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?*
* 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...