I seem to recall that Kehuna passes from father to son. Does it pass through the mother as well?

My father-in-law was a Cohen. That makes my wife Bat-Cohen, but what does it make my children?

  • Will my children have trouble marrying divorcees?
  • Should my children avoid cemeteries?
  • Are my children destined to be constantly called on for Aliya Rishona?
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    A man approaches a rabbi and offers him $500 to make him a Kohen...
    – Seth J
    Mar 3, 2013 at 3:28

2 Answers 2


Your children are totally normal, non-Kohanim; no special honors, no special obligations either. Kohanic status is strictly patrilineal.

The one exception is that if your first child was a boy, even if born naturally (i.e. not C-section), he would not require a Pidyon HaBen ceremony; as the Torah speaks of "first issue of the mother's womb", a Pidyon is only required if both mom and dad are non-Kohens.

Your kids are totally non-Kohens, though, and if one of them marries another non-Kohen, their firstborn male child would need a Pidyon HaBen.

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    Just for future reference, I believe a pidyon haben is only required if neither mom nor dad is a Kohen or a Levi (along with the other requirements) Feb 28, 2013 at 19:18
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    @CharlesKoppelman, correct; I didn't see a good way of shoehorning that fact in here.
    – Shalom
    Mar 1, 2013 at 2:30

The Gemara (Bechoros 47a) states that if a non-Jew fathers a child with a Jew, the paternal relationship is not recognized from the perspective of the halacha. The child is viewed, in a manner of speaking, as if he were a product of parthenogenesis, as he has a legal mother but no legal father. That being the case, we have an extremely peculiar application: If a non-Levite Jew fathers a child with a daughter of a Levite, the child is given his father's affiliation, that of a non-Levite. If, on the other hand, a non-Jew fathered a child with a daughter of a Levi, the child would be a Levite.

This would not apply to the daughter of a kohen, because illicit intercourse would annul her kohanic status and therefore that of her child. If, however, the child was the product of in-vitro fertilization, then there are two possibilities.
1. If the donor was a non-Jew, then the donor is not recognized in halacha, leaving the child the mother's identity, her kedusha being intact, unlike the Gemara's example which involved illicit intercourse.
2. If the donor was a Jew, then there are two more possibilities. Some view the donor as the legal father, and therefore the child would not be a Kohen. Others do not accept the legal paternity of the donor, and therefore this would be a case of legal mother/no legal father, where we would apply the Gemara's rule of default matrilineal identity.

  • 1
    You could have edited your original answer in order to add this information, without having written a second one. This is all very interesting information that you put here too, but I don't think it addresses this particular person's question. In any case, you should always include sources in the body of the answer (perhaps the relevant part of the sugya in question?), and there's no problem with speculative or abstruse content.
    – Shimon bM
    Mar 1, 2013 at 0:19
  • In vitro is no longer rare, and if that is the case here, it is very relevant. A glance around the web indicates that more than five million children have been born worldwide as a result of IVF. True, when you hear hoofbeats you don't think "Zebras!", but it is a good idea to put the information out for the one in one thousand for whom it applies. Mar 1, 2013 at 14:26
  • I think this is a great partial answer, supplemental to the earlier-posted answer, to this question, but definitely should have sources for its claims added in (and should have its final paragraph, seeking comments, removed). +1.
    – msh210
    Mar 1, 2013 at 20:07
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    'should' here is being used as a strong suggestion. One is certainly allowed to post answers without sources, but unless the community deems the answer 'obvious', it probably won't consider it of much value without sources, because after all: you're just a random internet user. So it's best to source as much as you can.
    – Double AA
    Mar 1, 2013 at 20:49
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    Hi @EliezerEisenberg and welcome to Mi Yodeya! Thanks for this interesting information. As others have noted, sources improve an answer and speculation is fine. Also, longer answers are helpful; we're not looking for one-liners. I look forward to seeing more from you here. (I'm going to edit out the final paragraph where you asked about site policy now that you have your answers.) Mar 3, 2013 at 1:57

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