In a recent conversation with several friends regarding ba'alei teshuva marrying Kohanim (specifically college students), one person present said that a Kohen can only marry a virgin. I contested this point based on the first Aliyah of Parshat Emor. Plus, I remember at least one explanation that said a regular Kohen can marry a widow, but cannot marry a divorcee. However, that same person says the prohibition for a regular Kohen is derived from the Kohen Gadol.

So, is a regular Kohen allowed to marry a widow or is he - like the Kohen Gadol - required to only marry a virgin?

  • +1. Only a Kohen Gadol, IIRC. +1 to Avrohom Yitzchok's answer. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 13:46
  • Although Avrohom Yitzchok is right in theory (and therefore +1), many rabbis will make regular exceptions for actual cases of kohanim. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 14:20
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    In spite of all these answers suggesting that only the Kohen Gadol must marry a virgin, there is a pretty widespread (though secondary) opinion that this applies to all kohanim l'chatchila.
    – SAH
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 16:08
  • Strict people such as Satmar make them marry virgins, al pi posuk.
    – SAH
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 21:36
  • a kohen can marry widows and theyre not virgins... so no that can't be correct.
    – shoshana
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 2:38

5 Answers 5


From this Chabad article the restrictions on whom a Kohen can marry are:

A kohen may not marry a ge’rusha (divorcee), chalalah (woman of defective kohen status), zonah (woman who previously violated certain sexual prohibitions), giyoret (convert) or chalutzah (a Levirate widow). If he does marry any of them, their children likewise become chalalim. Sons born do not have priestly status, and daughter may not marry kohanim.

The categories are explained in more detail on the site. An ordinary kohen may marry a widow. Only the Kohen Gadol is forbidden to marry a widow because Hashem commanded so in the Torah.

Obviously CYLOR for a real case.

ADDITION For @Zvi, who in the comment below asks for a non-Chabad source, this on Marital defilement is from Wikipedia.

A male Kohen may not marry a divorcee, a prostitute, a convert, or a dishonored woman (חללה) (Leviticus 21:7) A Kohen who enters into such a marriage loses the entitlements of his priestly status while in that marriage. The Kohen is not permitted to forgo his status and marry a woman prohibited to him (Leviticus 21:6-7). However, in the event that a Kohen transgresses a marital restriction, upon termination of the marriage the Kohen is allowed to re-assume his function and duties as a full Kohen.[citation needed]

Modern-day kohanim are also prohibited from marrying a divorcee (even their own divorced wife); a woman who has committed adultery, had been involved in incest, or had relations with a non-Jew; a convert; or the child of two converts. A born-Jewish woman who has had premarital relations may marry a kohen only if all of her partners were Jewish.

This at Jewish Answers.com explains the “zona. prostitute” prohibition;

“Zona” means a prostitute and refers to a Jewish woman who had sex with a non-Jew. A Kohen is designated by G’d to serve Him in a more intimate capacity that other Jews and, as such, he is required to maintain a higher spiritual level. He is not required to marry a virgin but he cannot marry a convert, a divorcee or a prostitute.

  • What is the reason for not marrying a convert? Couldn't some of the same issues be involved as a baal teshuva?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 13:57
  • @Daniel There might be similar issues, but not necessarily.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 14:08
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    Can anyone provide me with Halachik sources other than a Chabad article?
    – Zvi
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 8:29
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    @CharlesKoppelman I don't think we paskin like that opinion, and we forbid convertesses who converted even below the age of three, meaning (convert == zonah) just by definition, unrelated to other forms of zonah.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 17:08
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    @CharlesKoppelman AvrohomYizchok Daniel : See here judaism.stackexchange.com/a/22496/759 for more about the precise definition of a Zonah.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 23:21

An unmarried woman who had relations with a kosher Jew may marry a kohen (Even Haezer 6:8) and their children are kosher kohanim. Here is the full text of the Shulchan Aruch with the relevant line in bold:

