Tag Archives: kohanim

Discussions at Shabbat Table – zonah

Last week’s Parsha (specified Torah reading) spoke a lot about priesthood, and included in that was the list of the women a Kohen (priest) is forbidden to marry. My 7 year old came home with a bunch of questions he had to answer on the parsha. One question was – name the three types of women a Kohen is not allowed to marry. The answer given was “divorced woman, zonah and challalah”. We know zonah is another word for prostitute, and challalah is the female child of a Kohen who “married” a divorced woman. Interestingly enough they were not taught that a Kohen cannot marry a female convert either.

Firstly I was a little insulted that divorced women were lumped together like that right next to a zonah. But in time I got over that. Secondly, I asked my son how his rebbe explained zonah to them. I was curious how you explain that to second graders. Unfortunately my sweet little son must have misunderstood his rebbe because he told me a zonah was a divorced woman. OUCH!!

So we explained to him that that wasn’t what it meant. But I was at a loss at how to explain to him what a zonah really is. So I asked my big boys how their Rebbeim explained it to them. (We do have the most interesting discussions at our table). The older boys are well aware what a prostitute is. They explained it correctly as a woman that sleeps with a man for money. But one of their rebbeim explained it as a woman who “shares” your house. Hmm. The sixth grader had it explained as a woman that you “marry” for money. I guess being “married” is a euphemism that is well used in yeshivot. But to an innocent second grader – who doesn’t yet know about the birds and the bees – why even bring up the subject? Why does he need to know a Kohen cannot marry a zonah if he doesn’t even know what a zonah is? I told him to go back and ask his Rebbe to explain to him what it is. Still waiting for an answer.

How would you have explained it to such a young child, or would you just have left it out of your lesson?

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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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