You Might Be Able to Marry a Priest, but I Can Marry a Bastard

It was midnight, and I had just tucked myself into bed. Right as I was about to fade away into dream land, my phone rang. Oh no, which stalker is calling me now? I looked at caller ID, and it was my close friend, Lily. Worried something happened, I answered.

“Ariella! Yosef is chatting me on Facebook, asking if you’re interested in him! Your pretty boy! What should I say?” In a matter of a second, I was wide awake.

“Uhhh. Ask him why he’s asking? Ask if he’s interested.”

“He said, ‘maybe… :)’. Ahhhh! Ariella!”. No way… An appropriate man was inquiring about me? He didn’t wear track suits or bling. He even wore a kippah.

“Ok you can tell him ‘yes,’ then.”

As she continued to relay every sentence in the conversation, his questions began to regard my religiosity. “What’s her deal? Is she a baal tshuva? Frum (religious) from birth?”

“Why does he care about such a futile thing?” I asked her. Also bewildered, she just told him I was recently religious. But, then came his follow-up question: “more to the point, can she marry a kohan (priest)?”

“OMG! Are you serious? How is this city all kohanim? Aren’t they supposed to only make up 10%? Ugh… I’m going back to sleep.” He was the fourth kohan in a year, who had shown interest. HaShem, I’m honored that such holy men are attracted to me, but throw me a bone here!

The Torah prohibits kohanim from marrying divorcees and zonot (women who have slept with men forbidden to them, typically a non-Jew.) (Deut. 23:3.) Later, in the times of the gmara, the rabbis added converts and hostages to the prohibition, assuming both were zonot. While converts are considered to have a higher level of godliness, due to their decision to accept the Torah, they are only permitted to marry Levites and Israelites.

The only other marriage prohibitions under Jewish law is that a Jew cannot marry a non-Jew or a mamzer (a bastard, which under Jewish law, is a child of female adultery). Poor bastards. Mamzerim can only marry each other or converts. (Yev. 45b; Kid. 69a; 74a; Maim., Yad., Issurei Bi’ah 15:33; Sh. Ar., EH 4:24; Yev. 79b; Kid. 67a and Rashi thereto; 72b–73a; Maim., Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 15:7; Sh. Ar., EH 4:22). Thats right. You might be able to marry a kohan, but I can marry a bastard! Beat that with a stick.

As Orthodox Judaism is mainly a set of laws, by which we are to live, I figured, being the lawyer I am, I could find a loophole. With every law, there are always exceptions, ambiguity and room to interpret. So, I hit the books and studied all about kohanim.

Sure enough, I found that several attributes of a prospective kohan nullify his status. Since the Temple was a place of beauty and the services that were held in it were designed to inspire visitors to thoughts of repentance and closeness to God, a less than physically perfect kohen would mar the atmosphere.

These blemishes include:
an excessively low nasal bridge (such that a straight brush could apply ointment to both eyes simultaneously)
disproportionate limbs
a crippled foot or hand
a white streak that transverses the junction between sclera (white part of the eyeball) and iris
certain types of boils
and, crushed testicles.
(Lev. 21:18)

With that, I cleverly emailed Yosef, listing these exceptions and said, “all I have to do is crush your balls, and it’s kosher!” I figured I’m a woman and, hence, a ball-buster. So, naturally, it only made sense.

He responded that he’d have to pass. So, he kept his testicles, and we became best friends instead.

Only a few weeks earlier, blue from a recent break-up, I went for ice cream with another kohan friend of mine. Making every attempt to cheer me up, he finally resorted to using his Australian potty mouth to entertain me. “Ariella, man, if I wasn’t a kohan, I’d screw your brains out.” I just had to laugh at how shockingly filthy he could be dressed in his frum (religious) attire. And, I replied, “how priestly of you.”

I had become so disenchanted by the concept of kohanim. They were held to a higher standard, and they steadfastly kept the mitzvah of marrying a woman, who was not prohibited to him. But, other mitzvot, they were content with breaking, as they, too, were just human. Why was it that I, who kept the mitzvot, was off-limits to even those who didn’t?

Frustrated by the situation, I decided to disclose my identity as a convert from the start. As in, “Hi. I’m ariella. I’m a convert. Nice to meet you.” Or, whenever I or my friends hosted shabbat meals, we would ask if there was a kohan to say kiddush. We weeded them out from minute one. Forget waiting for bentching (grace after the meal). I didn’t even want to think about being interested in a kohan. I refused to go through this situation again.

Meanwhile, I, then, went back to the books to study up on these alleged bastards. I figured I’m attracted to jerks. Bastards should be right up my alley! My research revealed that the children of mamzerim take on the status of their mamzer father. However, if a female convert marries a mamzer, their children are not forced to carry on the stigmatized status of their bastard of a father. (Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 4:23; Kid. 67a, Rashi; Maim., Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 15:3; Tur and Beit Yosef, EH 4; Sh. Ar., EH 4:20). Perfect, I could prevent a future generation of bastards in this world. HaShem would have to grant me some extra points if I accomplished this, and I needed all the extra points I could get!

Even better, I found that the ministry of the interior in Israel keeps a list of mamzerim, for the purpose of granting/denying marriage licenses. Awesome! Immediately, I was determined to get my hands on that list! Unfortunately, I have yet to get my hands on this illicit list, nor have I met my perfect bastard. But, I have hope HaShem will send me the perfect bastard, and all you born jewesses can eat your heart out.


*disclosure: this post is intended to be satirical, making light of laws, which often seem unfair and frustrating. I, in no way, believe that mamzerim are jerks or the English meaning of the word, “bastards.”


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