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A (not-so-observant) friend of mine recently told me that his great-grandfather was put into cheirem and, not being able to have children while in cheirem, his descendants (including my friend) are unable to marry halachically. I’d never heard of anything like that but, unable to find a comprehensive explanation on what exactly cheirem entails, I thought I’d ask a few related questions that come to mind:

Does the fact that a Jewish court put someone in cheirem mean that they are universally see as being in cheirem, separated from the entire Jewish people, or is it only that particular community that they are restricted from certain interactions with?

Can you really not have children in cheirem?

Is cheirem something that your descendants are stuck with forever, or does it only apply to the person it was placed on originally?

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing your question here. Restrictions on having children (assuming he was already married at the time) would surprise me, as they would run up against his obligations to his wife and p'ru urvu (be fruitful and multiply). Is there any chance that "couldn't have children" referred not to a prohibition but to another problem? – Monica Cellio Oct 13 '13 at 17:04
To be honest, it would surprise me if any of it were true, but I wouldn't tell the person that he is wrong or misinformed because I myself don't know much about any of the relevant issues, which is why I asked. I'm not sure what you mean by "another problem", but being that he did have children (of which my friend is descended) while in cheirem, I assumed the issue must have been a halachic one that was disregarded. – ALJG Oct 13 '13 at 21:25
Oh duh; you're right that your question makes it clear that your friend's ancestor was the result of a birth during cheirem. Sorry. – Monica Cellio Oct 13 '13 at 22:57
up vote 3 down vote accepted

What you're describing sounds more like mamzerus than cherem, one should investigate this with an Orthodox Rabbi rather than here, as mamzerus is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with properly. Otherwise, I've never heard of someone in cherem alone who was prevented from having children. Rarely does cherem extend outside of a local community, and it regulates ones social relationship between fellow Jews and oneself, not one's decendents, or marriage.

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