זונה ואסורה לכהן. וכן יבמה שבא עליה זר, עשאה זונה. וי"א שהבא על חייבי עשה או על חייבי לאוין, אפילו חייבי לאוין דשאר, לא עשאה זונה, חוץ מהבא על היבמה.

29 comments :

  1. The best Poskim for this sort of thing is the Va'ad HaKohanim. http://www.hakohanim.org/ At their head is Rabbi Eliashiv, and they specialize in Kohanic issues(more than just marriage). My suggestion would be to contact them immediately, and start the process moving.

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  2. On further thought... this story seems to be problematic. The pathology of HSV simply does not fit the details given. 2-3 weeks after initial infection a person will develop painful lesions and ulcers. With occasional recurrence after that. So I am at a loss to understand how the wife could have been infected in excess of 9yrs without knowledge of the incident.

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  3. What a lovely neighbor to take on the job of destroying a marriage! What generosity of spirit and mastery of epidemiological knowledge the author of this letter has as well. How creative and artistic the community members are to have created a rumor that a couple, (but only the wife of that couple,) has been afflicted with an embarrassing disease, a disease acquired by contact with non-rabbinically-approved people. Now it will be possible to exile the woman and to declare her children UNCLEAN FOR 10 GENERATIONS.

    The husband can be assumed to be unsullied by disease. He can be tracked into another marriage, and if any nasty rumors emerge about his new bride, those will be entirely her fault.

    In this festive season it is traditional to extend forgiveness to those who have acted badly. The neighbors, the author of the letter, and any rabbis that they manage to draw into this destructive mean-spirited campaign are no exception. We must pray that we will be able to forgive them. We must pray that they will see the error of their ways.

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  4. Prisstopolis said...

    What a lovely neighbor to take on the job of destroying a marriage! What generosity of spirit and mastery of epidemiological knowledge the author of this letter has as well. How creative and artistic the community members are to have created a rumor that a couple, (but only the wife of that couple,) has been afflicted with an embarrassing disease, a disease acquired by contact with non-rabbinically-approved people
    =================
    What disturbing self-righteous ignorance Prisstopolis displays in this letter. There is a basis requirement of the Torah to stop Jews from sinning. The thoughtful neighbor and the letter writer were being helpful. Ignorance is not bliss. Why do you think that it is better for this couple to live a life of sin? Perhaps you are objecting to the existence of the Torah prohibition of a cohen marrying a woman who has had sexual relations with a non-Jew?

    Please consult a rabbi next time before spouting ignorant nonsense.

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  5. A neighbor of mine once encountered a similar problem. The Rav ruled that without Shomer Shabbos witnesses, her alleged indiscretions never occurred, and that furthermore her testimony against herself could not be accepted. He had said that just as we don't look to uncover mamzeris, we also don't try to break up a Jewish home or disqualify Cohanim.

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  6. Eliezer said...

    A neighbor of mine once encountered a similar problem. The Rav ruled that without Shomer Shabbos witnesses, her alleged indiscretions never occurred, and that furthermore her testimony against herself could not be accepted. He had said that just as we don't look to uncover mamzeris, we also don't try to break up a Jewish home or disqualify Cohanim.
    =====================
    The issue of mamzerim is different since there is no prohibition unless it is established there is mamzeris. In contrast in the present case if there is a prohibition it exists independently of the awareness of the facts.

    Perhaps you could argue that there are times when we are to not ask or rather not believe. This occurs in cases of rape where the cohen husband is told not to believe his wife - and then there is no requirement to be divorced. It also is used in cases of adultery.
    However it is not clear to a posek I just consulted that such an approach is permitted in the present case.

