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Deuteronomy 23:3: A bastard shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter into the assembly of the LORD.

Why can't an illegitimate child enter the temple? And what's wrong with the seventh or eighth generation entering in?

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See also: The assembly of the LORD on Biblical Hermeneutics. –  Jon Ericson Aug 7 '12 at 21:32
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Just to clarify the Hebrew word used which is translated as "assembly" is קהל which means (according to Google): crowd, public, community, throng, assembly, gathering. –  Double AA Aug 8 '12 at 3:05
    
@DoubleAA That doesn't make a difference. My question is about the goodness of God not the place/location. –  Monika Michael Aug 8 '12 at 14:27
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@MonikaMichael I wasn't trying to answer hence the comment. It does clarify though that the Hebrew word does not seem to mean a place or location but rather a people or nation as the current answer suggests. I was just explaining how that was actually a more literal meaning of the verse. –  Double AA Aug 8 '12 at 14:37
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@DoubleAA That is informative. Perhaps I should bring more of my Old testament curiosities over here. :) –  Monika Michael Aug 8 '12 at 14:40
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

(Source: Sefer HaChinuch 576 in the Venice edition, 560 in the Frankfurt edition)

The commandment in that verse doesn't really refer to entering the temple — the language is that he can't enter the assembly. This is the way of saying that he can't marry into the nation. However, to live in the same cities as them, to trade and do business with them, etc., is permissible.

The reason for this is because the rough definition of a bastard is that he was born from an adulterous relationship, with thoughts of impurity. If so, the nature of the father is certainly hidden in the son, and so G-d made the rule that he can't have any more offspring to keep them away from us,(*) because G-d keeps us away from all kinds of bad things.

And as for the question of why the tenth generation is any different than the seventh or eighth, the truth is that it means forever (Rambam, Isurei Biah 15:1).

(*) msh210 believes that the correct reading is "to keep him (the bastard) away from us," and his belief seems to me to be the correct one.

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+1. I was penning almost the same answer when I saw this had been posted, but I'd add that "bastard" or "illegitimate child" is also a poor translation (it refers to product of a married woman and a man not her husband, or incest) and "even to the tenth generation" means for all time. –  msh210 Aug 7 '12 at 22:30
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Er, actually, "G-d made the rule that he can't have any more offspring to continue that trait" doesn't seem quite right: the Chinuch says God made the rule to distance the mamzer from "us" (i.e. the marriage or relations are the problem, not the offspring; note that he can marry a mamzeres!). I guess I'll post my own answer after all. –  msh210 Aug 7 '12 at 22:33
    
You're right in both of your comments. I made changes to fix it. –  b a Aug 7 '12 at 22:37
    
I think even your fix "G-d made the rule that he can't have any more offspring to keep them away from us" is not quite correct: I think the Chinuch is speaking of the mamzer himself as being kept from us, not his kids. (That's how I read it, anyway; I could of course be wrong.) –  msh210 Aug 7 '12 at 22:39
    
@msh210 But then how do you explain what he writes in the beginning about all the things we can do with mamzerim? –  b a Aug 7 '12 at 22:42
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