שולחן ערוך אבן העזר הלכות פריה ורביה סימן ו סעיף ח

אי זו היא זונה, כל שאינה בת ישראל, או בת ישראל שנבעלה לאדם שהיא אסורה לינשא לו איסור השוה לכל, או שנבעלה לחלל אף על פי שהיא מותרת לינשא לו. לפיכך הנרבעת לבהמה, אף על פי שהיא בסקילה, לא נעשית זונה ולא נפסלה לכהונה, שהרי לא נבעלה לאדם. והבא על הנדה, אף על פי שהיא בכרת, לא נעשית זונה ולא נפסלה לכהונה, שהרי אינה אסורה לינשא לו. וכן הבא על הפנויה, אפי' היתה קדשה שהפקירה עצמה שהיא במלקות, לא נעשית זונה ולא נפסלה מכהונה, שהרי אינה אסורה לינשא לו. אבל הנבעלת לאחד מאיסורי לאוין השוין בכל ואינה מיוחדת בכהנים או מאיסורי עשה, וא"צ לומר למי שהיא אסורה לו משום ערוה, או לעובד כוכבים ועבד, הואיל והיא אסורה לינשא לו הרי זו זונה. וכן הגיורת והמשוחררת, אפילו נתגיירה ונשתחררה פחותה מבת שלש שנים, הואיל ואינה בת ישראל הרי זו זונה ואסורה לכהן. וכן יבמה שבא עליה זר, עשאה זונה. וי"א שהבא על חייבי עשה או על חייבי לאוין, אפילו חייבי לאוין דשאר, לא עשאה זונה, חוץ מהבא על היבמה.

  • Could you please post a link to the text? Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 18:14
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    edited to include full text Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 21:17

I am a Sephardic Kohen by tradition and by genetics. I can trace my ancestry back 17 generations. By the traditions of my paternal ancestors and supported by Ezekial a Kohen, a Kohen should only marry a virgin. This is the fence around the law that many Sephardic Kohanim have placed upon themselves. In the case of an older Kohanim past the age of normal child bearing he may follow the conventional outline as outlined by Chabad.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for sharing your tradition! I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. You may be particularly interested in our other questions about kohanim. If you don't mind, could you edit in to your answer where your family stems from? I know Persian and Moroccan Jews (for example) often have very different traditions.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 5:06

A Kohen cannot marry the people mentioned above. But that is only if he is 'still' a kohen and not himself a 'chollol'. Many BT Kohanim are themselves challolim that would allow them to marry anybody.

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    This seems more like a comment on the question, as it doesn't actually address the question, which was about "regular kohanim".
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 17:00
  • @DoubleAA "regular Kohen" in the question is clearly meant in contrast to "the Kohen Gadol".
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 5:41
  • @msh210 and also clearly implies both the regular kohen and the kohen gadol are kohanim.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 16:32
  • @DoubleAA, yes but I think in common speech a chalal is called a kohen. (I'm really not sure, though.)
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 16:37
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    Many BT kohanim have this problem that they find it difficult to find anyone except another BT who could possibly be classified a zonah. If they were a chalal which is very possible it would help them.
    – meir
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 18:21

It is not permitted to change the words of the tora; not to add restrictions to the existing laws, nor to take restrictions away from tha law. I have in front of me Leviticus 21:6 and 21:14, the last sentence. All 21:13 and 21:14 only applies to the kohen gadol (who is an a position of having been anointed)

So, if you are not a virgin you may marry a kohen, but he can not become a kohen gadol, as long as you both are married.

They (the rabbis) speak about the kohan´s privileges: where are my privileges as long as the Jewish people are governed by the rabbis instead of the kohanim?

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    Just last month I gave a local kohein a sheep's jaw, maw, and paw. Your privileges are still quite available if you know where to find them.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 8:15
  • @mikita, I am curious as to your source for the following assertion: "So, if you are [NOT] a virgin you may marry a kohen, but he can not become a kohen gadol, as long as you both are married." BTW I added the word NOT as it's missing. Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 8:06

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