The mention of the mamzer (traditionally, "bastard") in Devarim 23:3 is traditionally understood as the severe social stigmatization of a child born of an illicit sexual union. Such individuals are not allowed to marry native-born Jews up to ten generations of their descendants.

However, this would seem to be in contradiction to the words of Yehezqel 18:19-20ff which states that children will not be held responsible nor punished for the sins of their parents.

I have heard that some were of the opinion that the peshat of Dev. 23:3 was a reference to a nation and not illicitly conceived children. Were there any traditional commentators in any rabbinic era who held such a view?

And if not, how are we to reconcile these concepts?

  • 5
    So if a father chops off his kids arm, Devarim 23:3 says he is not missing an arm?
    – user6591
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 23:52
  • 4
    It's forever, not just up to 10 generations.
    – Shamiach
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 3:50
  • @ShmuelBrin: but the halacha isn't like Resh Lakish or R' Eliezer. See Rambam, Isurei Biah 15:1 and Shulchan Aruch, E"H 4:1.
    – Shamiach
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:41

1 Answer 1


Mamzerut is not a punishment for the deed, the punishment ends with the death of the parents, if it applies. Mamzerut is a situation, a מציאות . I think of it as a genetic disease, or a social/geographical condition in which the child is born because of the parents . I shall add some mekorot later.

  • 1
    Not much of an answer; simply a matter of semantics. One could almost as easily argue that that God's punishing the children of sinners God isnt punitive vengeance, but rather the inevitable expression of a spiritual reality, like a condition the child is born with.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 1:52
  • @mevaqesh your comparision is pointless. I wrote about WHAT is mamzerut, and its pretty logical that is not a punishment . You are talking about WHY do the punishments come and that is a tough issue. You can't "easly" just talk about that. Commented May 5, 2015 at 2:30
  • 2
    @mevaqesh If a child is born with a disease caught from the mother or with an addiction because the mother took drugs, then it is not a "punishment" but the result of the parent's actions. Similarly, mamzerut is not a "punishment, but a condition caused by the parent. It is like the child of a kohen and a divorcee being a challal. It is a status not a punishment. Commented May 5, 2015 at 12:09
  • @sabbahillel So is there no such thing as a punishment? Only natural consequences?
    – Daniel
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:40
  • @Daniel the punishment is death to the sinners Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:44

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