The status quo Kohen

The status quo Kohen

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Encyclopedia
The status quo Kohen is a Rabbinic title which legitimates Kohen
Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

 status to a Jewish Kohen
Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

 who—amongst multiple criteria—exhibits conduct exemplary of and is recognized by his peers and community as such.

The recognition, mukhzak, is a Rabbinic title which legitimates kohen
Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

status to a Jewish priest who, amongst multiple criteria, exhibits conduct exemplary of and is recognized by his peers and community as such.

The tannaitic rabbi
Tannaim
The Tannaim were the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 70-200 CE. The period of the Tannaim, also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about 130 years...

 Jose ben Halafta
Jose ben Halafta
Rabbi Jose ben Halafta or Yose ben Halafta was a Tanna of the fourth generation . Jose was a student of Rabbi Akiba and was regarded as one of the foremost scholars of halakha and aggadah of his day...

 extolled the soundness of the said "recognition" (chazakah
Chazakah
The Hebrew noun khazakah, is a Talmudic concept, derived from the Hebrew word חזקה, which can be translated as "strength".The conceptional terminology is "default status", "agreed properties" or Status quo of an object, land or person − usually when sufficient proof is missing or unavailable...

) by calling it a basis for the entire halachic concept of chazakah (B
Bavli
Bavli is a neighborhood in central Tel Aviv, Israel, named after the Babylonian Talmud, and bounded by Hayarkon Park on the north, Ayalon highway to the east, Namir road to the west and Park Tzameret to the south. It was founded in 1957 and developed rapidly over the 1970s and 1980s...

.Ketubot
Nashim
Nashim is the third order of the Mishnah , containing the laws related to women and family life...

 24b). It is based on this recognition that all Poskim agree, unanimously, to forbid recognized Kohanim from marrying a divorcee. Of note is that from amongst the opinions of the Achronim, the mentioned recognition is given the title "a sound recognition".

According to Maimonides, once he is established as a recognized Kohen it is a commandment
Mitzvah
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word refers to precepts and commandments as commanded by God...

 to sanctify the Kohen
The Mitzvah of sanctifying the Kohen
The commandment to sanctify the priests is a commandment based in the Hebrew Bible, and developed in rabbinical teaching that requires believers in Judaism to sanctify their priests, or kohanim in various ways...

. and assist him in abstaining from the prohibitions that apply to a Kohen. Maimonides considered that recognition of the Kohen is deemed valid and in good standing unless a valid objection to his lineage is made before a Beit Din.

Verifying the Kohen's lineage


Presumably, from the time of Aaron
Aaron
In the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, Aaron : Ααρών ), who is often called "'Aaron the Priest"' and once Aaron the Levite , was the older brother of Moses, and a prophet of God. He represented the priestly functions of his tribe, becoming the first High Priest of the Israelites...

 being chosen as High Priest up to the times of the Babylonian exile the lineage of a Kohen was taken as matter-of-fact. This changed by the onset of the Jewish nations's returning from Babylonian exile and the building of the temple anew. This national revival created a call for the Kohanim to do their necessary priestly duty on the temple. However, due to the occurrence of intermarriage amongst the returnees in general and the Kohanim as well, the need to ascertain that each Kohen was lineage verifiable as being a male descendant, 'Son after son', also termed 'a paternal grandchild', of Aaron the High Priest and kosher in the literal sense; "in line" with the directives of the Law - for example not an offspring of a forbidden marriage such as if a Kohen were to marry a divorcee where the child would be disqualified from the priesthood. This necessity created an investigation ordered by Nehemiah
Nehemiah
Nehemiah ]]," Standard Hebrew Nəḥemya, Tiberian Hebrew Nəḥemyāh) is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes his work rebuilding Jerusalem and purifying the Jewish community. He was the son of Hachaliah, Nehemiah ]]," Standard Hebrew Nəḥemya, Tiberian Hebrew Nəḥemyāh) is the...

 that produced the first recorded investigation questioning the authenticity of apparently legitimate Kohanim:
By first glance at the above verse it is understood that the mentioned families were rejected entirely from all duties and privileges exclusive to the Kohanim. However, the Tanna
Tannaim
The Tannaim were the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 70-200 CE. The period of the Tannaim, also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about 130 years...

