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A friend and I were discussing this. Generally speaking, it seems that it should be impossible for a person to be a kohen (rather than a chalal) and also a mamzer, because the set of women whom a kohen is forbidden to marry, and by whom his children would be chalalim, includes all of the arayos (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 6:8).

However, in 7:14 it says that if a kohen impregnates such a woman the first time they have relations, then indeed the child is a mamzer but not a chalal. Chelkas Mechokek (:24) and Beis Shmuel (:37) point out that there's no real practical difference until the next generation: if the result of such a union is a daughter, and eventually a kohen wishes to marry her, he will be warned that she is forbidden to him as a mamzeres rather than as a chalalah.

So the question: is the child indeed a kohen in that case (which would seem to be implied by the statement that he is "not a chalal")? If so, then isn't there a greater practical difference - that if the child is a boy, he'll have to keep all of the laws of a kohen, and can perform birkas kohanim?

Another data point is that when checking family lineage, "we don't need to check beyond the altar" (Rambam, Hil. Issurei Bi'ah 20:2 from Kiddushin 76a), because any kohen who served in the Beis Hamikdash will have been thoroughly vetted. But if there can be a case, as above, where a person is a mamzer but still a kohen, why wouldn't he be able to perform the avodah?

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Note that Kiddushin 4:1 lists mamzerim separately from kohanim, so it would seem impossible to be both. –  Double AA May 23 '12 at 14:08
    
I don't think 'not a chalal' necessarily implies 'is a kohen'. –  Double AA May 23 '12 at 14:11
    
@DoubleAA (first comment): not much of a proof - mamzerim are also listed separately from Levi'im and Yisraelim. (Second comment:) Then what would it mean? Surely he's not simply a Yisrael, since his father is a kohen and his mother - at first biah - was not a zonah/chalalah. –  Alex May 23 '12 at 15:35
    
Alex: (first comment): In hachi nami! A mamzer (I think) is neither a yisrael nor a levi nor a kohein; he is a mamzer. I'm still hunting for a gemara (kiddushin?) that says mamzerim from leviim do not get maaser rishon. (second comment) I'm not entirely sure yet, but I think it may just be that he's only talking about the din of chalalim and not worrying about side-points, like which of these cases is a mamzer or not. –  Double AA May 23 '12 at 16:22
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@DoubleAA: I see where Erachin 33b says that according to Rebbi, a Levi's son who is a mamzer or a nasin (because his mother was one) doesn't get the special treatment accorded to a Levi when it comes to buying back real property in Eretz Yisrael. If you can find a source that applies this to other cases, like maaser, I'd be interested to see it. –  Alex May 23 '12 at 17:19

1 Answer 1

Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz clearly said in a halacha shiur that a Kohen cannot be a mamzer according to all poskim. The have no kedushas kehuna.

Now, regarding people who claim to be Kohanim now days in general, many poskim say that they are not "really" kohanim and therefore we are lenient with not treating them as kohanim. See http://www.oraltorah.org for more.

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Then what's the status of the child in the question? –  Double AA Sep 27 '12 at 17:19
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(Also, I don't see the relevance of the second paragraph to this question. Can you (or anyone) explain? If not I move for removing it.) –  Double AA Sep 27 '12 at 17:20
    
@DoubleAA I was guessing that Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz (Berkovits?) was basing his ruling on kohanim not really being kohanim (maybe something about safeik sfeika?) –  b a Sep 28 '12 at 1:38

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