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  • Halacha
  • Cohen's Marriage

Kohen, Safek, or Chalal?

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Rabbi David Sperling

Nisan 2, 5778
Question
Shalom Rabbi, My father has always held that both he and I are Kohanim. Only recently did we become aware that a Kohen cannot marry a woman who had relations with a non-Jew, and the implications. That said, my mother has confirmed to me in conversation that she dated and was fully intimate with a non-Jew prior to meeting my father. At this point as an adult, strictly according to Jewish Law, am I a Kohen, Safek or Chalal? Would I be permitted to marry a divorcee, convert, etc?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are correct that a Cohen is not allowed to marry a woman who has had relations with a non-Jew – and if they do, the children they have (and the husband) are considered as Chalal, that is “defective” Cohanim, who loose the rights of honour that Cohen has, such as blessings the congregation, and receiving the first call up when reading the Torah. However, in your case the situation is somewhat different. Your knowledge of your mother's relations with a non-Jew comes only through your mother's statements to you. According to halacha, she does not the authority to disqualify you or your father. (Had the knowledge of her relationship been widespread the situation may be different). A person has the power to testify about themselves, but that power does not continue to the extant that they are believed for all the consequences of their statement, as to how it affects other people. Because of this, you and your father remain in the Cohanic status you have always had. Blessings.
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