In modern times, we go out of our way to make sure that we never find out that someone is a mamzer. For example, courts in Israel are very reluctant to order paternity tests for children for fear of it being discovered. As a result of all of this--and the unfortunate prevalence of "cheating"--wouldn't we expect that many of the people who we treat as non-mamzerim actually are mamzerim?

There are also situations where children are born who are almost certainly mamzerim, but we bend over backwards to find a possible way that they are not (e.g. the husband returned home from Europe over night and had relations with the wife with neither of them remembering).

When we do things like this, don't we just facilitate the spreading of mamzeirus throughout the Jewish community? Wouldn't we expect that eventually, all Jews would be mamzerim chas v'shalom?

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    I object to your wording. Mamzerim are full-fledged Jews. They must follow Halachah like all others and have a share in 'Olam HaBa.
    – Seth J
    Aug 16, 2012 at 15:29
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    Lo bashamayim hi. Mamzers are only what we say they are. If we define it out of existence, the class no longer exists. Aug 16, 2012 at 15:33
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    Why not just say "non-Mamzerim"? Or just leave out that clause altogether: "wouldn't we expect that many people are actually mamzerim?"
    – Seth J
    Aug 16, 2012 at 15:36
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    Can you source the fact that this is a modern innovation?
    – Double AA
    Aug 16, 2012 at 15:41
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    And can you find a source that cheating is more prevalent?
    – Yirmeyahu
    Aug 16, 2012 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


See Encyclopedia Judaica's discussion of Mamzerim in Jewish Law. From there:

In addition, the Mishnah cites a tradition that "Eliyahu will not come [in the future] to declare the pure, impure – nor to declare the impure, pure; nor to distance those who are near or to draw near those who were distanced, but only to distance those drawn near by force and to draw near those distanced by force" (Eduyyot 8:7).

R. Obadiah of Bertinoro interprets the citation as meaning that Eliyahu will only distance those who are publicly known to be tainted but were forcibly intermingled among the Jewish People, "but where there is a tainted individual in a particular family, but this is not publicly known, owing to the family having intermingled [into the Jewish community], Eliyahu will let it remain so and let the family retain its presumption of legitimacy."

This was the basis for the Rema's ruling (Sh. Ar., EH 2:5 [translation here]) that if a person learns that one of the progenitors of a particular family is tainted by mamzerut, he may not reveal this, "but rather he should allow the presumption of their legitimacy to remain intact, for all the families that have become assimilated into Israel are legitimate in the future."

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