“They [Kohanim] shall not marry a woman deﬁled by harlotry (zona), nor shall they marry one divorced from her husband. For they are holy to their God.” - Leviticus 21:7
There are several issues that must be clarified in this question.
- Does oral sex count as an act of adultery? Does it render a woman forbidden to a Kohen?
- What is the status of Kohanim today? Would a Kohen today be compelled to divorce a wife who has committed adultery?
- What is the actual purpose of the question? What is the halachah and what Jewish values are at stake here?
When Abraham’s servant is sent to find a wife for Isaac and Rebecca comes on the scene the Torah says: “The maiden was very beautiful, a virgin whom no man had known.” Gen. 24:17. If she was a virgin why does the Torah add “whom no man had known”? Rashi says: “[Even] in an unnatural manner, since the daughters of the pagans would preserve their vaginal virginity but give themselves over [to other types of relations]”. There are various opinions as to what constitutes unnatural relations but it is my impression that most include fellatio in that category. From that description it could be that fellatio does not remove a woman from the status of a virgin. But does that act put her into the category of a zona (a woman who engages in illicit sexual activity)?
Maimonides makes very clear that this is the case, that it makes no difference “whether by force, or willingly, intentionally or unintentionally, whether in a natural manner or an unnatural manner” once the act has begun she is rendered a zona. This language is replicated in the later codes.
However Maimonides and the later codes also require two witnesses that the act or at least the possibility took place. Furthermore, her own admission by itself is disregarded. So too rules the Rema.
I believe that we could stop here. But we must also add that the very status of Kohanim today is not so clear. Shlomo Luria
, in Yam Shel Shelomo Bava Kamma 5:35
rules that indeed “the lineage of priests and Levites are almost certainly mixed up; if not all of them, at least most of them are mixed up...and if not most than close to half are mixed up.” This is in contrast to the ruling of Maimonides that Kohanim have the presumption that they are indeed descendants from the Kohanic line. Thus, while in a case of doubt in a Torah law we rule stringently, I believe that we would not insist that a Kohain must divorce his wife in the case at hand.
Any question has a purpose behind it, whether it is for knowledge, direction for behaviour or some hidden motivation. In this case, why is he asking for a ruling? Is due to his commitment to Halachah and he wants to do what is demanded of him by our tradition? In which case I don’t think he must divorce her.
Or is it to back up what he wants to do anyway, namely divorce his wife. If that is the case, if the marriage has truly broken down and he can no longer feel that he wants to be married to her, then he doesn’t need any other reason.
Or is he torn because in his heart he doesn’t want a divorce but also wants to follow the laws of the Torah. In this case his heart is leading him in the correct direction.
We live in an age in which sexual behaviour, love and commitment are divorced from each other. A President of the United States can claim “I did not have sex with that woman” believing that fellatio is not “sex.” High school students can play games using fellatio as part of the game. When sexual behaviour is seen as merely another type of recreation we have lost the sense of kedushah – sanctity - that Judaism seeks to add to life. A life of sanctity doesn’t mean giving up the pleasures of life. It means infusing every act we perform whether it be eating and drinking, doing business or creating a home and establishing the closest relationship that can exist between two people.
Rabbi Martin J. Berman
Answered by: Rabbi Martin Berman