 Rabbi Yossi adopted a more analytical approach based on the following verse:
Based on the latter verse making explicit what these persons may not eat from the most holy things it is apparent that consumption of simply holy things was allowed. Yossi
Yossi
Yossi is a Hebrew given name, usually a short and nickname for Yosef . It's a very popular first name in Israel. It may refer to:- People :* Abba Yossi – Mythology figure.* Country Yossi – American radio person....

 gives the opinion that since the investigated families had prior to the investigation consumed only offerings from outside the holy land, from the point of investigative results and onward they were permitted to eat from offerings of the land of Israel (B
Bavli
Bavli is a neighborhood in central Tel Aviv, Israel, named after the Babylonian Talmud, and bounded by Hayarkon Park on the north, Ayalon highway to the east, Namir road to the west and Park Tzameret to the south. It was founded in 1957 and developed rapidly over the 1970s and 1980s...

.Ketubot
Nashim
Nashim is the third order of the Mishnah , containing the laws related to women and family life...

 24b). He further explains that offerings from outside the Holy Land are prohibited to a a non-Kohen based on Rabbinic command whereas offerings from the Holy Land are prohibited to a non-Kohen by a direct Biblical directive.

Rabbi Yossi's lesson


From the apparent unpleasant narrated event of the Beit Din of Nehemiah questioning the legitimacy of the mentioned Kohanic family, Rabbi Yossi extracted the positive factor of the strength of the Chazakah
Chazakah
The Hebrew noun khazakah, is a Talmudic concept, derived from the Hebrew word חזקה, which can be translated as "strength".The conceptional terminology is "default status", "agreed properties" or Status quo of an object, land or person − usually when sufficient proof is missing or unavailable...

 form of ownership.

Rabbi Yossi understood this from the fact that not only did Nehemiah allow the said Kohanic family to consume the Trumah from outside of the land of Israel but also allowed them to consume Trumah from Israel itself—an act punishable by death if performed by a non-Kohen.

Cause for suspicion


As to the reasoning as to why the investigators of Nehemiah were suspicious that the priestly family of the children of Chavaya were not qualified to function as Kohanim is a matter of Talmudic and Rabbinic debate;

The author of Avodah Tammma points out that this family was known to be descendants of Aaron for certain, Still in all the suspicion was that these male children were offspring of a woman forbidden to a Kohen for marriage.

The Talmud Yerushalmi explains that Barzilai himself was a Jew, but his daughters were not born Jewish but converted before being three years of age, hence posing a (Rabbinic) problem to a Kohen marrying those daughters.

In discussing the reason as to why the verse chooses to penn the known lineage of the questioned Kohanim as being descendants of Barzilai the Gileadite, The 13th century Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Menachem Meiri
Menachem Meiri
Rabbi Menachem Meiri was a famous Catalan rabbi, Talmudist and Maimonidean.-Early life:Menachem Meiri was born in 1249 in Perpignan, which then formed part of the County of Barcelona...

 points out the wording of the verse transmit a unique message;

The personality of Barzilai the Gileadite


Barzilai The Gileadite, explained the Meiri was—albeit a kind hearted man—reputed by Talmudic scholars to be a person of excessive sexual indulgence. Additionally, Barzilai was suspected as a common liar and entirely not versed in Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 law. These facts, Rabbi Menachem concludes, is why the verse chose to tell us this seemingly unimportant detail, since it was who these Kohanim chose to marry that was the source of the unpleasant outcome of being the subject of investigation.

In any case—both according to Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi—the root cause for suspicion of these Kohanim was only MiDirabbanan
D'Oraita and D'Rabbanan
The Aramaic terms de-'oraita and de-rabbanan are used extensively in discussion and text relating to Jewish law. The former refers to halachic requirements that are biblically mandated, while the latter refers to halachic requirements that are rabbinically mandated...

, and therefor at the conclusion of the investigation this Kohanic family was permitted to consume Terumah
Terumah
Terumah is a Hebrew word, originally meaning lifted apart, but meaning donation in modern Hebrew. It can refer to:*Heave offerings - a type of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible...

.

The lineage document


As to the essential content of the lineage document—and its general appearance—little information is given by the Talmud. This being contrary to other Rabbinic documents that are described at somewhat greater length, for example the Ketubah
Ketubah
A ketubah is a special type of Jewish prenuptial agreement. It is considered an integral part of a traditional Jewish marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom, in relation to the bride.-History:...

