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The Stepfather In A Kesuba
“He Was the Stepson of Kenaz”
(Sotah 11b)



The Gemara asks why the Torah calls Kalev the son of Yefuna (Bamidbar 13:6), whereas in Tanach we learn about Asniel son of Kenaz, who was Kalev’s brother (Yehoshua 15:17). If Kalev and Asniel were brothers, how could Kalev’s father have been Yefuna, and Asniel’s father Kenaz? The Gemara explains that they were half-brothers, with the same mother, but different fathers. Kalev was even called “Kenizi,” in deference to his stepfather, Kenaz, who raised him.


The Kesuba of an Adopted Child

Based on this Gemara, the Minchas Yitzchak (4:151) answered an interesting question concerning an adopted girl who had never been told she was adopted. When the time came for her to get married, her adopted parents were afraid that it would upset her to learn the truth, to the point where her emotional well-being could be damaged. However, the name of the kallah‘s father is specifically written in the kesuba. What were they to do?

The Minchas Yitzchak ruled that when an adopted child is emotionally stable, it is best to write the name of her real father in the kesuba. Otherwise, her real lineage might be forgotten, and either she or her children might end up marrying biological relatives from her real parents.

However, if the adopted daughter is unstable, and it might damage her mental health to learn the truth, then we should put in the kesuba a subtle hint to her real identity. For example, if her name is Sarah, and her adopted father is Avraham, her name should be written in the kesuba, “Sara, who is called Sara daughter of Avraham,” rather than the normal, “Sara daughter of Avraham.”

The Minchas Yitzchak explains that for this reason, Kalev was called “Kenizi.” Why was he not called, “son of Kenaz”? This would be more appropriate since our Sages tell us that if a person raises an orphan in his home, it is considered as if the child is considered a biological offspring (Megilla 13a). It must be that Kalev was given a subtly different title to make a lasting remembrance of his true biological identity, and thus prevent forbidden marriages among relatives.


Aliyah to the Torah for those Adopted

The Minchas Yitzchak addresses a similar question, concerning an aliyah to the Torah for a boy who did not know he was adopted. When he reached the age of bar mitzvah, his parents feared to have him called to the Torah by the name of his real father. The Minchas Yitzchak ruled that they must do so nevertheless, to prevent the chance of a forbidden marriage. Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv ruled the same (Ha’aros Maseches Sotah, p. 68). (This, obviously, only applies where the adopted child was Jewish at birth; however, where the child was gentile at birth, the above fear ceases to exist, but halacha requires that he be informed of his geirus before he reaches age 13, in order that he be given the choice of either willingly accepting the geirus or rejecting it. Additionally, there are medical history issues that might prove the need to identify the biological parents as well.)


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.