Friday, April 21, 2006


Well, all forums are not created equal.

I've been shipping my pidyon ha-ben questions around to a couple different forums, and thought I'd try to get a halachic opinion on a site where people actually seemed up on the kinds of Torah sources I was seeking. Culture clash. Big time.

So here's the issue: My husband's a kohen (patrilineal priestly class), but I'm a convert. (This is a forbidden marriage, back when we had a Temple and kohenim still did something besides the priestly blessing.) If a Jewish woman's first-born child is a son, and her husband (the father) is NOT a kohen, they must "redeem" him - basically, give a kohen a few coins to recognize that a kohen will have to fill the ritual role for the baby. This also traces back to the death of the firstborn in Egypt - our sons were spared, and this is a way to recognize that and thank G-d for their continued lives, by making an offering to those designated to serve G-d directly.

So, since our marriage renders hubby unfit for Temple service (and not allowed to do priestly blessing), is our child, who is "chalal," (not a functional kohen, and his children are not allowed to marry kohenim) someone who needs to be redeemed? Do we do pidyon ha-ben or not? And when he has a son, is it done?

Here's the reply I got:

The Kohain who married or had forbidden relations with one of the three women mentioned above is still a Kohain and the off-spring does not need a Pidyon HaBen. However the Kohain is forbidden to raise his hands for the priestly blessing until he repents and divorces or ceases to have relations with said mentioned woman. The child of such a union is a Hallal for generation upon generation though all male off spring. His daughters are forbidden to marry Kohanim. In short the man messed up badly and needs to repent and refrain from being with the woman. HAD THE GOOD L-RD WANTED THE COUPLE TO MARRY IN THIS LIFE TIME, HE WOULD HAVE HAD THE WOMAN BORN PERMISSIVE TO THE KOHAIN. G-D TESTED THE SOUL OF THE KOHAIN AND HE FAILED HIS TEST MISERABLY!

Be well and pray for the peace and welfare of Am Yisrael, guard your Mitzvos and health

The disjuncture between the tone of the post and the signature was actually pretty funny. A subsequent poster informed me that this issue might be moot since it didn't sound like I was really Jewish - and questioned the validity of our marriage, since it is based on Jewish partnership law, instead of acquisition law.

"There's no way a serious Orthodox convert would enter into a marriage without proper kidushin, or permit herself to "live" with a Cohen. If she did, even that conversion would be in doubt."

Umm, yeah. So, apparently, if you have halachic questions, you're assumed to be (or to want to be) traditional Orthodox. And if you aren't Orthodox, you aren't Jewish, so don't bother posting halachic questions.

And then people wonder why there is so much tension between the different denominations...


Blogger Maggid Sarah said...


Verrrryyyy Interesting. I have some thoughts already on the legalities of your situation.... but need some time to check sources. Get back to you.

I still want to be at the Bris withthe community, eh?

4/24/2006 12:21 AM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

yes, we'll see you there!

The summary (the thread continued all weekend) was that IF I am halachically Jewish, we do NOT need pidyon ha-ben, according to Orthodox rabbis in Israel who deal with personal status and family law. And same rule applies for any forbidden kohen marriage (divorcee, etc.)

Apparently, a book called "The Kohen's Handbook" by Rav Yochanan Alexander Lombard disagrees with this view, because the baby wouldn't be able to take up his kohenic duties and needs a substitute kohen, like all other 1st borns.

Of course, since the same Orthos would say I am not Jewish because I'm not Orthodox, they also say we don't need pidyon ha-ben, b/c the baby isn't Jewish.

And then there's the middle ground:

"As for what to do with Pidyon HaBen, I suggest you do it. If there had been a temple, your son wouldn't have qualified to be a Cohen. Just say (or have your husband say): "If we need Pidyon HaBen, this is it. If we do not need Pidyon HaBen, may this be a gift to the Cohen". That's the way the Mishna handles doubtful cases."

Still undecided about what to do. Tempted to choose the middle path simply so as not to imply that I accept Orthodox decision that I'm not Jewish. :)

4/24/2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger Maggid Sarah said...


Hold out yet on this decision, eh? You've several months to go before having to make it. I've been thinking on your position and am developing an interesting line of thought for you. Chat soon!

4/25/2006 7:40 PM  
Blogger Buchenwald Daughter said...