, the Get
Get
Get or GET may refer to:*Get , the offspring of an animal*Get , legal issues around the Jewish divorce procedure*Get , the Jewish divorce procedure...

, various business documents (Shtarei Kinyan), and the document of freedom for a bondsman (Shtar Shichrur).

Rashi
Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

, in his Torah commentary mentions that when the congregation of Israel were required to ascertain their lineage to join their respective tribe, this document was brought in tandem with the testifying of witnesses. In the book of Divrei HaYamim
Books of Chronicles
The Books of Chronicles are part of the Hebrew Bible. In the Masoretic Text, it appears as the first or last book of the Ketuvim . Chronicles largely parallels the Davidic narratives in the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings...

, the lineage document is usually cited in relation to the soldiers of Israel joining their respective legions based on their patrilineal tribe.

Rabbi Yair Bacharach
Yair Bacharach
Yair Chayim Bacharach was a German rabbi, initially in Koblenz and remainder of his life in Worms and Metz...

 noted that—historically—the lineage document was not commonly used by Kohanim. To be deemed eligible for Kohanic service—explained Rabbi Yair—is sufficient that two Kosher witnesses testify that the said Kohen is of legitimate lineage. The Tur Shulchan Aruch
Shulchan Aruch
The Shulchan Aruch also known as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism. It was authored in Safed, Israel, by Yosef Karo in 1563 and published in Venice two years later...

 follows a similar tone by stating that to be eligible for Kohanic service on the Mizbeach two witnesses is sufficient. According to the opinion of the Avodah Tamma, the option was available for the incoming Kohen to either produce his lineage document or have two Kosher witnesses testify to his authenticity as a Kohen.

During the temple period


As to whom was appointed to verify the lineage of the Kohanim during this pre-temple era is a matter of Rabbinic debate; The Mishna state that—as part of the Great Beit Din
Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel.The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members...

—there was a branch-commission thereof occupied exclusively with this investigative task. While The Sifri and Babylonian Talmud point out that it was a Commission of Kohanim themselves that investigated the legitimacy of fellow Kohanim.

Accurate lineage keeping in the Diaspora


With the destruction of the second temple and the Jews entry to exile hard-copy lineage recording was lost. In its stead came the actions exclusive to Kohanim and the absence of a disqualifying objection in Beit Din that expressed that one was a legitimate Kohen.

Based on a lengthy and highly-analytical responsa by the composer of the Sdei Chemed, Rabbi Chaim Hezekiah Medini concluded that the modern "Kohen Muchzak" is considered a valid and true Kohen for all purposes that a Kohen is to fulfill.

Questioning the legitimacy of the modern Kohen


The legitimacy of the modern Kohen has been brought into question usually with the intent to relieve the Kohen of the Torah-based marriage restrictions placed on him, and at times to relieve the requirement of giving the twenty-four Kohanic gifts
The twenty-four Kohanic gifts
The twenty four priestly gifts, are a description in the Gemara tradition of offerings given to the Jewish priests. The adjective "kohanic" means "of a kohen", relating to a Jewish priest....

. The unfolding of responsica dealing with the issue is portrayed as such;

The responsa of Isaac ben Sheshet (1328–1408)


The source of questioning the legitimacy of Kohanim is rooted in a single responsa of Isaac ben Sheshet
Isaac ben Sheshet
Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet was a Spanish Talmudic authority, also known by his acronym, Rivash . He was born at Valencia and settled early in life at Barcelona, where he studied under Perez ha-Kohen, under Hasdai ben Judah, and especially under R...

. This fourteenth-century responsa deals with a letter to Rabbi Yitzchok detailing an event where an individual publicly humiliated a Kohen. The query was as to whether it is Halachic to impose an increased monetary fine to the humiliator since the subjected was a Kohen, or to suffice with the standard fine afforded a non-Kohen.

Rabbi Yitzchok responded that "Although it is halacha that he who humiliates another by use of words is not liable, one who embarrasses a Kohen should be publicly rebuked and subject to request forgiveness from and to appease the Kohen — so long as the Kohen exhibits conduct expected from a son of Aaron". Isaac ben Sheshet continued and negated amplifying the penalty since the embarrassed Kohen was not a learned Talmid Chacham
Talmid Chacham
Talmid Chacham is an honorific title given to one well versed in Jewish law, in effect, a Torah scholar....

