Monday, June 29, 2009

Interesting Little Question...

I saw a post on Imamother, asking people to daven for a two-year-old boy who is currently suffering from swine flu and pneumonia. The name given on the thread is Yehoshua ben Miriam HaKohen. I hope he has a quick and complete refuah sh'laimah.

This reminds me of a long-standing (but not terribly important) question that I've always had. When someone's full Hebrew name is used the "HaKohen" title is added to it, does the HaKohen refer to the father or the son? IOW, if we call someone up with the name "Yankel ben Ploni HaKohen," are we attesting to the fact that Yankel is a Kohen, or that Ploni is a Kohen?

Of course, in most cases, it doesn't make a difference as they are both Kohanim. But that may not always be the case. It is certainly possible that the child could NOT be a kohen (imagine a non-frum kohanic father marrying a divorcee and the child -- a challal -- later becoming frum) or even that the child is a Kohen and the father is not (as in a case of adoption -- where I have seen teshuvos where the child should be called as the son of the adopted father).

In such cases, how would you call the person to the Torah? Suppose the son is a challal -- I suppose you could call him up as Yankel HaYisroel ben Ploni HaKohen (although I've never seen it done -- but then again, I don't personally know any challalim either). I would think that you shouldn't just call him up as Yankel ben Ploni since that could lead to a question of P'gam Kehunah (his father, despite his sin, is *still* a kohen and may have other, "legitimate" kohanic children). So, how would you call him up?

Likewise, in the case of an adopted kohen, how would he be called up (according to the opinions that hold that you can use the adopted father's name)? I suppose you could say "Yankel HaKohen ben Ploni." I might think that "Yankel ben Ploni HaKohen might be more problematic as it makes it sound like Ploni is a Kohen.

So, to whom does "HaKohen" refer to in someone's Hebrew name? And, if, in truth, it applies to the father, shouldn't this child be called simply Yehoshua ben Miriam? Or maybe Yehoshua HaKohen ben Miriam?*

The Wolf

* Yes, I suppose it's possible that Miriam is a bas Kohen. But I've never heard of a bas Kohen's daughter or son being davened for a ben/bas Plonis HaKohenes...


Tzipporah said...

Interesting. I've never heard someone being called up with "haKohen" as part of their name, but, then, I'm part of a community that doesn't distinguish for aliyot, etc. and all the kohenim I know (like my husband, and his father, and uncles, etc.) are ritually invalidated for any kohenic duties anyway - and so are all the non-related ones I know.

Would it be considered rude to mention someone's challal status when granting them an aliyah (just thinking of other situations where we hear the full name).

The Rashblog said...

My grandfather (who recently passed away) was a kohen. When he was sick, we were asked to daven for "Name HaKohen ben Mother's Name." I don't know if everyone does it that way, but it seems to make sense.

When one is called for an aliyah, and therefore both his and his father's names are called, I always figured "HaKohen" referred to both of them, which is why it appears at the end. But that was just an assumption.

micha berger said...

This shows up in a machloqes about how to understand Al haNissim. Was Matisyahu the Kohein Gadol, or was he the son of Yochanan Kohein Gadol?

Since we rule a contract should read "ne'um Yitchaq ben Avraham eid" instead of "ne'um Yitzchaq eid ben Avraham", it seems we reached consensus -- titles go after patronymics (or matro-)


Critically Observant Jew said...

In my shul, where we do have a Challal - he's called as Yankel ben Ploni. No Kohen, no nothing. So I'm assuming HaKohen is for the person being called.

Unknown said...

It's on the person (I believe). That's why you don't say what aliyah it's for; no need, since you've just identified the person as a Kohen.

Michael Sedley said...

I heard a shiur on this topic last year from Rabbi (David) Lau (of Modi'in).

He talked about a different case where there is really a halachic difference, sometimes you'll see a document (e.g., Ketuba) with ז"ל after the father's name.
E.g., Yankel Ben Ploni Z'L.

In this case it is pretty clear that the ז"ל refers to the father (Ploni), not the son Yankel who is getting married.
He had a long discussion as to whether it was correct to write Z"L, but I don't remember the conclusion....

Matitiyahu ben Yachanan Kohen Gadol was another example that he gave.

With regard to Aliyot, even in the examples you gave (Chalal son of a Cohen), you would only use "Cohen" if the person getting the Aliya is a Cohen as otherwise it would lead to confusion (And Ezzie - A Cohen could be called for Maftir or Acharon (or Hagba / Galila) in which case the Aliya doesn't indicate that he's a Cohen.

CJ Srullowitz said...

I would leave it out, lulei demistafina.

Even when davening for great tzaddikim, no one adds harav hagaon.

And you're right it would be A Hakohein ben B. A woman, even a bas Kohein, is not a kohein.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

If it's a kohen who has married someone assur to him, they stop calling him up as a kohen so it's not mentioned. Therefore the only time koehn gets mentioned is if both are proper kohanim.

BrooklynWolf said...

If it's a kohen who has married someone assur to him

Even if he does teshuva?? Or even if the transgression was unintentional (think about a kohen who wasn't frum and didn't know any better, but became a ba'al teshuva)?

The Wolf

micha berger said...


It's not a punishment. As proof, their children did nothing wrong, and they are chalalim. But it also means that it's ouside of the reach of teshuvah.

The status of kohein is bestowed without regard to the individual's merit, and it seems it's removed as well.


BrooklynWolf said...


I wasn't arguing the merit or morality of it, just questioning the reality of the situation as it was unknown to me.

I did not know that to be the situation. I had assumed that if he did teshuva and was no longer married to a forbidden woman that his status was "restored."

The Wolf

Tzipporah said...

yes, but it's not just teshuva, it has to include a proper divorce. Until that time, he cannot have his status back, and his children remain challalim, regardless.

Larry Lennhoff said...

If he divorces or r"l the woman dies, and he makes a vow not to repeat the sin(*), then he resumes his standing as a cohen. But for as long as he remains married to a woman he is forbidden to he is a challal. His children by that woman bear that status forever - they have no way to do teshuvah.

I read the vow clause on the web somewhere, but the rest of it is straignt from The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage by Rabbi Maurice Lamm.

BrooklynWolf said...


Part of teshuva is azivas hachait, which would include a divorce from his wife. In fact, I included "and is no longer married..." to my previous comment.

My understanding of the matter is the way you and Larry presented it. Micha seems to be saying different. Or am I misunderstanding you, Micha?

The Wolf