This October 2002 article in Haaretz refers to an Israeli Health Ministry decision to allow a family of Kohanim to select the gender of their children for non-medical reasons.

For the first time in Israel, in a move that has set off a medical and moral controversy, the Health Ministry has given a couple permission to predetermine the gender of their child for no medical reason.


The case of the young ultra-Orthodox couple, however, came with another special story, stemming from the fact that the husband is a Cohen: The ultra-Orthodox parents want to keep the sperm donation a secret, but if the woman was to give birth to a male child, they would only be able to keep the matter under wraps until the boy is 13 years old. When the son of a Cohen celebrates his bar mitzvah and goes up to read from the Torah, he is heralded in synagogue as a Cohen. In the case of the young couple, however, such an announcement would be a halakhic violation, as the boy would not be the biological son of the father, and the parents would be forced to reveal the issue of the sperm donation.

In order to avoid the dilemma, the couple decided that they wanted a female child. A daughter, they explained, would never go up to read from the Torah; the community would not know that she was not their biological child; and they wouldn't have to tell her either.

I would imagine that an "ultra-Orthodox" couple would not do this without consulting a rabbi, and indeed I spoke with Rabbi Gideon Weitzman about it after his presentation at Torah in the City, who told me that he was involved in that case.

Has this case been recorded/discussed in responsa or halachic literature? I'd like to look at a decision or an analysis thereof in print, if possible. The Haaretz article does not mention a halachic decision, or the name of a rabbi involved.

(I tried emailing Rabbi Weitzman through the Puah Institute's contact form, but the emails kept bouncing...)

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    How will this keep it secret? We hope Mashiach comes before she's married, and she won't be able to eat terumah or the kohen parts of shelamim. If her first child is a boy, he'll need a pidyon haben.
    – Heshy
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 19:07
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    @Heshy Fair points, but those are much smaller things than the son of a kohen avoiding birchas kohanim on a daily business in Israel
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 19:08
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    Additionally, how would she appear in her kesuvah. She would have to know in that case. Also if she is her mother's only child, then the inheritance would go to the father's brother and not to her. Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 19:09
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    @sabbahillel Fair. So...should they not have children at all? What's the alternative? You are right that something would look funny there, but it does not come close to the frequency and noticeability of aliyah laTorah and birchas kohanim.
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 19:13
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    I was not commenting on that, I was just pointing out that no matter what, they could not keep it a secret from the daughter. The last sentence in the citation and they wouldn't have to tell her either. cannot be correct. Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


Tradition has a fantastic write up (vol. 40:1 (2007)) focused on your question. In sharing just a tip of the iceberg,

The second case concerned a child would not have the same status as a Kohen that the social father had. A Kohen has special public duties and rights in the synagogue. Within a religious community, it is obvious who is a Kohen and who is not. The social father here was concerned that every member of the community would thereby know that the child was not his genetic son, destroying his privacy in the matter. He therefore requested PGD to guarantee a daughter.


In the Kohen case, presented originally more than a decade ago, R. Aharon Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel, gave the following opinion...10

10 R. Aharon Lichtenstein, letter to Richard V. Grazi, 29 Sivan 5651 [11 June 1991].

(pages 50-51)

  • Thank you! I skimmed the article, it looks like it has what I'm looking for. The excerpt you put in your answer does not reflect that, though. I wasn't really looking for a discussion on the general topic, more for responsa that deal directly with the question of the kohen. That does exist in the paper, starting at page 50 (and now I need to track down the letter referenced in footnote 10)
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:34
  • If you don't mind, I'll put off accepting your answer/awarding bounty for a little while. I want to see what other answers turn up.
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:35
  • I edited your answer to make it more relevant to the particular question that I asked. If I did anything you don't like, feel free to edit back. Thanks again for the find! :)
    – MTL
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 14:41
  • Awesome edits, thank you for making the answer more accurate!
    – NJM
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 4:20

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