It seems to me that just about every possible shadow of doubt is used to prevent halachic rulings that would classify a person as a mamzer. From my understanding after having read this paragraph on Wikipedia, if there is any possible way to discredit evidence of mamzer status, it will be done.

However, this sort of evidentiality, where any sorts of loopholes to discredit evidence can be used, would be regarded as unjust if applied to other cases because it is a standard of evidence that is impossible to fulfill. It would seem that more effort is taken to prevent people from being classified as mamzerim than actually trying to find out if they are.

What standard of evidence is necessary to indicate mamzer status? If it is higher than the standard of evidence necessary for other halachic rulings, what justifies the discrepancy?

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    Peter, because of the tremendously dire implications of a person being ruled a Mamzer - and the likelihood that the Mamzer status will be perpetuated in future generations - it is in the interest of the entire Jewish population that every possible angle be pursued to cast doubt upon a potential Mamzer's status as a Mamzer. It's like the way that the Sanhedrin would require so many leaps and jumps through hoops to condemn a person to death that a court that executed one person in 70 years was considered bloodthirsty. – Seth J Jul 21 '11 at 17:54
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    @Seth To me, it feels like that rationale is based on wanting to do away with the mamzer status and capital punishment entirely. If they are mandated by the Torah, why is it okay to try to completely avoid them? – Peter Olson Jul 21 '11 at 20:18
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    I agree with you on that sentiment. A great deal has been written on the subject of HaZa"L's "attempt to eradicate" capital punishment, so I won't go into it, but I believe the attempt to prevent Mamzeruth and various other serious problems is along the same lines. – Seth J Jul 21 '11 at 20:23
  • @Peter of the Corn I don't think the they want to get rid of them completely, they want to minimize its affect on actual living people. The only thing the gemorah states as wanting to get rid of completely is the desire for avodah zarah. :) – avi Jul 22 '11 at 8:36
  • very related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/18547/759 – Double AA Aug 17 '12 at 2:44

In Halacha there is a concept called "Neemanus", which means believability.

Basically, in Halacha we need two kosher (not relative, not Rasha) witnesses. In certain cases, like by Kashrus of food, etc. we will be more lenient and rely on one witness, assumptions, etc. The reason for this difference is we follow a "chazaka" unless witnesses overturn it, so by money, the chazaka follows where the money is now (Hamotzei michaveiro alav haraya). By other cases (like Kashrus) there is no established chazaka, so we follow one witness, or other more lenient proofs

A person born from a kosher person has a chazaka of being kosher, however, the Gemarah says that the father of the child is believed to say "this child is a mamzer", and it is derived from a pasuk. Therefore, there are two contrary forces at play, one chazaka is the child's natural chezkas kashrus, and the other is the Gzeiras Hakasuv.)

What the poskim try to do it to invalidate the father's credentials (if he isn't religious, for example, we may disqualify him enough that the natural "chezkas kashrus" of the child kicks back in).

Moreover, there is a gemarah in Kiddushin 72b that a mamzer who is not known as a mamzer is kosher, and one shouldn't publicize his mamzerus status, which means that we can play a bit more with mamzerus than with other issurim.

Since, by definition, Mamzerus is a bdieved issue, and a serious bdieved issue, one that would cause him extreme hardship (So it would be more stringent that your usual "hefsed mrubah") we rely on the halacha, and rule leniently.

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    This doesn't really answer the basic question. Why isn't this standard applied to other areas? Why don't we so that nobody is married because of bad witnesses? – avi Jul 21 '11 at 20:08
  • tom you still havn't answered the question. Why don't we say that no marriage is valid? After all we can. If nobody is ever married, then nobody can ever be a mamzer. Why isn't the application of halacha consistent? (is what the main question was) – avi Jul 21 '11 at 20:43
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    You seem to be missing the point here.... The question isn't HOW do we nullify mamzerim, or by what process... the question is WHY. WHY are mamzerim different from other areas of halacha? DOES this cause philisophical issues? – avi Jul 21 '11 at 21:32

As written by others the Mamzer status requires the highest level of certainty. However, other areas of halacha do not require the highest level of certainty. (For example, we do not require two valid witnesses to be a mashgiach in a kitchen)

I believe the reasons for this is as follows. There is a halachic principle to that laws of hashem are "darchei Noam" (They ways of Hashem are pleasant). Therefore, in instances where the outcome is negetive (death penalty, mamzer, adultery, shabbat desecration etc.) we do our best to find reasons not to have the unpleasant outcome. (Sometimes this isn't possible, such as with an Aguna.. because we have competing unpleasant negative things) When the outcome is a possitive one, (marriage, eating, day to day living etc..) then we apply a less rigorous test and have a lower bar of proof required.

What is considered 'pleasant' and what is not considered pleasant I believe is based on criteria of halacha, and is not based on the feelings of the person being affected. I.e., even if someone WANTS to be a mamzer, we still try to find ways to make it not be.


The evidence required would be 2 witnesses that Bais Din believes.

There is a story with HaRav Moshe Feinstein Zatzal - where he was officiating at a wedding (Mesader Kedushin). At the last moment the Chassan's mother came over to HaRav Moshe and said that her son was born from a different man while she was a married women. HaRav Moshe without batting an eyelash said to continue the wedding as "Aid Echod Aino Neeman B'Isurim" - we do not trust one witness by such cases.

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    This doesn't really answer the basic question. Why isn't this standard applied to other areas? Why don't we so that nobody is married because of bad witnesses? – avi Jul 21 '11 at 20:08
  • Eino neeman אם אין בידו – kouty Jan 19 '20 at 23:46

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