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Can a Kohen or Levite get married to any Jewish woman?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Any Jewess may marry a Levite. However, the intrinsic spiritual nature of a Kohen requires protection. The Creator deemed it necessary that a Kohen’s mate be of pure lineage and unblemished background.

Therefore:
1. He may not marry a divorcee.
2. He may not marry a convert.1
3. He may not marry a woman who has previously had sexual relations with a man who is forbidden to her, such as a gentile (there are exceptions to this rule. A rabbi who is an expert in this field should be consulted for more details).
4. He may not marry a woman who was taken hostage or kidnapped by a gentile. This restriction was imposed by the Rabbis, for fear that she may have been defiled by her captor.
5. He may not marry a woman who is the product of the relationship of a Kohen with one of the abovementioned women.
6. He may not marry a woman whose father is not Jewish (even if her mother is).2


A son born to a Kohen by a woman forbidden to him is called a "chalal" and does not have the status of Kohen. Likewise, the children of a chalal are no longer treated as Kohanim.


The daughter of a Kohen ("Bat Kohen") also has an elevated status. She should preferably marry a Kohen or a Torah scholar.

Footnotes

  • 1. See also Editor's Comment on "Kohanim and marriage" comment beneath article.
  • 2. Code of Jewish Law, Even Haezer 4:5

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COMMENTS

marrying a kohain

Posted by: Anonymous, Jackson, New Jersey on Sep 25, 2005

I understand that a Kohain has not been allowed to marry a divorced woman. Has there been any leniency or exceptions on this issue over the years?

Editor's Comment

Torah is G-d's wisdom. Just as He is eternal, so, too, the laws of the Torah are eternal. The Torah explicitly forbids a Kohain from marrying a divorcee, and no rabbi, or panel of rabbis, has the authority to abrogate a direct Torah law.

With all due respect you are wrong

Posted by: Leah on Apr 29, 2006

It does not say a Kohain can't marry a convert.

Leviticus 21:7, the Torah forbids a Kohen from marrying a zonah or a prostitute.

Also, I think you should use quote if you are going to state whom a Kohain can not marry, because without basis you are just spitting words.

Editor's Comment

According to many, the source of this prohibition is Ezekiel 44:22.

Can a Kohain marry a widow?

Posted by: Sara on Jun 06, 2006

Leviticus 21:14 and Ezekiel 44:22 also mention that widows (with the Ezekiel exception of a widow of a Kohain) are forbidden to Kohanim. Why, then, are widows missing from the list of who a Kohain can marry? If they are allowed, please provide the source.

Editor's Comment

Only a High Priest is forbidden to marry a widow. This is quite clear in Leviticus 21.

Regarding a widow again

Posted by: Sara Kamen on Jun 07, 2006

Thank you. I see how Leviticus 21 says that only the Kohain Hagadol (High Priest) cannot marry a widow, but Ezikiel 44 does not make this distinction. Why, then, is a convert forbidden to ALL Kohanim, but a widow is only forbidden to the Kohain Hagadol?

Editor's Comment

The verse in Ezekiel is talking about all kohanim. The sages interpret the verse as follows: "The widow who is only a widow, some of the priests [i.e. all who are not high priests] may marry."

kohanim

Posted by: Anonymous on Jul 19, 2006

so according to all orthodox rabbi's a kohen cannot marry a convert? or is there any leaniancy in this matter?

Editor's Comment

See Editor's response to first comment on this article.

kohanim and converts

Posted by: Anonymous on Jul 20, 2006

i am aware what the first editor response was but that was in regards to a divorcee i am asking about a convert if all orthodox rabbi's hold that no matter what a kohen cant marry a convert?

Editor's Comment

Correct. Marrying a convert is not an option for someone who is an established Kohain. This is unanimous.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » The Holy Tribe

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Levite
A descendant of Levi, son of Jacob. The Levites were the teachers and spiritual leaders in the Land of Israel. They had various responsibilities in the Holy Temple, including choir and orchestral duties.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.