    The Igros Moshe has a number of discussions of related cases in the beginning of E.H. I.
    In particular E.H. 1:24 which deals with the case of a woman who after 10 years of marriage to a cohen tells her husband that 2 years before they were married she was sexually assaulted by an Arab. The case hinges on whether the wife's statement is to be believed by the husband. Rav Moshe notes that one of the reasons for not requiring divorce is that the wife is now saying that she lied. Thus she is not believed in what she says regarding the assault because he only believes her if he knows that she never lied. It is an extensive teshuva and needs to be read carefully. Rav Moshe also has a long discussion as to whether she is prohibited to be with her husband even though he is permitted to be with her since he doesn't accept her testimony. See E.H. I 14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23

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  7. "Please consult a rabbi next time before spouting ignorant nonsense."

    "The issue of mamzerim is different since there is no prohibition unless it is established there is mamzeris. In contrast in the present case if there is a prohibition it exists independently of the awareness of the facts."

    What is the difference? In both cases there is an issur if it is established. Nevertheless, a mamzer who knows he is a mamzer should just not talk, and if necessary should move to place where people do not know him. In this case, the woman should just not talk. If she would have consulted Reb Moshe in private, that is what he would have told her. In Igros Moshe you find only what can be written. Regarding the neighbor messing in people's lives, prisstopolis is right. There is absolutely no obligation to research someone else's life, or his wife's life, to make sure they do not live in sin. Reb Moshe has a Teshuva - I am not sure if it has been published - in which he says that whereas there is an obligation to keep and preserve records regarding people's status, there is no obligation to volunteer information on the basis of these records.

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  8. מושל said...

    "Please consult a rabbi next time before spouting ignorant nonsense."

    "The issue of mamzerim is different since there is no prohibition unless it is established there is mamzeris. In contrast in the present case if there is a prohibition it exists independently of the awareness of the facts."

    What is the difference? In both cases there is an issur if it is established.
    =====================
    Why don't you study a bit more Torah before you start poskening? Rav Sternbuch does not share your halachic understanding, neither does another posek that I consulted. The original rav consulted in this case also didn't feel the matter should have been ignored.

    Your understanding of mamzer vs other prohibitions is simply wrong. You might want to consult my index Yad Moshe and study the sections dealing with mamzerim. While you don't differentiate - Rav Moshe does.

    Bottom line - if you have a conversation with someone that brings up a halachic issue - a rav should be consulted. Mamzerus should not be investigated without a specific directive from a rav. But neither should you ignore issues - without a specific directive from a rav.

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  9. From where comes your need to write so sharply? Not everything can be written. Not everything can be proven on a public forum. If you know people from Reb Moshe's inner circle, I suggest you show them what I wrote.

    Two weeks ago someone told me that by accident he found out something about a certain Cohen's mother that would invalidate his Kehuna. Along the lines of this case, but a little different. Should he tell the Cohen this Lashon Hara about his mother? I told him no.

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  11. מושל said...

    From where comes your need to write so sharply? Not everything can be written. Not everything can be proven on a public forum. If you know people from Reb Moshe's inner circle, I suggest you show them what I wrote.

    Two weeks ago someone told me that by accident he found out something about a certain Cohen's mother that would invalidate his Kehuna. Along the lines of this case, but a little different. Should he tell the Cohen this Lashon Hara about his mother? I told him no.
    ====================
    The problem is you are poskening - regarding a rather sensitive issue and you are also condemning the actions of poskim who disagree with you. From what you have written so far I don't see any evidence that you understand the matter. Are you a recgonized posek? What sources are you relying on? On what basis did you decide to tell someone not only that he should not reveal some sensitive information but it would appear that you also indicated there was no basis to ask a posek how the matter should be handled.

    When this matter was presented to Rav Sternbuch he asked that I make further inquires to clarify the matter since he viewed it as a very serious situation. According to you he should have said - "there is no need to discuss this matter since the less we know the better off we are."

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  12. The situation has become serious. The woman should not have talked, also not to her husband. I did not say she should not have asked a posek. Note that I wrote that if she would have asked Reb Moshe, he would have told her not to talk. I notice that you did not deny this.

