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Tethered To The Mother
‘If She Is Fit, Her Daughter Is Also Fit’
(Kesubbos 13b)



If a woman has a daughter from a man she is forbidden to marry, she and her daughter are disqualified from marrying kohanim. (The mother is termed a zonah and her child a chalala.)

A mishnah on daf 13a discusses a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock. The halacha follows Rabban Gamliel who maintains that if she claims the man she consorted with is someone she was permitted to marry, she is believed and may later marry a kohen.

A Matter Of Presumption

R. Elazar asserts that even though the woman is believed and may later marry a kohen, her child from the union – if it is a girl – may not. Rashi explains that the mother is permitted to marry a kohen because she has a chezkas kashrus. Since before the incident she was allowed to marry a kohen, we assume she still can unless we have positive proof that her status has changed. Her daughter, however, lacks the benefit of a chezkas kashrus since there was doubt regarding her status from the moment she was born. R. Elazar, therefore, considers her a safek chalala – a doubtful chalala.

R. Yochanan disagrees with R. Elazar and maintains that despite the daughter’s lack of chezkas kashrus, she may marry a kohen because her mother’s chazakah is valid for her too (Tosafot 26b).

Not Revisiting The Past

The Hafla’ah (Kesubbos 13b), as well as many other authorities (see Responsa Rabbi Akiva Eger, Mahadura Tanina No. 111; Shev Shema’teta 4), explain that the stringency of R. Elazar is limited to the daughter born from the questionable union. However, a daughter born from a subsequent marriage with a legitimate Jewish man is permitted to marry a kohen even though she lacks a chezkas kashrus (considering that her mother may be a zonah if she once had consorted with a non-Jew). Since beit din ruled that her mother may marry a kohen after the incident, we do not revisit the incident when a daughter from a legitimate Jewish man is later born to her.

Contradictory Rulings

Rabbi Akiva Eger (Responsa, loc. cit.), as well as other authorities, indicate that R. Yochanan’s logic is that once beit din rules that she may marry a kohen based on the assumption that the man she consorted with was a legitimate Jewish man, it cannot then rule against her daughter on the assumption that she might have been fathered by a non-Jew. It cannot hold contradictory assumptions.

That being the case, though, if the mother was in any event forbidden to marry a kohen (e.g., she was a divorcee), beit din can forbid a daughter later born to her from marrying a kohen since itnever assumed that her mother consorted with a Jewish man. It never had to since she in any event could never marry a kohen considering that she was a divorcee. (See Kovetz Shiurim, Mahadura Tanina 62:2 where a mother’s status extending to her daughter is discussed and explained.)


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RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.