Kiddushin 77

Unfit forever?

We have already learned about the category of the halal/halalah, someone born of a relationship between a priest and a woman he is not supposed to marry. While the offspring of a priest’s appropriate relationships inherit his priestly status, the halal is unfit for the priesthood, both its responsibilities and its perks.

The mishnah on today’s daf asks: How many generations does the halal status last? This question has practical implications for who such a person can marry, but also points to the rabbis’ interest in what kinds of statuses are patrilineal and which are matrilineal.

The daughter of a male halal is unfit for the priesthood forever: An Israelite who married a halalah, his daughter is fit for the priesthood and a halal who married a Jewish woman, his daughter is unfit for the priesthood. 

The mishnah insists that halal and non-halal statuses are transmitted through the patrilineal line. So the daughter of a halal would have the status of a halalah and, as a result, be forbidden to marry a priest. 

The mishnah now shifts to draw a parallel between the daughter of a halal and the daughter of a convert, offering three progressively more permissive opinions:

Rabbi Yehuda says: The daughter of a male convert is like the daughter of a male halal.

According to Rabbi Yehuda, the daughter of a male convert and a Jewish-born mother would inherit the convert status of her father and thus not be allowed to marry a priest.  

Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya’akov says: An Israelite who married a convert, his daughter is fit for the priesthood, and a convert who married a Jewish woman, his daughter is fit for the priesthood. But a convert who married a convert, his daughter is unfit to the priesthood. Both converts and emancipated slaves, even up to ten generations, until his mother is Jewish. 

Rabbi Eliezer insists that as long as one of the parents is born Jewish, their child does not have the status of a convert and therefore may marry a priest. But if both of the parents are converts or emancipated slaves, their children share that status and transmit it down the line until someone marries someone who is fit to marry a priest. 

Finally, Rabbi Yosei offers the most permissive and ultimately simplest ruling:

Even a convert who married a convert, his daughter is fit for the priesthood. 

The last opinion is that converts do not transmit their status, in any configuration. 

Curiously, while the mishnah moves in a permissive direction as it relates to the offspring of converts, the mishnah’s conversation never returns to the case of a halal. The rabbis’ ultimate focus appears to be on removing convert status within one generation, but there is no similar interest in doing the same for those born unfit for the priesthood. Is this a case of keeping the priesthood as “pure” as possible so that only those most fit for duty will eventually serve in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem? Or is this, by contrast, a sign that, for the rabbis of the mishnah, the priesthood was a less pressing issue in a world without a Temple.

Regardless of the intention of the rabbis of the mishnah, however, the rabbis of the Talmud are going to dive right into the status of the halal and the halalah over the next two pages. More on this soon.

Read all of Kiddushin 77 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on October 29th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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