If Reuben's sister, Hanna, is a slave and she and Reuben have sexual intercourse, are their children slaves or mamzeirim?

Acc. to the Mishna in Yevamot 4:12-13, the offspring of a forbidden union, the penalty for which is karet, is a mamzer. That is the opinion of Rabbi Shimon haTeimani in mishna 13 - contra the opinions of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehoshua - and is understood to be the opinion of the sages (contra Akiva) in mishna 12.

Acc. to the Mishna in Ketubot 3:12, the offspring of such a forbidden union - one in which the woman would have been permitted to another - is a mamzer. The offspring, however, of another forbidden union - one in which the woman could not have been permitted to another - follows the woman in status. The practical upshot of this mishna is that the child of a gentile woman or a slave girl (neither of whom can contract kiddushin with anybody) is either a gentile or a slave.

If there is a brother and a sister (Reuben and Hanna in my example) and she is a slave, they now belong to two of the different types of relationships delineated from one another in Ketubot. They are siblings, and the penalty for sexual intercourse is karet (Mishna, Keritot 1:1; cf: Leviticus 18:9, 29). That means, based on both Ketubot and Yevamot, their offspring are mamzeirim. And yet, being a slave, she cannot contract kiddushin with any man, which means that their offspring (based on Ketubot) are slaves.

  • Just to clarify: by "slave" you mean ama ivriya?
    – msh210
    Dec 26, 2012 at 22:44
  • I'm referring to a Hebrew slave, yes. That's the category being referred to in Ketubot, the non-Jewish slave simply being not Jewish. (I don't know whether or not the correct term is אמה, so I can't respond to that part of your question - is an אמה bound by the same regulations as other עבדים? I don't know.)
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 26, 2012 at 22:49
  • Er... see the answer.
    – msh210
    Dec 27, 2012 at 2:32
  • I know it's been a while, but can you provide attribution for the quote you've placed in blockquotes?
    – MTL
    Apr 27, 2017 at 20:59

1 Answer 1


You must mean a non-Jewish (actually, quasi-Jewish) slave, a "shifcha." (I.e. she was born non-Jewish, then underwent a part-conversion when she became a slave.) A born-Jewish, "ama ivriyah" goes free automatically upon reaching puberty, so that case is moot.

I don't know whether the partial conversion given to a shifcha already wipes out all existing relationships (as it does with full-blown conversion), but the point is moot. As the last Mishnah in Kiddushin Chapter 3 observes (and the Halacha follows Rabbi Tarfon's opinion):

רבי טרפון אומר:‏
יכולין הם ממזרים ליטהר.‏
ממזר שנשא שפחה, הוולד עבד;‏
שחררו, נמצא הבן בן חורין.‏

The offspring of a male mamzer and female shifcha is just plain eved (eved kna'ani, to be specific), not eved mamzer. There is no room in the category for any flavor of eved, just plain eved. Thus to the best of my knowledge the same would apply here, the offspring of a shifcha is just plain eved; whether the father was a normal Jew, a non-Jew, a mamzer Jew, or a forbidden-relation Jew.

  • Thank you, Shalom. Do you have sources for any of that? I wouldn't mind seeing it inside, if you don't mind. Especially because it appears to provide a means of ridding somebody of mamzer status: by reproducing with a shifcha, he creates an eved, not a mamzer (!?).
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 27, 2012 at 7:50
  • 1
    @ShimonbM, that's exactly right. See the Mishnah. This possibility of a solution has been raised in contemporary cases of mamzers, but the problem (practically, halachicly, secular-legally, and ethically) is where exactly do you get a shifcha today (I was going to say "you can't order them online", but sadly that may not be so true).
    – Shalom
    Dec 27, 2012 at 12:27
  • 1
    @ShimonbM משנה קידושין ג:יג רבי טרפון אומר יכולין ממזרים ליטהר כיצד ממזר שנשא שפחה הולד עבד שחררו נמצא הבן בן חורין but if I understand correctly, Rabbi Mordochai Willig rules this can't be done nowadays (at least in normal countries) because of Dina Demalchuta Dina and the slave wouldn't be a slave.
    – Double AA
    Dec 27, 2012 at 15:07
  • What's a part-conversion?
    – הראל
    Aug 31, 2016 at 21:23
  • @KinnardHockenhull a non-Jewish slave in the Talmud was given an immersion in the mikvah and obligated in all "don't-do" commandments. Hence, "part-conversion"
    – Shalom
    Aug 31, 2016 at 22:05

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