10

The passuk says (Devarim 23:3-4):

לֹא־יָבֹ֥א מַמְזֵ֖ר בִּקְהַ֣ל יְהוָ֑ה גַּ֚ם דּ֣וֹר עֲשִׂירִ֔י לֹא־יָ֥בֹא ל֖וֹ בִּקְהַ֥ל יְהוָֽה׃

A Mamzer may not come into the congregation of Hashem; even the tenth generation shall not come for him into the congregation of Hashem.

The Mishnah (Yevamos 78b) takes for granted that a Mamzer’s descendants may never enter into the Congregation:

מתני׳ ממזרין ונתינין אסורין ואיסורן איסור עולם אחד זכרים ואחד נקבות:

Mamzeirim and Nesinim are forbidden, and their prohibition is a prohibition for eternity, whether males or females.

The Gemara, as far as I can tell, does not justify this assertion.

What is the source for this? Perhaps the passuk means that even the tenth generation may not enter, but beyond the tenth generation is permitted? This might be justified by contrasting it to v. 4 regarding Moavites and Amonites:

לֹֽא־יָבֹ֧א עַמּוֹנִ֛י וּמוֹאָבִ֖י בִּקְהַ֣ל יְהוָ֑ה גַּ֚ם דּ֣וֹר עֲשִׂירִ֔י לֹא־יָבֹ֥א לָהֶ֛ם בִּקְהַ֥ל יְהוָ֖ה עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

An Amonite and Moavite may not come into the congregation of Hashem; even the tenth generation may not come for them into the congregation of Hashem forever.

Unlike the passuk by Mamzeirim, the passuk by Moav and Amon clarifies that it’s forever. Perhaps this indicates by Mamzeirim that it’s only until the tenth generation, but beyond that would be permissible?

What is the Mishnah’s source for asserting that a Mamzer is forbidden even beyond the tenth generation?

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    The well-known answer of the Gra is that if you start with one mamzer who marries a non-mamzer and descend 10 generations, the mamzer proportion of the 10th generation offspring is 1/1024. When Chazal wish to express that something is never batel, they say that it is not even batel in 1000. Thus the Torah tells us that a mamzer ancestor is never batel by saying that even the 10th generation descendant of a mamzer cannot marry into the kahal – wfb Mar 1 at 1:20
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    @wfb Are you proposing that the tenth generation is the same as saying forever? Then why does it need to specify “forever” by Moav and Amon? – DonielF Mar 1 at 1:26
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Torah Temimah (text here) cites the Sifri here (my loose translation):

גם דור עשירי – נאמר כאן דור עשירי ונאמר להלן בעמוני ומואבי דור עשירי (פ׳ ד׳) מה דור עשירי דלהלן עד עולם אף דור עשירי שבכאן עד עולם

It says here "the tenth generation" and it says later "the tenth generation" (verse 4), just as "the tenth generation" later [may not marry in] forever, so too "the tenth generation" here [may not marry in] forever.

(Note that the following passage in Sifri understands this to be through the mechanism of Gezeirah Shavah.)

If so, asks the Torah Temimah, why doesn't it simply say "Ad Olam", "forever", here as well?

  1. He answers that this is to hint that there will be a time when Mamzerim will be "purified", as per Kiddushin 72b (Davidson Edition translation):

    ת"ר ממזירי ונתיני טהורים לעתיד לבא דברי ר' יוסי ר' מאיר אומר אין טהורים אמר לו ר' יוסי והלא כבר נאמר (יחזקאל לו, כה) וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים וטהרתם אמר לו ר' מאיר כשהוא אומר מכל טומאותיכם ומכל גלוליכם ולא מן הממזרות אמר לו ר' יוסי כשהוא אומר אטהר אתכם הוי אומר אף מן הממזרות

    The Sages taught (Tosefta 5:5): Mamzerim and Gibeonites will be pure in the future; this is the statement of Rabbi Yosei. Rabbi Meir says: They will not be pure. Rabbi Yosei said to him: But hasn’t it already been stated: “And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Ezekiel 36:25)? Rabbi Meir said to him: When it says: “From all your uncleanness, and from all your idols,” this emphasizes that God will purify people from these types of impurity, but not from mamzer status. Rabbi Yosei said to him: When it says: “Will I cleanse you,” at the end of the verse, you must say this means even from mamzer status.

Edit:

  1. I later saw that Hakesav Vehakabbalah here answers similarly, but also notes that according to some, Mamzerim can become "purified in other ways", see Kiddushin 69a.

  2. I saw that Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffman answers that it is harder for a mamzer to reproduce for 10 generations, since few people want to marry him. Therefore, since it is a less common case, the Torah doesn't mention it.


Also, note that Ralbag makes the comment here that from the fact that the Torah uses "Ad Olam" in the same context later, it is obvious that it applies here as well - we can learn one case from the other on logical grounds:

כבר נתבאר אחר זה שאין הרצון בזה הלשון שמהדור העשירי ואילך יהיה מותר לבא בקהל שהרי אמר כן בעמוני ומואבי וזכר שם שהוא אסור לבא בקהל עד עולם ולזה תהיה הכונה בזה המקום שעד עולם לא יבא ממזר בקהל י״י ואם אמר אומר כי מזה המקום יתבאר שאינו אסור מעשירי ואילך כיון שלא אמר עד עולם אמרנו כי התורה לא תאמר דברים סותרים זה את זה כל שכן שתאמר אותם עם זה ללא ענין ולזה הוא מבואר שאם היתה הכונה באמרה גם דור העשירי שמדור עשירי ואילך יבא בקהל הנה זה יהיה סותר מה שאמר אחריו עד עולם ועוד שלא היה צריך לזכור זה הסותר אבל יספיק כשיאמר לא יבוא עמוני ומואבי בקהל השם עד עולם.

  • So, according to the Torah Temimah, the passuk is paskening according to the Tanna Kamma/R' Yosi? How does R' Meir read the passuk? – DonielF Feb 28 at 20:59
  • He'll have to follow one of the other alternatives... @DonielF – רבות מחשבות Feb 28 at 21:27
  • There's an alternative? According to him, why doesn't it say עד עולם? – DonielF Feb 28 at 21:30
  • see the two other answers I edited in @DonielF – רבות מחשבות Feb 28 at 21:31
  • Interesting. In line with R' Hoffman's approach, the Gemara does mention a tradition that Mamzeirim die out within a couple of generations. "Bring me even a third-generation Mamzer and I will purify him." – DonielF Feb 28 at 21:38
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The master Talmudist and mathematician Rabbi Emanuel Gettinger zt'l noted that Hebrew only has ordinal numbers up to ten: rishon, sheni ... t'shii, asiri ... ha-achad asar, ha-shneym asar. So the Torah is using the biggest ordinal that it can!

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    This doesn't answer the question. I don't ask why it uses the term "even until the tenth generation." Why that phrase appears is perhaps completely irrelevant. My question is, given that that phrase appears, how we know that it's not to be taken literally. – DonielF Mar 1 at 0:53
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    10 is used as a symbolic big number even cardinally. עשר פעמים תכלימוני (Job 19:3) – b a Mar 1 at 2:19
  • @ba: a number of the commentaries there say that עשר is used precisely - up to that point there are ten monologues by Iyov and his friends. – Meir Mar 1 at 14:50

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