Bat kohen –the kohen’s daughter

The torah relates how both Yosef HaTzadik and Moshe Rabbeinu mar­ried a bat kohen –although in both instances their father’s where kohen’s to עבודה זרה.

Rabbeinu Bachya, quot­ing Rabbi Dan, explains that Moshe chose to marry a daugh­ter of a kohen as the kohen was exempt from all royal tax­a­tion, thus mak­ing it less likely that pharoh come after him for his killing of the Egypt­ian offi­cer[1]. Non­the­less, we glean from these sto­ries that the בת כהן was deemed a per­son of impor­tance. The torah goes on to place the bat kohen in a very spe­cial place, she is priv­i­leged to con­sume kodoshim kalim (minor kodoshim) as is writ­ten; כל תרומת הקדשים ..נתתי לך ולבנתיך אתך 


Specif­i­cally, the bat kohen may con­sume of the four breads that accom­pany the todah offer­ing, from the two breads that are brought along with the ram of the nazir, and from the cooked fore­leg of the kor­ban nazir,  she only may con­sume trumah, but may also give trumah to her ser­vants (mishna torah). The school of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov per­mits giv­ing her the fore­leg, cheeks and abo­ma­sum.  Reishit haGez may be given to her, and she may eat of the bchor ani­mal. Mid­io­raita (basic torah law) the bat kohen is given trumah, tru­mat maasar and chal­lah –even in the absence of her kohen father, but midirab­banan –rab­bini­caly– these three aren’t given to her for rea­son that she may be divorced and thus for­bid­den to her.[2]

Mar­riage to a kohen

Although the bat kohen is per­mit­ted to marry a Yis­roel of her choice and even a chal­lal, con­vert, or עבד משוחרר (freed ser­vant)[3], Chazal encour­age the bat kohen to marry a kohen[4];

Rashi under­stands that the mar­riage of a bat kohen to a non kohen is an insult to Ahron hako­hen.  Rashi also inter­prets a flip-side; the kohen is encour­aged to marry a bat kohen;

Since it is estab­lished; a kohen, all the while that he is able to marry a bat kohen shouldn’t marry a bat yis­roel, as is said in psachim; (the) “optional” seu­dah (i.e. not a seu­dat mitz­vah, is one where) a bat yisroel(‘s mar­riage cer­e­mony) to a kohen


The tal­mud asks on the posuk “אל תחלל את בתך להזנותה”;  “per­haps this verse refers to the bat kohen mar­ry­ing a levi?”  Then negates the notion by point­ing out that the term להזנותה refers to a demo­tion due to har­lotry, whereas the mar­riage of the bat kohen to a non-kohen is actu­ally per­mit­ted min hatorah.


Gen­er­ally, the bat kohen is con­sid­ered an excel­lent “shid­duch”.  Rabbi Men­achem Meiri describes the aver­age kohen-father as one who is ded­i­cated to torah study and torah instruc­tion, thus influ­enc­ing the bat kohen to a lifestyle of torah ded­i­ca­tion;

 It is thus said “he who wishes to become wealthy should cleave to the prog­eny of Ahron” as regard­ing the kohen the torah says “they will instruct your laws to (the chil­dren of)  Yaakov, and your torah to the chil­dren of Israel”. [5]

The Shulchan aruch harav inter­prets the notion that the bat kohen should wed a kohen quite seri­ously by stat­ing that one must back­track to burn his chometz if en route to the wed­ding cer­e­mony of a bat kohen to a non-kohen –as that cer­e­mony isn’t deemed a seu­dat mitz­vah.[6]


Both the Aruch Has­Shulchan and Sdei chemed take today’s restric­tion of a bat kohen mar­ry­ing a non kohen to it’s lit­eral level –even con­sid­er­ing what may appear to be a leniency in the rambam’s mishna torah word­ing.

Ktubah amount

The Mishna writes how the bet din shel kohanim would require the amount of 400 zuz for the mar­riage of the bat kohen. –a two-fold increase of the stan­dard 200 zuz amount.  This enti­tle­ment is dis­cussed in tal­mud bavli and endorsed by the ris­honim (Nimueki Yosef, R“Y of LunielRabbeinu Asher) although no record of this increased ktubah has been recorded since the times of the amoraim[7].

A dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of the mishna is given by tal­mud yerushalmi; the exag­ger­ated amount was enacted by the bet din shel kohanim as a penalty.  The penalty being in both instances, one where the bat kohen mar­ried a non kohen and in the instance where the bat yis­roel who mar­ried a kohen, the amount of 400 zuz was listed in their ktubah amount.  Rea­son being as chazal wanted each to cleave to their kind and the exag­ger­ated ktubah would serve as a deter­rence for inter­mar­riage.



The torah expects tzniut behav­ior from the bat kohen, the torah rules that the bat kohen who engages in har­lotry is pun­ished by sreifah –a more seri­ous pun­ish­ment than the stan­dard skil­lah–  (mishna san. 9:1, san­hedrin 66b)

Ref­er­ences    (^ returns to text)
  1. Rabbeinu Bchaya to Shmoth 2:21^
  2. Meiri to Yeva­moth p. 314^
  3. Sefer HaChin­uch, Mitz­vah 267^
  4. pesachim, yalkut shi­moni;  “ובת איש כהן כי תהיה לאיש זר” וסמיך ליה “ובת איש כהן כי תהיה אלמנה וגרושה” א“ר יוחנן בת כהן לישראל אין זיווגן עולה יפה מאי היא? א“ר חסדא או אלמנה או גרושה או זרע אין לה, במתניתא תנא או קברתו או מביאתו לידי עניות. איני, והאמר רבי יוחנן הרוצה להתעשר ידבק בזרע של אהרן כל שכן שתורה וכהונה מעשרתו, לא קשיא הא בת“ח הא בע“ה.  –yalkut shi­moni to vaykra, p. 738 of ha’maor edi­tion^
  5. Bet HaBchi­rah to psachim 49a^
  6. The girsa of the Tosefta is “bet din” insti­tuted such (with­out men­tion of bet din shel kohanim).  Yis­roel fam­i­lies that had doc­u­mented lin­eage also would write the amount of 400 zuz, but in that case it was writ­ten as a bonus, whereas by the ktubah of a bat kohen is was writ­ten as the base amount –Rabbeinu Tam quoted by the mordechai to ktuboth minor ch. 136^
  7. מצב גביית ד’ מאות היה בתוקפתה בימי תחילת תקופת האמוראים ומאז ואילך שוב לא מצאנו -תולדות הכתובה בישראל ד’ מח , א. אפשטיין  ^

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