The Chasam Sofer in Toras Moshe Parsha Emor writes the following:

A cohen should marry a basuleh (virgin). The Ramabm counts this as a Mitzvas aseh (positive commandment). However one could have the following doubt: If the Cohen Gadol took a basuleh when he was a Cohen hediyot and then became a Cohen Gadol, would he now be required to take another basuleh (get married again)? If so, since (according to the Rambam) a Cohen Gadol is not allowed to have two wives, he would have to divorce the first wife.

Why does the Chasam Sofer have this doubt that the Cohen Gadol should then get married again? Meaning if the Cohen Gadol would want to get married he needs to marry a basuleh. However in this case that he's already married, why should davka get married again when he becomes the Cohen Gadol?

  • Please explain why its not a sofek. You are sure that the answer is -----------?
    – not sure
    Apr 21, 2013 at 21:53
  • He would not have fulfilled the mitzvat aseh of the kohen gadol marrying a betulah if he married her before he was kohen gadol. Therefore, he'd have to divorce his current wife upon becoming kohen gadol in order to fulfil the mitzvah of the kohen gadol marrying a betulah.
    – Daniel
    Apr 22, 2013 at 16:03
  • I appreciate this question (in its clearer form), and I am stunned by the Ch"S here. It seems plain on its face that the Kohen need not get married (and replace the wife to whom he was already married), but then again what do I know? The question, though, becomes, why wouldn't a Kohen Gadol need to celibate to ensure that his wife remains a virgin?
    – Seth J
    Apr 22, 2013 at 16:55
  • @SethJ, because it seems like the Rambam is saying that the mitzvah is actually getting married-not being married-to a betulah. That would explain why he would have to remarry and why he would not need to remain celibate with his new wife.
    – Daniel
    Apr 22, 2013 at 17:33
  • @Daniel, so his question is on the RaMBa"M only? I didn't catch that. (Didn't read the original, only the translation.) Thanks.
    – Seth J
    Apr 22, 2013 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


There are some mitzvos that one must fulfill only if puts himself in a situation in which the opportunity for the mitzva presents itself. For example, there is a mitzva of writing a bill of divorce (get) when divorcing one's wife. One who does so fulfills a mitzva, God's command. However, divorcing one's wife just so as to have the opportunity to do it via a bill of divorce is no mitzva.

Other mitzvos do not depend on putting oneself in a state of obligation, though they may apply only to certain persons. For example, any father of a firstborn (to his mother) son, no matter what, must do the mitzva of pidyon haben, redeeming the son for five silver shekel. The mitzva is not "if you redeem your son, do so for five silver shekel": it's "you must redeem your son for five silver shekel".

I propose that the Chasam Sofer's doubt is whether marrying a virgin is of the first sort of mitzva or of the second sort. If it's of the first sort, then a kohen gadol must marry a virgin only if he marries. An already married kohen gadol would be exempt. If the mitzva is of the second sort, however, then any kohen gadol would need to marry a virgin: since (according to the Rambam as cited by the Chasam Sofer) a kohen gadol may not have two wives, he'd need first to divorce his wife.

  • re divorcing without basis: the rashba (shut 1:18) iirc says that's a mitzva habaah ba'aveira, but it's still a mitzva.
    – Double AA
    Apr 22, 2013 at 17:59
  • @DoubleAA, how is it HaBaah Ba'Aveirah?
    – Seth J
    Apr 22, 2013 at 18:09
  • 1
    @SethJ Being mean to your wife? Lemme check
    – Double AA
    Apr 22, 2013 at 18:12
  • @SethJ msh210 it's 1:18 about halfway through hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1376&pgnum=35 seems he doesn't use the phrase mitzva habaah baaveira though :(
    – Double AA
    Apr 22, 2013 at 18:15
  • 1
    Ok. Well, the Rashba says it is a mitzva to divorce chayvei lavin at least (and not just as removal of the issur; he says you would say a bracha on the divorce).
    – Double AA
    Apr 22, 2013 at 18:53

Maybe the question is if there is a mitzvah to be married to a besulah or if he can only fulfill the mitzvah when he actually marries a besulah, so if he was married before he will not have the mitzvah only if he gets divorced and marries a besula while he is a cohen godel.

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