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?

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    So if a father chops off his kids arm, Devarim 23:3 says he is not missing an arm? – user6591 May 4 '15 at 23:52
  • reference to a nation and not illicitly conceived children So we punish a nation because its ancestors refused to greet us with food and drink? – Shmuel Brin May 5 '15 at 0:31
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    It's forever, not just up to 10 generations. – Shamiach May 5 '15 at 3:50
  • @Shamiach מתני' ממזרין ונתינין אסורין ואיסורן איסור עולם אחד זכרים ואחד נקבות: גמ' אמר ריש לקיש ממזרת לאחר עשרה דורות מותרת יליף עשירי עשירי מעמוני ומואבי מה להלן נקבות מותרות אף כאן נקבות מותרות אי מה להלן מיד אף כאן מיד כי אהני גזירה שוה מעשירי ואילך והאנן תנן ממזרים ונתינין אסורין ואיסורן איסור עולם אחד זכרים ואחד נקבות לא קשיא הא כמאן דאמר דון מינה ומינה הא כמאן דאמר דון מינה ואוקי באתרא שאלו את רבי אליעזר ממזרת לאחר עשרה דרי מהו אמר להם מי יתן לי דור שלישי ואטהרנו – Shmuel Brin May 5 '15 at 6:02
  • @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 May 5 '15 at 17:41

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.

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    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 May 5 '15 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. – Emilios1995 May 5 '15 at 2:30
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    @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. – sabbahillel May 5 '15 at 12:09
  • @sabbahillel So is there no such thing as a punishment? Only natural consequences? – Daniel May 5 '15 at 19:40
  • @Daniel the punishment is death to the sinners – Emilios1995 May 5 '15 at 19:44

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