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Teshuva in Responsa XIII

Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel (1880-1953), the Rishon Le-Tzion, was an acknowledged Rabbinic authority. His Responsa collections Mishpete Uziel contain a number of theological discussions.


One of these Responsa concerns the status of the mamzer, the issue of adulterated union, who may not marry an ordinary Jewess. Suppose the natural parents of the mamzer repent of their sin and do so, moreover, out of the love of God. According to Rabbinic teaching, repentance out of love has the effect of converting the sin into merit. Consequently, the innocent child should no longer be considered the fruit of a sinful union. The sinners themselves no have their halo of merit and yet the poor child is still treated as a mamzer. Uziel replies that repentance, even out of love, does not have the effect of nullifying the sinful act, only of purifying the sinful soul. The psychological effect of sin is to make he sin increasingly attractive so that eventually the sinner persuades himself that it is not sinful at all. To rid the soul of this malady great effort is required and, if this is engaged in out of the love of God, the sin, the cause of the effort, is treated as merit. But it is this sense only that the Rabbis speak of it as eating forbidden food, it cannot seriously be suggested that if he repents out of love he will be automatically cured. The mamzer’s taint is quasi-physical and not a punishment for the sins of his parents. The adulterous act automatically taints the soul of the child born as its result. The child is, indeed, innocent but the facts of life are such that the innocent do sometimes suffer for the sins of the guilty, as when the victim of a vicious assault is maimed for life. It is only by a miracle that the mamzer will become pure again in the Messianic age.

Even Ha-Ezer, no 3

Kidd. 72b

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