Wow~the fact that someone questioned if you are Jewish at all really makes me angry because this sort of judgement illustrates a divisive belief system which is harmful. Judiasm teaches LOVE of ,not just tolerance of their FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS. This great book written by Sam G Freedman comes to mind, 'Jew vs Jew' He is son of a survivor and he discusses these sort of very divisions within Modern Jewish Communities.

Check out this NPR story about Jewish Identity ~Gabrielle Glazer author of "Stranger to the Tribe: Portraits of Interfaith Marriages" discusses with Rabbis the long term affects of divisions.

The Statue of Liberty welcomed Jewish immigrants with these words: "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me..."

What is more American than to welcome person to become part of your tribe? To become a champion and defender of your culture? To love you so much that they want to make a baby with you?

I remember hearing someone say something very important in a seminar I attended in Chicago, Illnois which was a gathering of Holocaust survivors, 2nd Generations of the Shoah, Kinder Transport and 3rd Generations~ A survivor spoke up in this seminar on Intermarriage After the Holocaust and he said in a thick accent : "If we are going to survive we should all be a little nicer to other people".

The Jewish population in the USA is only 2%. We are a religion of the exiled. We speak a foreign language, follow our own calendar and pray facing towards Jerusalem. We should not hate someone just because they want to join us. * Oy! who could be so cruel as to do this to such a brave woman who would take on a Jewish Mother-in-Law!*just kidding...Oy!there is a reason why there are so many Mother-in Law jokes in the world...

Anyway, I often think of what my father used to tell me: "A friend is someone you could trust to have your back in the camps"~~meaning a real friend is someone who would risk their life for you. The unspoken vow of friendship and trust saved many lives during the Holocaust.

As mates, we say that I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. It is no wonder that three million non-Jews died during war. Intermarriage is not something new, many people died in camps because they would NOT disavow their mates.

So when someone tries to serve me up some shtetl style snobbery, I would be tempted to tell them to stick the realities of a post modern judiac world in their Pidyon Ha-BEN!

*** P.S. Hitler was a vegetarian! So just because you don't eat meat it doesn't make you good or perfect!****

4/25/2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Hi buchenwald daughter,

thanks for your kind thoughts. The Orthodox have a particular take on halachah, and their decisions about conversion are in line with that. I may not agree with them, but I respect the internal consistency of their position.

I knew when I converted that I was choosing a liberal movement, and neither I nor my children would not be recognized as Jewish by the Orthodox. But sometimes, living a pretty Jewish life, I forget. I guess this was just a reminder.

BTW - I'm not into censoring, so I'll leave your post as is, but I don't understand your "P.S." comment. To whom is it addressed? And is it relevant to this discussion?

4/26/2006 1:40 PM  
Blogger Soferet said...

Oy. You see, attitude like that just give all O folks a bad name, even the "user-friendly" types like me ;)

6/16/2006 5:03 AM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...


No way in heck am I letting this cat outta the bag!

The only people I can think of who could dig this are the half dozen or so modern orthodoxim who together with myself form the international zionist conspiracy (otherwise known as pro-Israel activists) in our neck of the woods.

Some of our fellwo bloggers, on the other hand, would be staggeringly unable to grasp this concept or deal with it well.

Woof! Oy! Heavens!


1/22/2007 10:13 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...


The only people I can think of who could dig this are the half dozen or so modern orthodoxim

To clarify, the non-observant and liberal Jews I know wouldn't even understand the issue. I can in my minds eye already see blank eyes glazing over..... to say nothing of gentiles such as my signifother (whose eyes go glazy whenever I conversationally veer into Torah territory).

And of course the Chabadniks, if I ever were to describe the situation to them, would likely cover their ears and run off screaming 'la la la la la I can't hear you'.

I confess. This is the most interesting thing I've read today. Quite possibly even the most interesting thing this year.

1/22/2007 10:25 PM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...


omigosh, thanks for the compliment. I think. ;)

Update was we had the bris (very very nice) with a minyan present from our congregation, but did NOT do pidyon ha-ben because hubby feels strongly about not cutting our son off from his partilineage.

So, along with the other difficult conversations (when it's ok to kiss girls, why we don't eat shrimp when everyone else in the family does), we will have the "why you are a Kohen who's not allowed to do the Mr. Spock thing" talk. Maybe when he's bar mitzvah. :)

1/25/2007 2:25 PM  

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