We learned that a Kohain can marry a widow but not a divorcee.

If a Kohain  who has a wife who was a widow is elevated to the post of Kohain Godol, what happens to his wife?  Can she still be married to him? Is he required to divorce her? Is he prohibited from accepting the post?

What would be the status of any children from the marriage?




Dear Stan,

The Mishna in the sixth chapter of Yevamot (61a) states that if a ordinary Kohain betrothed a widow and then was appointed to be the Kohain Gadol, they may nevertheless complete the marriage process and fully marry her.

There are two parts to the marriage process: kudushin and nesuin.  In the times of the Gemorah, it was common for the couple to have kedushin and then wait a year to complete the marriage process through nesuin.  They were legally married through kedushin although they did not live together as husband and wife until they went through nesuin.  Nowadays, we do the kedushin and nesuin back to back at the marriage ceremony.

Thus, if the Kohain is allowed to complete the nesuin with a widow even after being appointed the Kohain Gadol, certainly he may stay married to a widow if he fully married her prior to being appointed to be the Kohain Gadol.

There is no adverse effect on any future (or present) children since the nesuin is permitted.

This is also the halachik decision rendered by Rambam in Isurei Biah chapter 17:12.

Thank you for your question.