Dilemma

Over the weekend we had many interesting discussions. One subject that came up for discussion was how being a Kohen or a Levi was passed through the father, and only through blood. Adopted sons cannot become Kohanim or Leviim.

But here is my question (bear with me, I occasionally get long winded ;) ). Judaism is passed through the mother. If the mother is Jewish then the child is Jewish. If the father is Jewish and the mother is not, the child is not Jewish, according to the laws of matrilineal descent. What if the father is Jewish AND a Kohen or Levi, mother is not Jewish and the son converts to Judaism when he is older? Does he then become a Kohen or Levi as that is passed through patrilineal descent?

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  1. That’s a very interesting question. I shall pose that one to my J-Rav :) I’ll get back to you!

  2. Z! says:

    Doesn’t a Kohen forfeit his ‘kohanship’ when he marries out? Renderring any offspring non-kohen status?

  3. Chanief says:

    That’s a great question. Along those lines, my sister runs a Jewish center and has a frequent visitor who is very confused about her religious identity. Her mother is Jewish, her father is Muslim. Each religion claims her for their own, but which one is she? It’s a tough question and I can’t see an objective answer for it.

  4. Mark says:

    A kohen can only marry a Jewish woman who was never married (and not a divorcee or a widow). Any other relationship is not a marriage, and thus the children have some other status (a form of mamzerut maybe?). Maybe some of the Rabbis reading this will comment, Hadassah, tweet a link to the post so they will see it!

  5. Chanief says:

    Mark, as far as I understand it a kohen can marry a widow. It’s only the kohen gadol that cannot marry a widow.

  6. YC says:

    Mark according to the book of Yechezkel you are right, but we dont go like that and that was a reason they wanted to withhold canonization of that book. Bottom like the book got in but that ruling is out.

    regarding a Kohen and convert see 9)2.(d)
    http://www.dafyomi.co.il/sotah/backgrnd/so-in-026.htm

  7. Tuvia says:

    I do believe that the Kohen loses their status when they marry out. Their parents are supposed to sit Shivah for them and they are considered dead. If they “died” before having kids, how could their kids be kohenim?

  8. Halachically Challenged says:

    Bottom line is that even though the child carries the genes of a Levi or Cohen, he is a convert and as such cannot be considered a Levi or a Cohen in any case regardless of the status of the mother (non-jewish) or the father.

  9. shoshi says:

    No. Once he converts all former ties, including to his jewish father, are considered inexistent, legally…

  10. Chanief says:

    The question is, is being a Kohen a biological or spiritual state? If it’s a biological state (think the Kohen gene) then he should be a kohen regardless of his mother’s status. If it is a spiritual state then why can’t a child who is adopted as a baby by a kohen be a kohen?

  11. Tzvi Haber says:

    A child of a Kohein from a woman he was not allowed to marry is a chalal and doesn’t have Kohein status (the Kohein himself doesn’t lose his status but can’t duchen because he is a renegade Jew).
    In addition a ger is like a new baby and has no ties to his former family.
    So on two counts – no.

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