A kohen is a patri­lin­eal descen­dant of Aharon HaKo­hen and must also be “kosher” from his matri­lin­eal ances­try — mean­ing that his mother, grand­mother, great-grandmother etc. where all rabini­cally fit to marry a their kohen spouses.

In the absence of kohen meyuchas cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, mod­ern kohanim fall into two gen­eral cat­e­gories — reli­gious from birth and baalei teshu­vah.

A kohen of the for­mer sort has the sta­tus of kohen muchzak - this is so even in the absence of a lin­eage doc­u­ment.

Kohen muchzak

What is the bot­tom line answer of who is a kosher kohen?  its sim­ple; the kohen who is rec­og­nized as such by his kehillah kedosha is deemed a kohen muchzak –a “status-quo” kohen. this is no small title as it car­ries with it numer­ous restric­tions, respon­si­bil­i­ties, and even priv­i­leges.

The kohen muchzak is con­sid­ered a full and kosher kohen מן התורה (Min HaTorah –bib­li­cally).

Work­ing in favor of the authen­tic­ity of  todays kohen is the value of the term kohen muchzak; the entire con­cept of chaz­a­kah in halacha is founded on the base of the kohen being what he and oth­ers think he is –an authen­tic and kosher descen­dant of Ahron HaKo­hen.  But again, this is just scratch­ing the sur­face of a num­ber halachic angles (such as all family’s have the chaz­aka of being kosher, an absence of A valid dis­proof of the kohen’s sound chaz­a­kah) that place the kohen muchzak as a fully authen­tic, kosher kohen.

The sdei chemed

The sdei chemed, a noted posek is one of many poskim who com­posed responsa to the issue of kohanim muchza­kim –kohanim who are “status-quo” in their kehuna.  He is one of the few though who did a thor­ough work of col­lect­ing, ana­lyz­ing and decid­ing between those opin­ions dis­cussed dur­ing and prior to his era; The sedei chemed on the kohen muchzak.

Kohen baal teshuva

The kohen baal teshuva often knows for cer­tain that he is of patri­lin­eal descent from a kohen, yet may be unsure of the kashrut sta­tus of his matri­lin­eal line. Although we present a gen­eral overview of the halachic para­me­ters involved, the halachic sta­tus of the said kohen is to be deter­mined on a case-by-case basis by a local ortho­dox rabbi.