Kohen, but an unschooled am ha-aretz Kohen. Ben Sheshet explained that even were the regular kohen to produce a lineage document certifying his direct lineage to Aaron the high priest the halachic ruling would stay, since it is found in the Talmud that the rabbis did not withhold from humiliating a "lineage-verified Kohen" who was not well-versed in Torah (Am Haaretz) all the more so today's Kohen who cannot produce his lineage document does not receive an amplified penalty". Of note is that the Shulchan Aruch
Shulchan Aruch
The Shulchan Aruch also known as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism. It was authored in Safed, Israel, by Yosef Karo in 1563 and published in Venice two years later...

 (Tur Choshen Mishpat 420:24) rules that the humiliator of a Kohen is liable to pay amplified compensation.

Isaac ben Sheshet's words "today's Kohen who cannot produce his lineage document", which he intended on using as a sidebar explanation to his final ruling of standard compensation, over time evolved into an underpinning foundation for Poskim who sought to approve Rabbinically-questionable marriages to a Kohen.

Understanding Isaac ben Sheshet's response


Leading Rabbinic authorities, such as Joseph Trani
Joseph Trani
Joseph Trani or Joseph di Trani was a Talmudist of the latter part of the 16th century who lived in Greece. By contemporary scholars he was called Mahrimat , and regarded as one of the foremost Talmudists of his time...

 and Samuel Ashkenazi, disputed reliance on the Isaac ben Sheshet's response for purpose of questioning the authenticity of the Kohen. They, as part of various proofs, cited reasoning from a latter response from Isaac ben Sheshet himself (Tshuvat HaRivash res. 348) where he is stringent that a Kohen who married a divorcee is obligated to cease his marriage, thus proving the Isaac ben Sheshet's fundamental stance of upholding the legitimacy of the recognized Kohen.

Rabbi Samuel de Medina's permission


Rabbi Samuel de Medina
Samuel de Medina
Rabbi Samuel ben Moses de Medina , was a Talmudist and author; born 1505; died October 12, 1589, at Salonica. He was principal of the Talmudic college of that city, which produced a great number of prominent scholars during the 16th and 17th centuries...

, in a response concerning a woman who was held captive as a young girl, ruled that a Kohen is permitted to marry her. The logic, he explained, is one of a double uncertainty. One uncertainty being that we are unsure the woman was exposed to forced intimacy, which would disqualify the woman from marrying a Kohen, and even where she have been the Kohen is prohibited from wedding her only according to rabbinical decision
D'Oraita and D'Rabbanan
The Aramaic terms de-'oraita and de-rabbanan are used extensively in discussion and text relating to Jewish law. The former refers to halachic requirements that are biblically mandated, while the latter refers to halachic requirements that are rabbinically mandated...

. In addition, the Samuel de Medina
Samuel de Medina
Rabbi Samuel ben Moses de Medina , was a Talmudist and author; born 1505; died October 12, 1589, at Salonica. He was principal of the Talmudic college of that city, which produced a great number of prominent scholars during the 16th and 17th centuries...

 wrote that he is unsure as to the authenticity of the modern Kohen based on the response of the Isaac ben Sheshet.

This responsa of Samuel de Medina was met with a fiery reply from Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen
Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen
Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen ben Abraham was a Polish-German rabbi.At first rabbi at Kėdainiai , he was called to Altona in 1714...

;

An accurate portrait of Rabbi Shmuel's opinion


Rabbinic authorities such as Joseph Trani have come to the defense of Samuel de Medina by stating that the case brough before his court was one of Rabbinic degree, and never would Samuel de Medina have permitted a marriage prohibited in the Hebrew Bible marriage to recognised kohen. They cite, as proof, additional responsa of Samuel where he is stringent on a recognised Kohen from continued marriage to his wife due to only the possible but not certain receipt of a bill of divorce
Get (divorce document)
A is a divorce document, which according to Jewish Law, must be presented by a husband to his wife to effect their divorce. The essential text of the is quite short: "You are hereby permitted to all men," i.e., the wife is no longer a married woman, and the laws of adultery no longer apply...

.

