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
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 14:08
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    @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
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 15:35
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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
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 17:19
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    See Tosefta Yevamot 8:1 that a mamzer from a levi doesn't get maaser.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 6:35
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    Minchat chinuch 264 has a long bit about this. I'll try and post an answer in a bit.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 16:21

3 Answers 3


The Chelkas Mechokek Even Haezer 7, 24 says that the halacha follows the vast majority of acharonim and all Rishonim (that discuss the concept) which include Himself, Bach, Prisha Who quotes the Magid Mishna and Rambam, Beis Shmuel,Beer Heitev, Ginas veradim (pri megadim),the Gra,also Teshuvos Rashba 1201 that a Mamzer Cohen can be Metamei lemeisim. Even though the Shulchan Aruch E.H 7,14 argues that the conception from the first Biah of a Cohen with an Erva -since she is only a Challala through a second biah- the resulting child does not become a challal and therefore is not allowed to be metamei Lemeisim (see Beis Yosef* and Taz who explains this), the Halacha seems to follow the Majority of Rishonim and Acharonim disregard this opinion:

"כבר כתבו האחרונים דאין נפקותא לדידן, דמאחר דהולד ממזר מכל העריות הוא גרע מחלל".
The Acharonim wrote since a mamzer can come from the forbidden relationships which a Yisroel is ossur to do whereas a Cholol only comes from uniquely Cohen forbidden relationships, so a mamzer is worst than a Cholol so everything that applies to a Cholol aplies to a Mamzer cohen

This means a Mamzer cohen is completely not a Cohen for everything including not doing Bircat Cohanim, and being able to contaminate himself with Tumat meit just like a Cholol. Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 7,20:

חלל של תורה הודאי הרי זו כזר ונושא גרושה ומטמא למתים שנאמר אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן אע"פ שהם בני אהרן עד שיהיו בכיהונם


\\\ignore the note if you are not familar with concepts///////
{*Note:The Beis Yosef seems to brings his proof to his opinion from Kiddushin 77b:
בפ' י' יוחסין (דף עז:) אהא דתנן אין חללה אלא מאיסורי כהונה א"ר אשי הלכך כהן הבא על אחותו זונה משוי לה חללה לא משוי לה חזר ובא עליה עשאה חללה ופרש"י חזר ובא עליה או הוא או כהן אחר עשאה חללה שהרי אסורה לו משום זונה שאינו נוהג אלא בכהונה
"A cohen that cohabits with his sister (or other Chayav Kareis unions) Makes her into a Zonah henceforth but she is not a Chalolo until the second time where she trangresses a kohein related issur of Zonah" This implies that while her son is a Mamzer from the first cohabitation she is not a chalolo yet rather only a zonah for the future, so her son still has a status of cohein even though he is a Mamzer.

The reason why nearly all the Acharonim argue with the Beis Yosef is mentioned in the Drisha:
ובאמת שבגמרא איתא גם שאר עריות וז"ל אמר רב אשי הלכך כהן הבא על אחותו כו' והיינו טעמא דבגמרא לא קאמר הנפקא מינה בולד אלא לענין תרומה שהיא עצמה נתחללה דמאי נפקא מינה שאין הולד נעשה מתחילה חלל הא הוה ממזר
"Really the Gemora Kiddushin 77b means that the woman from all erva relationships (not only his sister) becomes a challala only from the second Biah which means she can no longer have Teruma (even though she could have Teruma after the first Biah). but there no diferrence regarding the child whether the conception was from first or second biah, as the child from the first biah is also a Mamzer which includes being a chollol and does not need to be classified as a chollol (as he has lost his status of kohen just by being a Mamzer)}

  • See also Minchas Chinuch 264 and 267. I'm pretty sure the Avnei Miluim (as far as I can remember, Teshuvos #18?, but don't have a copy on hand) discusses this in a Hagaah...
    – chortkov2
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 20:59
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    @chortkov2 I've found it in Avnei Miluim (178) bringing Derisha & Bach. The haga'ah (from his son, I think) briefly discusses it, but neither go into much detail. The fancy modern commentary quotes some later acharonim (Imrei Moshe & Dvar Avraham) for the brave reader!
    – AKA
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 18:55

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

Now, regarding people who claim to be Kohanim nowadays in general, many poskim say that they are not true 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
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 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
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 17:20
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    Why is this upvoted? It's demonstrably not true! Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 13:28
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    I have no citation but I have been told that nowadays no one questions another’s claim to be a Kohen
    – JJLL
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 14:11

Perhaps the question can be reformulated. The case of the SA is understood by the OP eventually as this. The child is a mamzer and the SA says he's not chalal. Can we infer that a mamzer can be a kasher kohen?

First, the source is a statement in Gemara (Kiddushin 77b) Regarding how a woman becomes Chalala.

Soncino's translation

A halalah results from a priestly interdict only... Said Rav Ashi: Therefore if a priest has intercourse with his sister, he renders her zonah, not halalah.

It's logical that we cannot infer from Poskim a din that is not deductible from this source itself.

The Gemara addresses only the status of the woman.

The Rambam writes (Isure Bia 19.5)

When a priest engages in relations with one of the women forbidden as an ervah with the exception of a woman in the niddah state or with one of the woman who is forbidden because of a negative commandment that is universally applicable causes her to be deemed a zonah, as explained. If he - or another priest - engage in relations with her a second time, she becomes a challalah** and her offspring from [a priest] are challalim.

The last statement of the Rambam regards the offspring.

The Maggid Mishne explains that from the list of women prohibited from a Lav that is not Isure Kehuna, the prohipition of a Zekuka Leyibum, we have a Nafka Mina for the offspring. Indeed, in a such case, the offspring are not Mamzer, because Mamzer is only from Lav punished by Karet. So this offspring from the Zekuka Leyibum is not Mamzer and is not either Chalal because Chalal applies only for Isure Kehuna, prohibitions that regards Kohanim only. And the Zekuka leyabam is an Isur that regards also Israelim. So the offspring has no psul Chalalut from the first intercourse with a Cohen, because the Kohen doesn't still make the woman Zona.

The text in Hebrew of the Rambam Isure Bia 19.5, and Maggid Mishne is very clear.

The discussion in Acharonim is for a case in which the Kohen had with the Zekuka Leyabam an intercourse with marital intention. There are opinions in which the child is Mamzer Miderabanan. But this case is not the point of the OP.

In conclusion, the case in the SA cannot include cases in which the child is Mamzer, there is no reason to infer from the SA that a mamzer can be Kohen. It's absolutely impossible that the Rambam wrote a new Din without source, therefore, he made an inference from the Gemara regarding one case of offspring. See Beur Hagra 7.24.

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