Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

Torah Attitude: Parashas Emor: How can we stop intermarriage?

Summary

The Torah prohibits, in very harsh words, any form of intermarriage. When a Jew intermarries with a gentile, it makes a statement defying our special status as G'd's chosen people and pushes the Divine Spirit away. There is a demographic threat to the future of the majority of the Jewish people. Although many of our ancestors served idols in Egypt, they did not intermarry. Shelomis was the exception. Shelomis' son did not fit in anywhere. The real problem of intermarriage is that to the non-educated Jewish person Judaism is not important. We must show our children that Judaism is most important to us, and is central to our very being. Real Judaism is full of warmth and spirituality, but how many children experience that at home or in their place of worship? In these days of counting the Omer we are supposed to prepare ourselves to accept the Torah on Shavuous.

Torah prohibits intermarriage

In the last two Torah Attitudes we discussed two of the three sins that the Zohar says pushes away the Divine Spirit from this world. The third sin that the Zohar mentions is intermarriage. In Parashas Va'Eschanan (Devarim 7:3-4) the Torah prohibits, in very harsh words, any form of intermarriage. As it says: "And you shall not intermarry with them [the gentiles] For it will remove your child from after Me and they will worship idols and G'd's anger will flare up against you and He will destroy you quickly."

Intermarriage pushes away Divine Spirit

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated Pesach commemorating how G'd freed us from slavery in Egypt and sent Moses to take us out and lead us to Mount Sinai. There G'd chose us from all the nations of the world, as He gave us His Torah and taught us all His commandments. This sets us apart from the rest of the world who is only expected to observe the seven Noachide commandments. When a Jew intermarries with a gentile, it makes a statement defying our special status as G'd's chosen people and pushes the Divine Spirit away.

Demographic threat

As long as the nations of the world suppressed us, did not accept us in their universities, and prohibited us from most trade, the challenge of intermarriage was almost non-existent. It is only since the emancipation that we have to finds ways how to ensure that our children marry within the Jewish people. As we blend more and more into the general society, and are accepted on equal footing with our neighbours, intermarriage has become rampant, and causes a demographic threat to the future of the majority of the Jewish people. With every new generation, the numbers of Jews lost to intermarriage grows all over the world. And to add insult to injury, hundreds of groups of missionaries and cults are hard at work to ensnare Jews worldwide into their beliefs and ways of worship.

No intermarriage in Egypt

The Zohar describes how our ancestors refrained from any intermarriage throughout their exile in Egypt. Seder night we read the Haggadah and quote from the Torah (Devarim 26:5): "'My patriarch [Jacob] he descended to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he developed into a nation.' This teaches that Israel were distinctive there." They had not yet been chosen as G'd's nation, but they were proud of their heritage. And although many of them served idols, they did not intermarry.

Shelomis was the exception

The Zohar points out that from the end of this week's parasha it is evident that there was some intermarriage in Egypt. As it says (Vayikra 24:10): "And the son of an Israelite woman, and he was a son of an Egyptian man, went out among the children of Israel, and they fought in the camp." The Zohar explains that this was the exception to the rule, as he was the only child born in Egypt where one parent was Jewish and the other Egyptian. Rashi quotes from the Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra 32:3) that relates how Shelomis, a Jewish woman, was very outgoing and spoke to everyone, women and men, Jews and Egyptians. This behaviour got her into trouble. One of the Egyptian officers took a liking to her and one night he quietly chased her husband out of their house and took his place, and that is how they had a child.

Shelomis' son did not fit in

Shelomis' son grew up with all the frustration that children from mixed marriages experience. Halachically he was Jewish since his mother was Jewish, and no doubt that is how the Egyptians looked at him and treated him. But after the exodus from Egypt, when the twelve tribes camped according to their paternal lineage, he did not fit in anywhere. This got him into disputes and fights, and he ended up cursing G'd for his misfortune. Although nowadays the details may be different, the pattern is often similar to what happened in the wilderness. Children of mixed marriages are considered as Jews in the gentile world, but do not feel accepted as Jews. When the mother is gentile, then halachically they are not Jewish and that complicates things even further.

Real problem

Intermarried couples often do not get along once the initial attraction wears off. Name calling and abuse is not uncommon, and if they have children together, such animosity aggravates the situation further for the children as well. To solve the problem of intermarriage we must get to the root of this malady. Rabbi Michael Skobac, Education Director of Jews for Judaism in Toronto, writes (Intermarriage, is there light at the end of the tunnel?) that intermarriage is not the real problem. It is merely a symptom of the underlying issue. The real problem is that to the non-educated Jewish person Judaism is not important. Rabbi Skobac writes that if Judaism were deeply meaningful and compelling, and formed the central organizing principle of a person's life, this person would not even consider marrying someone who does not share their most central cherished values. The root of the problem is lack of Jewish education and lack of appreciation for the values that Judaism teaches.

Central to our very being

We must show our children that Judaism is most important to us, and is central to our very being. The more central Torah observance is in our life, the less danger there is that our children will intermarry. If we manage to show our children that the Torah affects every detail of our daily life, it will be important for them as well. It is not sufficient to send them to a Jewish day school or Hebrew school. If we do not practice the values that our children are taught in school, it will have very little effect. We must find the time and resources to broaden our knowledge of what G'd expects of us, and what is our purpose in life, so that we can pass it on to our children.

Real Judaism

Real Judaism is full of warmth and spirituality, but how many children experience that at home or in their place of worship? If they do not experience this kind of Judaism they will be easy prey for missionaries and cults who specialize in satisfying anyone's cravings for warmth and spirituality. These are the real issues, and thank G'd we have the ability to do something about them.

Prepare to accept the Torah on Shavuous

In these days of counting the Omer we are expected to prepare ourselves to accept the Torah on Shavuous. This is a perfect time to strengthen our personal commitment to Torah values. In turn, this will enable us to share these values with our children and grandchildren, and prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead of them, and make sure that they do not fall for the temptation of intermarriage.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

P.S. If you have any questions or enjoyed reading this e-mail, we would appreciate hearing from you. If you know of others who may be interested in receiving e-mails similar to this please let us know at michael@deverettlaw.com .


Shema Yisrael Torah Network
info@shemayisrael.co.il
http://www.shemayisrael.co.il
Jerusalem, Israel
732-370-3344