    I mentioned reb Moshe, because you cited him in the opposite direction. However, the sharp observer will discern what I claim even in what you described: "The case hinges on whether the wife's statement is to be believed by the husband. Rav Moshe notes that one of the reasons for not requiring divorce is that the wife is now saying that she lied."

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  13. Regarding the distinction between mamzer and other prohibited relations Rav Moshe writes the following.[see the whole 6 page teshuva]

    שו"ת אגרות משה אבן העזר חלק ד סימן ט.3

    דכל איסורן דעבד וממזר הוא רק להיודע שהוא עבד וממזר אף אם לא ידע שאסורין אבל להאין יודעין שהוא עבד וממזר אין שום איסור ולא הוי כעובר בשוגג ובאונס. ולכן אין מחוייבין לגלות כיון שליכא תקלה אחרי שאין יודעין וממילא אסורין לגלות מפני כבוד הבריות הכשרין שנתערבו בהם. וה"ה שאף בלא נתערב ליכא איסור להאין יודעין דהא לפ"ז מה שחלוק מכל איסורין הוא שבכל איסורין הוי עצם החתיכה והמעשה לבד האיסור ולכן בכל אופן נעשה איסור, אך לענין עונשין יש פטור אם הי' שוגג או אנוס, אבל בממזר הוי הידיעה חלק בהאיסור, שההתחתנות והתקרבות ממזרות ועבדות בכשרות הוא האיסור ולא עצם האיש, וכשלא ידע שהוא ממזר ועבד ונושא בחזקת כשר נמצא שהיתה ההתחתנות כשרות בכשרות שזה לא נאסר.
    =====TRANSLATION
    The prohibition concerning marrying a slave or mamzer is only for those who know that the person is a slave or mamzer however if it is not known that the person is a slave or mamzer there is absolutely no prohibition and if such a person is married it is not even considered shogeg (an accidental transgression) or onas (unavoidable transgression). Therefore it is not necessary to reveal the fact that a person is a mamzer since there is no transgression since the information is not known and therefore it is prohibited to reveal the information because of the respect of those non-mamzerim who are involved...Mamzer is thus different from all other types of prohibited relations because with all the other prohibited relations the sexual relations are inherently prohibited and thus the act itself is prohibited and therefore the act is prohibited under any and all conditions. However regarding all other prohibitions there are mitigating circumstances (such as shogeg or onas) which can exempt the person from punishment for doing the prohibited act. In contrast regarding mamzer the knowldedge about the mamzer is an integral part of the prohibition. It is non-mamzer marrying a known mamzer which is prohibited and not the fact of marrying that person. So therefore when a non-mamzer marries a mamzer without knowing it was a mamzer the marriage is valid and is absolutely not prohibited.

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  14. I believe that it was Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu who wrote the Sephardic halachic position on this exact question, that the wife is not to be believed; the couple should stay together.

    I have been having trouble finding the exact reference, perhaps someone else might know specifically.

    i know of two major Poskim (one from Baltimore and one from LA) who have married Cohanim to women who had previously been married to Gentiles and who had children from their Gentile spouses.

    When I asked the Rav in LA, how it is permitted, I was told that a marriage between a Jew and a Gentile is not a marriage but a rape. A woman who is raped is not a zonah and would not be forbidden to a Kohen according to the opinions that this Rav relied upon.

    According to this Rav, for a woman to be a zonah her behavior has to be knowing and willing. A Baalot Teshuva, before becoming religious is not liable for understanding the consequences of behavior that is considered normal by the standards of every American college student but which is forbidden by the Torah.

    I would assume that there are respected opinions to support this as another Kohen I know was married to a woman who was previously married with children to a Gentile and this marriage was performed by a Rav from Ner Israel.

    It is extremely difficult for many older Kohanim to get married. Even more so if the Kohen is a Baal Teshuva.

    Many women in the shiddach parsha will automatically exclude themselves from dating Kohanim because this is what they have been incorrectly advised to do.