The opinion of Solomon Luria


The opinion of Solomon Luria
Solomon Luria
Solomon Luria was one of the great Ashkenazic poskim and teachers of his time. He is known for his work of Halakha, Yam Shel Shlomo, and his Talmudic commentary Chochmat Shlomo...

 is somewhat obscure. On the one hand Luria opines with the advice to give the "devoted things", both land and goods, as one of the ten priestly gifts applicable outside of Israel, to a recognised kohen, provided the estate owner of the devoted property explicitly states to give it to a Kohen. Luria also encouraged the giving of shoulder, cheeks and maw to a recognized Kohen.
However, on the other hand, Luria writes of the basic questioning of the Kohen as legitimate due to upheaval of the Khmelnytsky Uprising
Khmelnytsky Uprising
The Khmelnytsky Uprising, was a Cossack rebellion in the Ukraine between the years 1648–1657 which turned into a Ukrainian war of liberation from Poland...

, writing that this and similar upheavals utterly confused the entire lineage tracking of Jews subjected to persecution in Europe.

The story about Elijah


Luria quotes a story where Hai ben Sherira, Hai Gaon
Hai Gaon
Hai ben Sherira , was a medieval Jewish theologian, rabbi and scholar who served as Gaon of the Talmudic academy of Pumbedita during the early 11th century. He was born in 939 and died on March 28, 1038...

 practiced a minhag
Minhag
Minhag is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism. A related concept, Nusach , refers to the traditional order and form of the prayers...

to travel to Jerusalem for Sukkot
Sukkot
Sukkot is a Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei . It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals Shalosh regalim on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.The holiday lasts seven days...

 and circle the temple mount
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...

 with hundreds of Kohanim with the company of Elijah the Prophet. One year a student of his noticed rav Hai laughing during the procession, at the completion of the procession he queried his rabbi as to why, to which rav Hai responded that Elijah revealed to him that, from amongst the hundreds of Kohanim that accompanied him in a haughty way, non where legitimate Kohanim aside for one Kohen who proceeded humbly
Humility
Humility is the quality of being modest, and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness.-Term:The term "humility"...

.

Questioning the story


Luria although quoting the story as one "known amongst the works of Rabbinic leaders" was not one of great familiarity amongst rabbinic writers. The story was eventually traced by scholars to have originated in the Parma
Parma
Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its ham, its cheese, its architecture and the fine countryside around it. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world....

 manuscript of Sefer Chasidim, a manuscript with multiple textual differences to the common edition of "Sefer Chasidim." However, in addition to the story detail creating an anachronism
Anachronism
An anachronism—from the Greek ανά and χρόνος — is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other...

 of sorts in that the story portrays rav Hai and Evyathar Kohen-Tzedek as proceeding together in Jerusalem whereas they lived at separate times, some scholars have labeled the story as a Karaite forgery.

Others maintain that the story detail falls in line with the opinion spelled out by Hai Gaon in his letter to the priests of Djerba, where Hai expresses that humility
Humility
Humility is the quality of being modest, and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness.-Term:The term "humility"...

 is a proper virtue of the Kohen and the Kohen who does not possess this attribute is of questionable priestly lineage

The opposition to Luria


Luria's Talmudic explanation that put a damper on the legitimacy of Jewish priests was not readily accepted amongst some Poskim. Some cited Luria's reasoning as "a feeble enough reason", while others validated Luria's reasoning solely outside of Israel. Some even went so far as to legitimize Luria's reasoning only to disqualify Ashkenazic priesthood while stating that Sephardic priesthood is of superior quality. The Moses Sofer
Moses Sofer
Moses Schreiber, known to his own community and Jewish posterity as Moshe Sofer, also known by his main work Chasam Sofer, , , was one of the leading Orthodox rabbis of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century...

 rejected Luria's reasoning that the lineage of Ashkenazic priesthood was utterly confused.

