- Question: [Tuesday, 16th Shevat 5782]
I have a relative originally from Israel who years ago married his stepdaughter, and had children with her. To be clear, he first married a Jewish woman who had a daughter from a previous union, he then divorced his wife and later ended up marrying this wife’s daughter, who technically is his stepdaughter [although they never really lived together in the same home while he was married to his first wife]. As far as I know, his first marriage was done with an Orthodox rabbi in a valid manner, and likewise he had a Halachically valid divorce through the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, and only then did he marry his step-daughter somewhere outside of Israel where they now live. The children of this union are now of marriageable age, and one of the daughters has been Chozer Beteshuvah, and I would like to know what her status is and if I may help her in Shidduchim?
Unfortunately, if the details in this question are correct, then since it is biblically forbidden under the penalty of Kareis for a man to marry his stepdaughter due to the prohibition of Arayos, the children of the union of the father and daughter-in-law are considered Mamzeirim. Accordingly, these children may only be set up on a Shidduch with a Mamzer, or a convert. Either way, the children of this marriage would end up being Mamzeirim, and so on and so forth for all generations.
I would suggest that the daughter who was Chozer Beteshuvah speak to a Beis Din in Israel, or one who is recognized by the chief rabbinate of Israel, for them to do a thorough check into the matter known as a Birur Yuchasin. It is of most importance to stress to the Beis Din to check if the initial marriage between her father and his first wife [i.e. his stepdaughter’s mother, and her grandmother] was in truth a Halachic marriage [i.e. Kosher witnesses]. If not, the children are not Mamzeirim as the daughter was never considered his halachic stepdaughter, and therefore their marriage is vaid according to Halacha. There have been many stories in which it was discovered that the initial Kiddushin was not valid [either deliberately or inadvertently] due to it having nonkosher witnesses [i.e. such as relatives or people who are not Shabbos observant]. This is aside for the most basic check if they were originally married with an Orthodox rabbi or only through a civil marriage.
Explanation: Some may be unaware, that aside for the general well-known blood relatives that a person may not marry due to the prohibition of Giluiy Arayos, there are also certain nonblood relatives which are under the same severity of prohibition. One of these are that a man may not marry a mother and daughter, even if the mother and daughter have no blood relation to him. Thus, if one marries a woman, it is biblically forbidden for him to ever marry her daughter whether from a previous union or from a future union, even though this daughter is not his blood relative. This prohibition continues to apply even after divorcing his wife, and even after his wife passes away. [This is unlike the law regarding marrying one’s wife’s sister in which case we rule that if one’s wife has passed away r”l, then it is even initially permitted to marry her sister, and so has been done in many cases in which the deceased wife left small children.] Thus, in Judaism there is never a case in which it is permitted for a man to marry the daughter of a woman whom he was married to. Such a union is under the penalty of Kareis [although, regarding after death of the mother and original wife, some say it is not under the penalty of Kareis, although most rule it is]. If one transgressed and had a child with this step-daughter, then that child is a Mamzeir. [To note, that also in secular law, some states have statutes against marrying a stepdaughter, although others do not, being that there is no blood relation.]
The only time that a child from such a union would not be a Mamzeir is if in truth there was never a valid kosher marriage between the father and original wife [i.e. mother of the stepdaughter]. The reason for this is because the Torah does not prohibit one from having a relationship with a mother and then with the daughter, unless he was Halachically married to the daughter. Now, although rabbinically it is initially forbidden for him to marry this daughter so long as her mother still alive being that he had a relationship with her mother, nonetheless, biblically it is permitted for them to get married since he was not Halachically married to her mother, and therefore if they transgressed and got married the children are not Mamzeirim.
Sources: See regarding the prohibition of marrying a stepdaughter: Michaber E.H. 15:13 [that even after death of wife may only marry her daughter if he was not Halachically married to the mother, and even then he may not marry the daughter prior to the mothers death]; Yevamos 96a; Sanhedrin 75b-76b; Rambam Shegagos 1:1 and 4 that is under Kareis; Rambam Issureiy Biyah 2:7-8; Beis Shmuel 15:12 based on Michaber 15:30 [that this allowance of after death does not only apply to Annusaso, but also Pilagsho]; Taz 15:11 that during lifetime of mother is forbidden to marry daughter even if he was not married to the mother; Pischeiy Teshuvah 15:5-6; Achiezer 1:11 that the prohibition applies even if the daughter was born after the divorce; See Aruch Laner Yevamos 9; Binyan Tziyon 136; Encyclopedia Talmudit Vol. 2 Erech Eim Ubita; See regarding that the children of such a union are Mamzeirm: Michaber E.H. 4:13 regarding all Biblical Arayos and 15:1 and 13 that marrying a stepdaughter is a biblical Erva; 4:18 that the Mamzeirus continues for the offspring of all generations whether the father or mother was a Mamzeir; See regarding a Mamzeir marrying a Mazeir, or convert: Michaber E.H. 4:22 and 24; See regarding the prohibition of marrying a stepdaughter even after death of mother and whether the children are Mamzeirim: Michaber E.H. 15:13 [is forbidden]; Rambam Issureiy Biyah 2:8 [is under Kareis and hence is Mazeir]; Diggul Merivava 15:13 who implies that even after death of mother it is biblically forbidden to marry daughter due to Erva; Maggid Mishneh ibid; Ramban and Rashba Yevamos 99b; Ritva Yevamos 98b; Shut Rav Akiva Eiger 121; Encyclopedia Talmudit Vol. 2 Erech Eim Ubita p. 259; See regarding marrying one’s wife’s sister if the wife has passed away r”l: Michaber 15:26