    I urge shadchanim or women in the shiddach parsha to ask a reliable Posek before excluding women from dating Cohanim, as it is not usually black and white.

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  15. " On further thought... this story seems to be problematic. The pathology of HSV simply does not fit the details given. 2-3 weeks after initial infection a person will develop painful lesions and ulcers. With occasional recurrence after that. So I am at a loss to understand how the wife could have been infected in excess of 9yrs without knowledge of the incident."

    A latex allergy can be misdiagnosed as herpes. Most undergarments contain latex and typically a person develops a sensitivity to latex after suffering other immune issues (ie taking medication, pregnancy, etc).

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  16. There is also the angle of whether or not the husband is in fact a bone fide kohen.

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  17. Reb Moshe's talmidOctober 20, 2008 at 2:14 AM

    Reb Moshe would try to undermine the kehuna of the husband. Does a religious person know that he is a Cohen? If he heard from a mechalel Shabbos father Reb Moshe was matir lidino, but gave a brocho that the marriage would be botal, or the engagement, and that is what happened. That was in Or Somayach in Monsey years ago.

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  18. Rav Sternbuch asked whether the mother of the husband was in fact a baalas teshuva herself. If so it might be possible to establish that the husband is not actually a cohen.

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  19. Regarding the uniqueness of mamzerus, see R. Hershel Schachter's article about Ethiopian Jewry (RJJ Journal, Spring 1985), pp. 156-157:

    Although normally when faced with a doubt regarding a Biblical law we opt for the more stringent of two possible courses of action (sfeka d'oraita lechumra), the law of mamzerut is one of several notable exceptions to the rule. The Gemara in Kiddushin deduces from a verse that safek mamzer eino mamzer - on a Biblical level, a doubtful case of mamzerut is not classified mamzerut. Only rabbinically is a safek mamzer considered a mamzer. The Avnei Nezer explains the mechanics of this law. This is not a case of a safek d'oraita being treated leniently. Rather an essential condition for the existence of mamzerut is yediat ha'issur - a clear knowledge and determination that the issur is present. This knowledge is lacking in the case of a safek mamzer, Safek yediah (doubtful knowledge), according to Torah law, does not qualify as yediah(knowledge), and, therefore, the issur mamzerut cannot begin. And even when the Rabbis declared a safek mamzer to be a mamzer, they did not do away with the requirement of yediat ha'issur, but declared instead that a safek yediah is considered a partial yediah. For this reason, when there is absolutely no yediat ha'issur we do not fear for mamzerut. This is the basis of the ruling that mishpacha shenitme'ah - nitme'ah, i.e. when it has become wholly unknown whether mamzerut exists within a family, the stain ceases to be a consideration. Should a particular individual know of the mamzerut, he need not alert others to its presence. Moreover, writes the Avnei Nezer, the person who knows about the mamzerut may even officiate as Rabbi in marrying the "mamzer" and another Jew. If there is no yediah (knowledge), there is no issur.

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  20. In response to my prior post, Daas Torah said

    "The case hinges on whether the wife's statement is to be believed by the husband. Rav Moshe notes that one of the reasons for not requiring divorce is that the wife is now saying that she lied. Thus she is not believed in what she says regarding the assault because he only believes her if he knows that she never lied. It is an extensive teshuva and needs to be read carefully. Rav Moshe also has a long discussion as to whether she is prohibited to be with her husband even though he is permitted to be with her since he doesn't accept her testimony. See E.H. I 14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23"

    Wouldn't that apply in this case as well? Why accept her testimony?

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  21. I once made a shiddach between a couple who were both Baalei Teshuva. During the engagement period, the man was told by his frum grandfather that he is a Kohen (he grew up in the West with very non religious parents. His father's family were frum and lived in Brooklyn).

    The couple went to their Rav in Crown Heights who paskened that since the man's mother had gone away to college he was challal, and the Rav performed the marriage. The Rav ruled that no woman who "lived away from her father's house" before marriage could be reliably fit for a Kohen, in America where the majority are not Jewish and therefore the young man was Challal.