The opinion of Jacob Emden


Regarding the commandment
Mitzvah
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word refers to precepts and commandments as commanded by God...

 of giving the five silver coins of the firstborn
Pidyon HaBen
The Pidyon HaBen, or Redemption of the first born son, is a mitzvah in Judaism whereby a Jewish firstborn son is redeemed by use of silver coins from his birth-state of sanctity....

 to the Kohen. Jacob Emden
Jacob Emden
Jacob Emden also known as Ya'avetz, , was a leading German rabbi and talmudist who championed Orthodox Judaism in the face of the growing influence of the Sabbatean movement...

 opined that the recognition status of a recognized Kohen is insufficient to merit actually keeping those five silver coins. Hence, he suggested the Kohen agree to a conditional transaction, with the intent on returning the coins to the father of the firstborn
Firstborn
Firstborn may refer to:* The first born baby in childbirth* primogeniture* bechor in rabbinical JudaismFilms and books* Firstborn , a 1984 film that stars Teri Garr, Peter Weller, and Christopher Collet...

, all this in order to skirt the potential prohibition of theft on the kohen's part.

Numerous Poskim, however, did not agree with Emden on this issue, for example, Sofer wrote that this type of conditional transaction would invalidate the redemption of the firstborn itself and the child would not be halachically redeemed so long as any pressure is exerted on the kohen to agree to this type of conditional transaction. A more extreme approach was taken by Chaim Hezekiah Medini
Chaim Hezekiah Medini
Chaim Hezekiah Medini, , also known by the title of his chief halakhic work, Sdei Chemed- was a rabbinical scholar during the nineteenth century. His name was originally Hezekiah, Chaim, "life", was added during a period of serious illness...

 who exclaimed, amongst a group of arguments, that Emden's advice created a cloud of uncertainty and doubt as to the otherwise legitimate liniage of the modern kohen. Medini concluded that the Emden's idea should not be relied on for the actual redemption of the firstborn.

In regards to the actual lineage of a Kohen, Emden, in another responsa, writes that it is possible to find a Kohen with a lineage document up until his patrilinial priestly division
Priestly divisions
The priestly divisions or sacerdotal courses are ritual work groups in Judaism originally formed during the reign of King David in the 10th century BCE as documented in the biblical passage of 1 Chronicles 24. These priests were all descendants of Aaron, known also as Aaronites. Aaron had four...

 in hand even though though the rest of Israel do not have their lineage documents at all.

Table of Halachic opinions

Rabbinic Authority The legitimacy of the modern kohen
Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

Kohanim in our time are priests by recognition.. they are permitted to consume.. the holy food of the diaspora
Jacob Weil
Jacob Weil
Jacob Weil was a German rabbi and Talmudist who flourished during the first half of the fifteenth century. Of his life no details are known, but, according to Grätz, he died before 1456. He was one of the foremost pupils of Jacob Moelin , who ordained him in the rabbinate, and authorized him to...

Those that are accustomed to baking their matzot on the second night (of Yom Tov).. should make a batch.. after baking (it).. he should make the "Lehafrish Challah" blessing.. but should not carry the challah after he separates (the part to be given to the Kohen) even though there is a juvenile Kohen in the city, since (they/we) are not accustomed to giving the Challah
Challah
Challah also khale ,, berches , barkis , bergis , chałka , vánočka , zopf and kitke , is a special braided bread eaten on...

 to a juvenile Kohen.. the reasoning—in my opinion—is that we are concerned that the part given to the Kohen will crumble apart—and will cause problems (of Chometz) or perhaps since (they/we) are not established—in our times—of a Kohen for certain.. and on Chol HaMoed
Chol HaMoed
Chol HaMoed, a Hebrew phrase meaning "weekdays [of] the festival" , refers to the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot. During Chol HaMoed the usual restrictions that apply to the Biblical Jewish holidays are relaxed, but not entirely eliminated...

, he should burn the challah.
Moses ben Joseph di Trani (the Elder)
Moses ben Joseph di Trani (the Elder)
Moses ben Joseph di Trani known by his acronym Mabit was a 16th-century rabbi in Safed....

