Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Kohain and the Daughter of a Jewish Mother by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Five Towns Jewish Times   In the United States, the spiraling and out-of control assimilation rate in the past few decades has yielded a number of children with Jewish mothers and gentile fathers.  In the past few decades as well, the Baal Teshuvah movement has created an inspiring influx of Jews returning to their Torah roots.  The combination of both of these trends, however, has brought the following halachic question up hundreds, if not thousands, of times:  

May a girl whose father was not Jewish marry or date a Kohain?

One young lady who recently posed this question to this author explained:  “I have dated more modern-orthodox Kohanim who told me that they looked into it and their Rabbis said that it was okay.  But I have also looked into more Yeshivesh Kohanim, and their Rabbi forbade it.  Will the real halacha please stand up?”[...]

Notwithstanding all the factors discussed above, it was the conclusion of both Rav Elyashiv zt”l and Rav Moshe Feinstein not to rely on the leniencies involved here and not consider such cases as b’dieved. This is the normative view in the Torah world. It is this author’s understanding, however, that there have been some modern orthodox Rabbis who have expressed leniencies in the scenarios described above.

May a Rabbi officiate at such a wedding?  It is this author’s view that it should be avoided unless the issue of taharas mishpacha is at stake.  If the couple will not be observing taharas hamishpacha on account of the Rabbi not participating then he should be involved in such a wedding.  Otherwise he should avoid it.  

May such a Kohain duchen on Yom Tov or in Israel.  It seems that since he may remain married to her if he did marry, he did not lose his status as a Kohain (see Shvus Yaakov Vol. I #93 – indicating likewise).


  1. Very interesting question -

    Also, what about the reverse situation - the son of a Kohein man, and a non Jewish woman. Does the son have any inherent "kehuna" either before or after he re-converts to Judaism? The reason is that patrilineally, he is a Cohen, whether or not he was born halachically Jewish.

    1. how can someone be a cohen if he has to convert?

    2. the whole concept of matrilineal and patrilineal in Judaism is illogical.

      How can someone be from Shevet Yehuda (Jewish) if his father was Bill o'Donald, an Irish catholic, etc?

      I am not saying he is a halachic cohen, but he is still a cohen on the paternal genetic side. Hence the paradox.

    3. A child of a gentile father and Jewish mother is NOT from Shevet Yehuda.

  2. Can anybody give one example of a Rav Elyashiv zt”l psak that has been on the lenient side of the spectrum?

  3. Rich - there are many. Why dont you crack open one of his various seforim?

    But since you ask for only one I'll give you`one. He is lenient about making a bris on shabbos for a baby born via ivf.

    1. Who says that is a Kula, it may be a Chumra of Bris Mila.

    2. It's a kula because chillul Shabbos is a d'oraysa while making the bris on the 9th day instead of the 8th is not.

    3. That is true, but he could only Pasken like that if he felt that IVF has no impact on Hilchos Mila... it still doesn't show a lenient position in this case only a clarification on the babies status.

    4. It is definitely a kula regarding Hilchos Shomer Shabbos, a d'oraysa.

    5. I will try to explain this one more time... The concept of a Chumra and a Kula is when there are two or more options and we take either the stringent or lenient position. Example, Safek Brachos Lehakeil... a person is unsure if he made a Bracha Reshona, maybe he did, maybe he didn't, we take the lenient position and say, don't make another Beracha because it is a Safek DeRabanan.. that is a Kula.

      Now our case... The only way that there can be a question of a Chumra or a Kula is if there was a question as to the status of this child regarding the day of the Bris. As you rightly point out Shabbos is Deorisa and therefore if there was a question (like with a baby born Bein Hashmosos) he would be unable to Pasken "Lekula" since it is a Safek Deorisa that always goes Lechumra. The only reason that Rav Elyashiv could have Paskened that the Bris is on Shabbos is because he held there is NO SAFEK and therefore the Bris is on its scheduled time.. not Midin Kula but because there is no Safek in the first place. I hope that explains it.

  4. Here are another two of the many lenient rulings from RYSE:

    Rav Elyashiv ruled that hot water running from a faucet is considered a Kli Sheni (כלי שני), while most other deciders of Halacha have ruled that such water is considered a Kli Rishon (כלי ראשון).

    Another is example is regarding the law of the separation of meat and milk regarding eating meat and needing to wait six hours before eating milk products and whether you count the six hours from the beginning or end of the meal.

  5. He said even if you hold NYC water is buggy (he officially did) you could use a filter on shabbos and it isn't borer. This reflect a lenient position on a machlokes about parameters of definition of pesoles

    1. Many great poskim had both strictures and leniencies. The Chazon Ish was ultra machmir in shiurim. But regarding the relationship with secular, he said they are no longer considered to be kofrim but tinnok shenishba, and hence we bring them back with chords of love.

      The Chatam Sofer, was ultra machmir on anything new - but it went for kulas as well as chumras.

  6. Rav Ovadia Yosef permitted a Cohen to marry a woman with a non Jewish father in 2006.

    1. Recipients and PublicityAugust 12, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      Good to see you Jersey Girl! Hopefully you can participate in the discussions more frequently. Kesiva VeChasima Tova to you and yours!

  7. Recipients and PublicityAugust 12, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    " Rabbi Yair Hoffman said... In the past few decades as well, the Baal Teshuvah movement has created an inspiring influx of Jews returning to their Torah roots. The combination of both of these trends, however, has brought the following halachic question up hundreds, if not thousands, of times..."

    For the sake of the record and continuity, and for those who may not have been around when this blog got going in 2007-2008, posts about the above issues relating to the history and latest and last stages of the filed of Kiruv-outreach to secular Jews were discussed in the following posts as an outgrowth of the furious debates of EJF trying to do "kiruv" to the non-Jewish spouses in interfaith marriages, bu converting the non-Jewish spouse to Judaism:

    * Kiruv I - The end of kiruv as we know it! (July 18, 2008)
    * Kiruv II - Paradigm change for outreach workers (July 18, 2008)
    * Kiruv III - Antisemitism reduces kiruv?/Kiruv is not formal Yiddishkeit (July 19, 2008)
    * Kiruv IV - Chabad - kiruv experts who don't follow the rules (July 19, 2008)
    * Kiruv V - Orthodox and Reform meld - the slippery slope (July 20, 2008)
    * Kiruv VI - an embarrassingly shoddy attack on Aish HaTorah (July 20, 2008)
    * Kiruv VII - Aish HaTorah - what makes it tick? (July 21, 2008)
    * Kiruv VIII - Kiruv's corporate culture & soul (July 21, 2008)
    * Kiruv IX - Aish HaTorah as viewed by secular Jewish critics (July 21, 2008)
    * Kiruv X - Criticism - Appropriate response to real and phoney criticism (July 21, 2008)
    * Kiruv XI - Present Judaism as positive? Or scary demanding system? (July 22, 2008)
    * Kiruv XII - Torah mitzva for kiruv (July 22, 2008)
    * Kiruv - Useless Scholasticism to ask for Torah sources?! I (July 23, 2008)
    * Kiruv - Useless Scholasticism to ask for Torah source?! II (July 24, 2008)
    * Kiruv XIII - Entering the final closing stage of kiruv (July 24, 2008)
    * Kiruv XIV - Aish HaTorah - Is there a better way? (August 10, 2008)
    * Kiruv - Lying to make someone religious?! (September 5, 2008)

    Plus many other related posts focusing on Chabad, Breslov, EJF, Shavie Israel and many other informative posts over the past FIVE years.


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