    The couple were very satisfied with that ruling and today they are happily married with a large family.

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  22. Discussed the Igros Moshe with Rav Sternbuch. He said simply that the husband has no obligation to believe his wife. That in fact he agreed with the view stated in the Igros Moshe E.H. 1:24. I mentioned that Rav Moshe also says that in a case of a wife confessing to adultery the husband not does not have to believe her but is encouraged not to since it was a takana of Chazal not to believe her. Rav Sternbuch agreed that this was comparable and that it is legitimate to try and convince the husband not to believe because this showed a lack of faith in Chazal.
    He did add one concern - the husband in fact has to come to not believe the wife's assertion in order for them to avoid the need to divorce.

    He also suggested the alternative path of finding that the husband is not a valid cohen - but in this case the husband refuses to consider this option
    ===========
    On another note - the issue of herpes seems to not be relevant.

    In addition it might be appropriate for the wife to receive psychological counselling since it seems she is falling apart and that this itself might be the reason why she "confessed".

    In sum, intercourse with a non-Jew prior to marriage prohibits the marriage. However if the claim is revealed after marriage there is a strong justification for not believing her and no divorce is required. As in all such delicate matters a posek needs to be consulted by the couple and the above is simply general guidelines.

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  23. "Jersey Girl said...

    i know of two major Poskim (one from Baltimore and one from LA) who have married Cohanim to women who had previously been married to Gentiles and who had children from their Gentile spouses.

    When I asked the Rav in LA, how it is permitted, I was told that a marriage between a Jew and a Gentile is not a marriage but a rape. A woman who is raped is not a zonah and would not be forbidden to a Kohen according to the opinions that this Rav relied upon."

    This doesen't make sense! This would be in direct contradiction of every halacha. The Gemmaras dealing with this issue are Yevamot 19a; 56b; 59b; 56b; 60b; 59a; 61a; 59b; 60a; 61a The Rif deals with this on Rif Yevamot 19a. Also see the Rambam Issurei Biah 17 and 18. This is further brought down in Shulhan Arukh Even HaEzer. The Noda B'Yehuda gives a great Responsa Even HaEzer 71.

    In the case when a Kohen's wife is raped in the city one still needs to be very careful. There have been many cases where a man has gone to a Rav and said, "my wife has been raped what do I do" and the answer is "divorce her." The only way that a husband can stay married to his wife, is to say, "I don't believe you."

    This sounds like an interesting psak, and I would love to see a full Teshuva, but in the end I don't think that it really holds any valid weight.

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  24. Question,
    if a kohen has a mother who had an affair with her husband but the affair occored long after the child/kohen was born, is that person still a cohen?

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  25. Question,
    if a kohen has a mother who had an affair with her husband but the affair occored long after the child/kohen was born, is that person still a cohen?
    ==========
    I don't understand your question. What does it mean that the mother commits adultery had an affair with her husband?
    Do you mean, "Does the status of a cohen change retroactively if his mother commits adultery after he is born - rather than prior to his birth?"
    As far as I know, there is no retroactive nullification.

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  26. The source Gemmarra for this is Sotah, I believe around Daf 18, though perhaps as late as 20. It is on ongoing discussion of the possibilities of infidelity in a Cohen's wife. The essential issue is her status at the time of the birth of the child. If she was a valid wife when the child was born, he is a Kohen. If not then he is not. Essentially there is not retro-active nullification.

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  27. If the kohen can find a way not to believe his wife and stay in the marriage, would he still be a kohen? What about his son?

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  28. cohen query said...

    If the kohen can find a way not to believe his wife and stay in the marriage, would he still be a kohen? What about his son?
    ==============
    the cohen remains a cohen and his children are cohanim acccording to halacha.

    Since there is no valid evidence against their status as cohanim they remain cohanim.

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  29. I would really like more info on the rav who gave the heter . Raquelanskysuissa@hotmail.ca

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