 (The "Mabi"t"
Min HaTorah
D'Oraita and D'Rabbanan
The Aramaic terms de-'oraita and de-rabbanan are used extensively in discussion and text relating to Jewish law. The former refers to halachic requirements that are biblically mandated, while the latter refers to halachic requirements that are rabbinically mandated...

 whomever has a Chazaka as being of the sons of Ahron is a Kohen in all aspects—since we stone and burn based on recognition as the potency of recognition is established oral tradition
D'Oraita and D'Rabbanan
The Aramaic terms de-'oraita and de-rabbanan are used extensively in discussion and text relating to Jewish law. The former refers to halachic requirements that are biblically mandated, while the latter refers to halachic requirements that are rabbinically mandated...

 as we learn from the house with mildew
Tzaraath
The Hebrew noun tzaraath describes a disfigurative condition mainly referred to in chapters 13-14 of Leviticus, as well as conditions equivalent to be "mildew" on clothes and houses.Tzaraath affects both animate...

 and he does consume terumah
Terumah
Terumah is a Hebrew word, originally meaning lifted apart, but meaning donation in modern Hebrew. It can refer to:*Heave offerings - a type of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible...

 and challah
Challah
Challah also khale ,, berches , barkis , bergis , chałka , vánočka , zopf and kitke , is a special braided bread eaten on...

—as the Torah permits. and he (also) does service on the Mizbeach in the times of the Temple since he has a Chazaka as being of the seed of Aharon.. based on this Chazaka the Sanhedrin
Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in the Biblical Land of Israel.The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel made of 71 members...

 would allow him to serve. It appears to me that even in our time, whomever is of a family that has a Chazaka of being Kohanim and no objection was made (before beit din), is (considered) a Kohen in all aspects. As this chazaka benefits him—as per the law of the Torah. ..those Kohanim of Ezra
Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

.. since their chazaka was questionable being their liniage was attributed to the sons of Barzilai—who was an Israelite. However, whomever has that Chazaka of their family being Kohanim—and no objection was made—.. even in our time—from the Torah—are benefitted from it (their Chazaka).. even for Torah based actions—as we plainly rely on it (their Chazaka) for Pidyon Bechor
Pidyon HaBen
The Pidyon HaBen, or Redemption of the first born son, is a mitzvah in Judaism whereby a Jewish firstborn son is redeemed by use of silver coins from his birth-state of sanctity....

Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles, also spelled Moshe Isserlis, , was an eminent Ashkenazic rabbi, talmudist, and posek, renowned for his fundamental work of Halakha , entitled ha-Mapah , an inline commentary on the Shulkhan Aruch...

 
we give Trumah (Gedola) to the Kohen—even if he is not Meyuchas (has his liniage document)—only "Muchzak"
Joseph Trani
Joseph Trani
Joseph Trani or Joseph di Trani was a Talmudist of the latter part of the 16th century who lived in Greece. By contemporary scholars he was called Mahrimat , and regarded as one of the foremost Talmudists of his time...

 
*it is common amongst the masses to say to the kohen "bring a proof that you are a kohen and take (the gifts
The twenty-four Kohanic gifts
The twenty four priestly gifts, are a description in the Gemara tradition of offerings given to the Jewish priests. The adjective "kohanic" means "of a kohen", relating to a Jewish priest....

)".. this is a mistake, since the Kohen and Levi
Levi
Levi/Levy was, according to the Book of Genesis, the third son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Levi ; however Peake's commentary suggests this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite...

 are established by Chazaka.. regardding his tith (that is) proper to give him since we are required to give it to avoid theft of their tribe (Gezel HaShevet), ..additionally.. we say.. all families (of Israel) have the Chazaka of being kosher (as legitimately Jewish).. and the Kohen.. is established with his Chazaka (to be a legitimate Kohen).. we give the gift of the foreleg cheeks and abomasum
Giving of the foreleg, cheeks and abomasum
The gift of the shoulder, cheeks and maw of an animal sacrifice to the priesthood in Ancient Israel was commanded in the Hebrew Bible.After the destruction of the Second Temple at the Siege of Jerusalem animal sacrifices ceased. However in rabbinical interpretation a continuing application of the...

 to the Kohen and we do not require him to produce proof of his linieage.
  • men of jest who scoff the establishment—those who dig deep away from g-d to destroy (his) idea and with the intent of desecrating the sanctity of Ahron.. those that (claim to) root themselves in matters of Halacha and state that the Kohanim of our time do not have a Chazaka.. let there bo no doubt.. since the Kohen is established as thus he is believed more than a hundred (Kosher) witnesses
Shabbatai ben Meir ha-Kohen (1621–1662) It is customary to give the Challah portion of the (Passover) Matzah to a juvenile Kohen
Avraham Gombiner
Avraham Gombiner
Abraham Abele Gombiner , known as the Magen Avraham, born in Gąbin , Poland, was a rabbi, Talmudist and a leading religious authority in the Jewish community of Kalish, Poland during the seventeenth century. His full name is Avraham Avli ben Chaim HaLevi from the town of Gombin...

 
(regarding The Mitzvah of sanctifying the Kohen
The Mitzvah of sanctifying the Kohen
The commandment to sanctify the priests is a commandment based in the Hebrew Bible, and developed in rabbinical teaching that requires believers in Judaism to sanctify their priests, or kohanim in various ways...

) one should be careful with this (Mitzvah), since it is midioraita
D'Oraita and D'Rabbanan
The Aramaic terms de-'oraita and de-rabbanan are used extensively in discussion and text relating to Jewish law. The former refers to halachic requirements that are biblically mandated, while the latter refers to halachic requirements that are rabbinically mandated...

. Perhaps, though, some are not scrupulous since we are not knowledgeable in the lineage of the Kehuna
Ahron Orlaya  Rabbi Ahron expressed surprise at the Magen Avrohom for casting doubt as to the authenticity of Kohanic lineage
Yair Bacharach
Yair Bacharach
Yair Chayim Bacharach was a German rabbi, initially in Koblenz and remainder of his life in Worms and Metz...

In truth, we forbid a Shvuya (a woman who was held captive)' ..and one should not object to this (this forbidding)..since the Kohen reads first in the synagogue and reckons himself as a Kohen, his status is that of a Kohen. ..since he places himself in a state of restraint ..his status (as an authentic Kohen) does not cross into the boundary of uncertainty
  • I question,.. those that understood the Rivash..(as saying) that the Kohen of today is in a status of uncertainty (as to his lineage), since although they do not have their liniage tree nonetheless we stone.. based on Chazaka. And know, even aside for that, also in the days of the Talmud
    Talmud
    The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

    —aside for a select few—they did not have it (their liniage information) as is written, "I do not know if i stem from Reuven.."
  • It is strange in my eyes to differentiate between today's Kohen and the Kohen of prior generations (to say they are any less qualified)
  • Alexander Shur This Chazaka (of the Kohen) is unlike all other Chazaka's in the Talmud
    Talmud
    The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

    .. essentially (this type of chazaka is) it is not acceptable to change something which we permit into something we forbid without a clear proof (to do so). (for example) something that a man is holding onto and he has a Chazaka of it indeed being his, we do not remove from his possession without a clear reason to do so—just as we do not withdraw money from its possessor who has a Chazaka on it (the money).
    Moses Sofer
    Moses Sofer
    Moses Schreiber, known to his own community and Jewish posterity as Moshe Sofer, also known by his main work Chasam Sofer, , , was one of the leading Orthodox rabbis of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century...

    For the commandment of redemption of the firstborn
    Pidyon HaBen
    The Pidyon HaBen, or Redemption of the first born son, is a mitzvah in Judaism whereby a Jewish firstborn son is redeemed by use of silver coins from his birth-state of sanctity....

    , we rely that the Kohen is (a Kohen) for certain and (is) completely legitimate (for example) something that a man is holding onto and he has a Chazaka of it indeed being his, we do not remove from his possession without a clear reason to do so—just as we do not withdraw money from its possessor who has a Chazaka on it (the money).
    Yechiel HaLevi It is evil to me this action that i see some great leaders that wrote in their responsa that the Kohen of our time is not a certain Kohen—and they rely on these words of the Rambam. It is blasphemous to say that, and by (saying) it creates multiple problems, ..the intention of the Rambam is that modern Kohen (after the destruction of the temple) has the Chazaka of being a Kohen—meaning, they have the Chazaka of being a complete Kohen without question.
    Chaim Hezekiah Medini
    Chaim Hezekiah Medini
    Chaim Hezekiah Medini, , also known by the title of his chief halakhic work, Sdei Chemed- was a rabbinical scholar during the nineteenth century. His name was originally Hezekiah, Chaim, "life", was added during a period of serious illness...

    ..The final line of all the above is that the opinion of many Latter Rabbi's agree halachically and practically that—the main ruling is—the Kohanim of today are for certain (Kohanim). They are in their state of Holiness (Kedusha) and Chazaka for all matters of the laws of Kehuna.
    The Achiezer
    The Chazon Ish
    The Shem Aryeh